Kyle Larson, and North Wilkesboro, win NASCAR’s All-Star Race

NORTH WILKESBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 21: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson staged one of his now familiar dominant performances in NASCAR’s All Star Sunday night, but it never really was about the race itself.

The entire theme of the weekend was the celebration of NASCAR’s return to a speedway they left in 1996. And that celebration was more than successful.

Larson led 145 of the 200 laps run at one point enjoying a 12 second lead and winning by 4.5 seconds over Bubba Wallace. It capped off a weekend that saw the Hendrick Motorsports driver win Saturday night’s Truck race in a fill in role for driver Alex Bowman.

“That was old-school ass whipping for sure,” Larson said. “We had a great car on the long run there and was just thinking for sure there was going to be a caution. I got out to a big lead and I could see everybody’s cars were driving like crap in front of me.

“I cannot thank this 5 team enough. We were God awful all weekend. Practice I was like the worst on 30-lap average, went backwards in a heat race yesterday. You obviously had some strategy work out there in the beginning, but we drove from dead last to the lead and checked out by 12 or 13 seconds. Then just could pace myself there that last run.”

It was Larson’s third All-Star Race win at a third different track.

“What an amazing car,” Larson said. “Everything that my car did bad on Friday and Saturday did great today. Again, thanks to the 5 team, Cliff Daniels, Cal Stewart, too. Cal Stewart is our engineer. We bust his balls all the time because every time he’s at the track something bad happens.”

Polesitter Daniel Suarez led the first 55 laps, but like the rest of the 24 car field had nothing for Larson and came home seventh.

Bubba Wallace, who started 10th pursued Larson all race long but could only manage second. Wallace said that he wasn’t sure what he would have done had he actually caught Larson.

“I think we needed the louvers and whatever chewed up stuff they have on there.,” Wallace said smiling. “No, just his capability throughout the whole run, he could attack hard and then have something there at the end.”

Josh Berry won the All-Star Open and finished 15th, Ty Gibbs who transferred from the Open with a second-place finish was ninth. Noah Gragson voted in by the fans took a race car damaged during the Open to 23rd.

At the end of it all, Larson celebrated his $1 million win with a burnout around the entire 5/8 track that underwent a multimillion-dollar makeover over the last year. Fireworks exploded over the packed grandstands and the crowd roared their approval.  Not just for the win by Larson, but for the victory for a track brought back from oblivion to prominence once more and gives the community a trophy for the future.

“I can’t even tell you what it means,” Larson said. “This is my third All-Star win and my third different track. In an historical place like that, you guys and the crowd made this weekend so awesome. We could feel the atmosphere all weekend.”

Greg Engle