Kyle Busch wins NASCAR All-Star Race pole in elimination bracket qualifying

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 21: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Wrangler Ford, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Crunchy Cookie Toyota, race during the elimination bracket qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 21, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch beat Ryan Blaney in a new “drag race” style competition for the pole position in Sunday’s much-anticipated NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.

For their work, Busch and Blaney will start from the front row of Sunday’s $1 million-to-win NASCAR All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

A traditional qualifying session decided which eight drivers advanced to the final round and then the cars were paired in an elimination bracket format. Each “race” included a four-tire pit stop and then a sprint off pit road for a single lap at speed – the idea to showcase the pit crews as well as the drivers.

Busch defeated defending All-Star winner Kyle Larson in his semi-final and Blaney beat William Byron – who posted the fastest qualifying time – in his semifinal to decide the final meeting.

“Any time you’re able to showcase the pit crew’s ability and their athleticism in this competition and qualifying format, I enjoy that,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.

“I think my most favorite part of the year is coming to the All-Star race, whether it’s been Charlotte and coming down pit road and sliding into the box. Having those guys go over the wall certainly means a lot, especially the No. 18 bunch I’ve had a lot of success with over the years.

“We’ve always been a threat to be reckoned with when it comes to getting on the pole for the All-Star race.”

This is Busch’s fourth pole position in a NASCAR All-Star race. He won the race in 2017. And with four NASCAR Cup Series wins – plus 10 Xfinity Series race wins and four Camping World Truck Series wins – at the Texas 1.5-miler, this is a place he feels confident.

Defending All-Star race winner Kyle Larson stalled in his semi-final duel against Busch – essentially guaranteeing Busch’s advance to the final round. Larson managed a smile and shook his head acknowledging his mistake in qualifying.

“I feel good [about my chances in the race], I felt like my car was decent, there was room to improve it, but I feel we’re in the ballpark to compete for the win,” Larson said, adding with a smile, “Gotta do a better job executing than I did just then [All-Star qualifying] and hopefully we’ll have a good shot.

“I just stalled it,” he said of the miscue, adding. “I didn’t want to spin my tires too bad and obviously got a little too greedy and just stalled it. Embarrassing.

“It’s embarrassing, I’m the only guy that stalled so pretty embarrassing.”

The race format has a new variation for 2022 – a four-stage race with lengths of 25-laps for Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3, followed by a 50-lap Stage 4 finale to decide who gets the $1 million.

The Stage 1 winner will start first in the Stage 4 final run. The winner of Stage 2 will start second and the winner of Stage 3 will roll off third in the final stage. The best car in a newly-styled “pit stop competition” – held during the stage break between Stage 2 and Stage 3 – will start fourth in the final run to the big check.

Also new this year, if a caution does not “naturally” occur between laps 15-25 of the final stage then NASCAR will call an “All-Star competition caution” during that time.

Twenty drivers have already earned a position in the All-Star Race, including Kyle Busch, Blaney, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Kevin Harvick, defending winner Larson, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Chase Briscoe, A.J. Allmendinger, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Joey Logano, Bubba Wallace, Michael McDowell, Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman.

Reddick will lead the Open

Tyler Reddick won the pole position for Sunday’s All-Star Open race – completing a big day at Texas Motor Speedway that started with a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

The Richard Childress Racing driver outran Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez by a mere .012-second to set the front row. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five in qualifying among the 16-car field.

The race is set for 5:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with the winner of each stage – 20-laps, 20-laps and 10-laps – advancing to the All-Star Race along with the winner of the Fan Vote, which will be announced following the Open race.

Photos: NASCAR at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday May 21, 2022