Kyle Busch captured his first ever NASCAR Cup Series win at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night, winning the Monster Energy All-Star race and the $1 million prize.
Busch was lined up in second beside Brad Keselowski to begin the final 10-lap shootout but quickly grabbed the lead and never looked back. He led all 10 laps on his drive to victory lane, becoming the 23rd different driver to win the event in its 33-race history.
“We’ve never won at Charlotte in a Cup car and we finally achieved that goal tonight,” an ecstatic Busch said after the race. “I won the All-Star Race. I won a million bucks. There’s reason to celebrate and reason to celebrate big.
“I can’t say enough about this team. I can’t say enough about (crew chief) Adam Stevens and these guys on the pit box. You can rely on them all day long. I had to do that tonight. We weren’t quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes when it mattered most. We made the right moves when it mattered most. We got the most out of our night tonight and got here to Victory Lane; just so relieved, elated, proud and excited, all at the same time.”
Kyle Larson won the first two stages of the All-Star race and led all of the 40-combined laps, but finished in second place after losing three positions during the final pit stop.
“My pit crew has been awesome all year, and I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Larson said after the race. “We came down pit road the leader, and three people passed us. That was pretty much the difference there. But in 10 laps, track position is huge. We just didn’t have it there at the end. We had the best car out there, for sure. In traffic, I thought it was really good. I thought we had it most of the race but that’s how racing goes. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think we had a really fast car today. We’ll go onto the 600, that’s a long race, and try it again.”
Jimmie Johnson, the third stage winner, had to settle for third place.
“I was really hopeful of old tires and being on the bottom,” Johnson said. “They’d be able to hold that lane back, especially Kyle (Busch) and how good he is on restarts. And it just didn’t happen. He got in there. I had a decent start. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) spun his tires behind me, and he wasn’t able to push me and get me going.
“I had a couple of shots at him (Busch). He wasn’t handling too well at the start of the run, but I just drove too hard. I could see a million dollars out the windshield, and I just drove this Lowe’s Chevy way too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground. We learned a little bit tonight and we’ll come back next week (for the Coca-Cola 600) and have some more fun.”
Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five finishers. Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Keselowski and Denny Hamlin finished in sixth through 10th, respectively.
All of the participating teams had the option of using one set of softer tires at some point during the race but it proved to be a non-factor, outweighed by the advantage of clean air which made passing the leader next to impossible.
Matt Kenseth’s race ended early with an oil leak after Stage 1 and finished in last place (20th). Ryan Newman made contact with Hamlin in Stage 3 and was unable to continue, finishing 19th. Dale Earnhardt Jr. struggled with the handling of his car all night, resulting in an 18th place finish.
The All-Star Open that preceded the All-Star race gave three drivers the opportunity to transfer into the main event. Clint Bowyer won the first stage, Ryan Blaney took the second stage and Daniel Suarez won The Open. Chase Elliott was voted into the All-Star race by winning the fan vote and was the only one of the four to finish in the top 10, placing seventh.
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