Logano wins All-Star Race Larson, Busch and Stenhouse provide the drama

Team Penske had a pretty good Sunday. Not only did he put two of his cars on the front row for the Indianapolis 500, but Joey Logano staged a dominant performance leading all but one lap and banking a $1 million check for winning NASCAR’s All-Star race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The real drama came after the 200 laps when Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got into a fight after the race. It all began early in the race when Busch got into Stenhouse on lap 3. Busch sent the Stenhouse car into the wall and to the garage and Stenhouse was scored last with a DNF. Busch would go on to finish 10th in the race. After it was over Busch marched to his hauler to find Stenhouse waiting for him. After a few tense words Stenhouse threw a punch and a melee broke out that had both drivers and several crew members on the ground.

Meanwhile, there was no such drama for Logano, he easily held off Denny Hamlin to win his second All-Star Race by .636 of a second setting a record for the most laps led in an All-Star event. Kyle Larson, who earlier in the day qualified fifth for the Indy 500 was third.

“A lot of fun when you’ve got a car this fast,” Logano who won the pole on Saturday, said. “It’s just so great to get in Victory Lane. All of our sponsors and everyone who stuck with us to get a win, it feels nice. It’s been a while. I wish it was for points, but a million bucks is still a lot of money and I feel great about that.”

Larson had his own dramatic entrance prior to the race flying from Indianapolis and landing at North Wilkesboro Speedway by helicopter about an hour before the race to the roar of fans from the packed grandstands. After starting from the back of the field Larson was the first among the lead group to pit from seventh place on lap 152 for the option tires. He was able to make one last charge towards to front but came up short and had to settle for third place.

“Yeah, I thought we were in great position there,” Larson said. “Got to fourth pretty quickly; got to third pretty quickly. I thought I could just be patient. I built really loose for a little while, and then they started kind of inching away from me. I moved up and I was kind of hanging on from there. I was surprised that the guys that didn’t pit were as strong as they were. I thought we were going to be in the best position there to win.”

NASCAR used the race to test out two tire combinations: one with a hard compound that would not fall off as quick, and a softer compound, that was faster but would fall off after only a few laps.

Logano was credited with leading all but 1 lap, that lap led by Brad Keselowski during a round of pit stops. While Logano celebrated on victory lane on the roof atop the media center, Busch and Stenhouse tussled in the garage area.

“I felt like Kyle and I have always raced each other really hard back to the Nationwide Series when we were competing for wins week in and week out, never had any issues,” Stenhouse said after the fight. “I wrecked him one time at Daytona and he’s kind of badmouthed me ever since then. I feel like we get along with each other OK outside the race track, I talk to him quite a bit and I’m not sure why he was so mad that I shoved it three-wide but he hit the fence and kind of came off the wall and ran into me and I don’t know, when I was talking to him he kept saying that I wrecked him.”

“So definitely just built up frustration with how he runs his mouth all the time about myself but I know he’s frustrated because he doesn’t run near as good as he used to and I understand that. We’re a single-car team over here and working really hard to go out and get better each and every weekend.”

Stenhouse suggested a path forward for the two.

“I don’t have anything else for him,” Stenhouse said. “If we want to do a charity match, I would do that, raise some money for maybe the NASCAR Foundation or something. That would be fun. Really other than that, I don’t have a whole lot for him.”

Busch later classified his race as “eventful.”

“The first lap of the race we didn’t even have water temperature in the car yet and we were wrecking each other off Turn 2,” he said. “We were able to continue on, but I’m getting tired of getting run over by everybody. We got into another incident later in the race with the No. 54 car. He got his tires hot and checked up early and I didn’t check up early, so that was my fault.”

Second place Hamlin knew where the drama was at Sunday night.

“At least we had an exciting fight in the end—something to talk about,” he deadpanned.

Photos: NASCAR at North Wilkesboro Speedway Sunday May 19, 2024

Greg Engle