A year ago, Kyle Larson led 18 laps of the NASCAR’s All-Star Race before eventual winner Joey Logano passed him with two laps remaining.
Saturday offers Larson his first chance at redemption. And with it, he’ll look to capitalize on the No. 1 starting spot after winning the pole on Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he registered a best speed of 143.839 mph in the three-lap qualifier.
The performance came in Larson’s first All-Star qualifying attempt. Although he participated in last year’s All-Star Race, qualifying was rained out.
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“It’s pretty intense, for sure,” said Larson about the qualifying format, which also includes a mandatory four-tire pit stop. “It’s not as crazy intense as I thought it would be, but it’s so much fun to get to come down pit road as fast as you can there.”
Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth each missed their pit stalls during the first session, which ultimately cost them time. Logan’s error helped keep the door open for Larson, who was the last of five drivers to advance to the final knockout round.
“When I was only like fourth after I got done out of the seven cars or whatever, I was like, ‘There’s no way I can make it,’” Larson said. “I fell back to fifth and it seemed like people kept making mistakes and all of that.”
Kurt Busch’s blunder
Kurt Busch appeared to have the pole locked up after posting a faster speed than Larson during the second round.
However, his crew left two lug nuts loose, which resulted in a 10-second penalty. He ultimately finished in fifth.
Kyle Busch comes close
Kyle Busch will join Larson on Row 1 after registering the second-fastest speed of the round at 143.826 mph. He was just one-hundredth slower than Larson’s time.
“I thought our lap was really good,” Kyle Busch said. “We had speed in our race car. I wish we were a little bit better for a starting position, but we’ll be top five so we’ll take it.”
Earnhardt Jr.’s last hurrah
Appearing in his final all-star weekend, Dale Earnhardt Jr. qualified sixth with a best speed of 143.136 mph. He was the first driver to miss the final knockout round.
Pat James: @patjames24
Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
What: NASCAR Monster Energy All-Star Race.
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord.
TV: FS1. Radio: PRN affiliates.
Friday's qualifying; race Saturday
At Charlotte Motor Speedway
(Car number in parentheses)
1. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 143.839 mph.
2. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 143.826.
3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 143.504.
4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 133.123.
5. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 132.703.
6. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 143.136.
7. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 143.011.
8. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 142.176.
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 141.483.
10. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 139.064.
11. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 138.837.
12. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 138.592.
13. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 138.552.
14. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 137.745.
15. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 136.563.
16. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 135.215.