The 2021 comeback season for Kyle Larson continued under the lights in the Lone Star state after the Elk Grove, California, native prevailed over a late battle against Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott to win the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 13, and claim his second All-Star career victory.
The starting lineup was determined via random draw, with Kyle Larson, winner of last weekend’s Cup event at Sonoma Raceway, starting on pole position and Kyle Busch joining him on the front row.
Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola transferred to the All-Star Race following their respective segment victories in the All-Star Open along with Matt DiBenedetto, winner of this year’s All-Star Fan Vote.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced for Round 1, the field battled dead even through the first two turns and entering the backstretch led by the two Kyles. At the start/finish line, Kyle Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry led the first lap over Larson’s No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
Then in Turn 1, the caution waved when Christopher Bell got sideways in Turn 1, though he was able to straighten the car on the apron and not sustain any damage to his No. 20 CRAFTSMAN Toyota Camry. Bell was the only competitor who pitted under caution, with caution laps not counting in the race.
When the race restarted on a 14-lap dash through the first round, the two Kyles battled dead even for the lead again for one full lap before Busch prevailed the following lap. With Kyle Busch leading, Cole Custer challenged Larson for the runner-up spot ahead of Chase Elliott and William Byron with the field battling intensely for spots.
Through the first five laps of the event, Kyle Busch was leading by three-tenths of a second over Larson, with Byron, Custer and Elliott in the top five. Joey Logano and Austin Dillon were in sixth and seventh followed by Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.
Two laps later, Larson overtook Kyle Busch to assume the lead for the first time. At the same time, Byron challenged Busch for the runner-up spot, though the former retained the spot.
Not long after, Kyle Busch attempted to challenge Larson back for the lead on the inside lane, but Larson retained the top spot on the outside lane entering the backstretch. Soon after, Byron also took over the runner-up spot while Elliott and Custer battled for fourth.
By Lap 12, the battle for the runner-up spot heated up as Elliott joined teammate Byron and Kyle Busch in an attempt to overtake both. With Larson still leading, Byron was able to clear himself to remain in second while Kyle Busch continued to battle Elliott for third place.
Back at the front, Larson was able to fend off teammate Byron and Kyle Busch to claim Round 1 on Lap 15. Byron, Kyle Busch, Elliott and Custer settled in the top five followed by Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain and Logano.
Under the first break, the leaders pitted for early adjustments. Prior to the second round, the top-12 competitors were inverted in positions, a decision made via random draw. The move made Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick start on the front row.
When Round 2 started on Lap 16, Blaney received a push from Chastain to retain the lead entering the first turn. Soon after, Chastain attempted to make a move on the outside lane for the lead, but his plan backfired as Keselowski took over the runner-up spot while Chastain was left in a battle with Chase Elliott. Behind, Harvick drifted back to eighth.
The following lap, Chastain got Blaney sideways entering Turn 1, but Blaney maintained the lead and straightened his No. 12 Menards/Wrangler Ford Mustang, though he was left in a battle with teammate Keselowski for the lead.
At the front, teammates Blaney and Keselowski battled dead even for the lead, with Keselowski fighting on the inside lane and Blaney on the outside. Chastain, meanwhile, was in third followed by Elliott and the Busch brothers.
By Lap 20, Blaney was leading by a narrow margin over teammate Keselowski while Chastain, Kurt Busch, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch, Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Custer were in the top 10.
Five laps later, Penske’s Blaney and Keselowski were running first and second followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Chastain and Kurt Busch, with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch in fifth and Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott running in sixth.
When Round 2 concluded on Lap 30, Blaney survived an intense, competitive battle for the lead as he was the leader followed by teammate Keselowski, Chastain, Kurt Busch, Byron, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Custer, Denny Hamlin and Logano.
Under the second break, the leaders returned to pit road for more adjustments.
Prior to the third event, the entire field was inverted, giving DiBenedetto and Almirola the front row.
When Round 3 started on Lap 31, DiBenedetto cleared Almirola to lead the field as Michael McDowell challenged Almirola for the runner-up spot. Behind, Ryan Newman challenged Harvick for fourth as Alex Bowman joined the party.
A few laps later, McDowell made a bid for the lead through the backstretch, but DiBenedetto received a push from Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang through Turn 4 to remain in the lead entering the backstretch.
By Lap 35, DiBenedetto was leading by a narrow margin over McDowell followed by Bowman, Almirola and Larson. Newman was in sixth followed by Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon, Hamlin and Harvick.
Two laps later, Bowman moved his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE into the lead.
By Lap 40, Bowman was leading by half a second over DiBenedetto, with Almirola, McDowell and Newman in the top five,
With the field behind battling for position, Bowman was able to retain the top spot and claim Round 3 on Lap 45. DiBenedetto was in second place followed by Almirola, McDowell, Newman, Larson, Hamlin, Bell, Byron and Harvick.
Under the round break, the leaders returned to pit road for adjustments as the race transitioned to evening conditions.
Prior to the fourth round, the top-nine competitors via random draw were inverted, placing Byron’s No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE into the lead.
When Round 4 started on Lap 46, Byron and Bell battled side-by-side for the lead for one full lap before the former prevailed. Soon after, Larson made his way into the runner-up spot over Bell while DiBenedetto, Bowman and Hamlin battled for fourth. Elliott was mired back in ninth while Kyle Busch was in 17th.
By Lap 50 and at the halfway mark, Byron was leading by two-tenths of a second over teammate Larson, with Bell trailing by six-tenths of a second. DiBenedetto and Hamlin battled for fourth while Bowman, Elliott, Blaney, Newman and McDowell were in the top 10.
With the laps in the fourth round dwindling, Larson started to catch teammate Byron for the lead as he decreased the deficit to a tenth of a second.
Despite being challenged by his teammate for the lead, Byron was able to hold on to the lead and win Round 4 on Lap 60 by a tenth of a second over Larson. Hamlin, Bell, Elliott, Blaney, Bowman, DiBenedetto, Almirola and Newman were scored in the top 10.
Under the round break, the leaders pitted for another round of adjustments.
The lineup for the fifth round was determined via the cumulative results from the first four rounds, giving Byron the lead and teammate Larson the runner-up spot.
When Round 5 started on Lap 61, the entire field battled dead even led by teammates Byron and Larson.
The following lap, names like Hamlin, Bell, DiBenedetto, Reddick, Truex, Harvick and McDowell made a mandatory pit stop under green. Soon after, Kyle Busch pitted along with Newman and Austin Dillon. Then, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon were assessed a penalty for speeding on pit road.
Back on track, Byron was leading followed by teammates Larson, Elliott and Bowman, with Kurt Busch and Keselowski in fifth and sixth. Soon after, Blaney pitted along with Custer.
By Lap 70, all four Hendrick Motorsports competitors were running first through fourth, with Byron still out in front. By then, Custer and Kurt Busch made their mandatory pit stop under green.
Through Lap 75, Byron continued to lead, though he was one of eight competitors that had yet to pit.
Not long after, Byron pitted along with Larson, Elliott, Bowman and Chastain. Through the next three laps, Keselowski, Logano and Almirola were the final round of competitors to make a mandatory pit stop.
Just then, the caution flew when Chastain, who had just pitted, spun in Turn 1 following contact from Newman. At the time of caution, Keselowski, who was the last competitor to pit, was able to cycle ahead with the lead over Elliott, Byron and Larson.
Under caution, few names like Chastain, Kyle Busch and DiBenedetto pitted. By then, Kyle Busch received the free pass and returned to the lead lap while Austin Dillon was still trapped a lap behind.
When the race restarted on Lap 80, Keselowski and Elliott battled dead even for the lead, with Elliott leading the next lap by a nose. With the battle for the lead heating up in the closing laps, Elliott was able to take the rocket ahead with the lead on the outside lane through the following lap followed by teammates Byron and Larson as Keselowski slipped back to fourth.
By Lap 85, Elliott was still leading by more than a tenth of a second over teammate Byron. Keselowski moved back into third place followed by Larson and Blaney while Logano was in sixth.
When Round 5 concluded on Lap 90, Elliott was able to fend off teammate Byron to remain in the lead. Larson and Blaney settled in third and fourth followed by Keselowski, Logano, Hamlin, Bowman, Kurt Busch and Almirola.
Under the final round break, Austin Dillon received the free pass and returned on the lead lap, making all 21 competitors scored on the lead lap entering the final round. Few names like Harvick, McDowell, Newman, Reddick, DiBenedetto and Austin Dillon pitted while under caution.
Following the mandatory green flag pit stops from all competitors during the fifth round, it was announced that Chase Elliott’s pit crew led by crew chief Alan Gustafson earned $100,000 for being the fastest pit crew of the evening.
The lineup for the final round was determined via the results from the fifth round, keeping Elliott and Byron on the front row.
When the Final Round started on Lap 90 and for a 10-lap shootout to the finish, Elliott peaked ahead in Turn 1 before Blaney made a bold three-wide move while going for the lead over Larson and Byron, with Byron falling back. Through the backstretch, Blaney and Elliott engaged in a heated battle, with Elliott receiving a push from Larson to squeak ahead.
The following lap, teammates Elliott and Larson battled dead even for the lead across the line and for nearly a full circuit before Keselowski bolted his way to the lead beneath Elliott and Larson through Turns 3 and 4. Though Keselowski led the following lap, Larson fought back on the outside lane and reassumed the top spot with seven laps remaining.
With five laps remaining, Larson was leading by nearly a tenth of a second over Keselowski, with Elliott trailing by two-tenths of a second and Logano and Blaney running in the top five. Despite being pressured by Keselowski and Elliott, Larson continued to hold strong with the lead.
Down to the final three laps of the event, Larson continued to lead by a tenth of a second over Keselowski, with Elliott trailing by three-tenths of a second and slowly falling back.
When the final lap started, Larson was ahead by nearly three-tenths of a second over Keselowski, who continued to trail Larson closely, but not have enough to complete his run to the lead. Through the backstretch and Turn 3, Larson stabilized his narrow margin over Keselowski to come back around the finish line and take the checkered flag on Lap 100, thus winning the All-Star Race and a million dollars.
With the victory, Larson became the eighth competitor to claim multiple All-Star victories as he won his first All-Star event since 2019. In addition, he recorded the 10th All-Star victory for Hendrick Motorsports and the first for crew chief Cliff Daniels.
“Honestly, I can’t believe it,” Larson said on FS1. “That second run there, we were really bad and I was like, ‘Man, we’re in trouble.’ I went backwards that round, so I was like we got an uphill battle and did not imagine myself winning this race today. Cliff and everybody works so hard on this thing, made some good adjustments during those first, second and third rounds, and got us in position. That last restart worked exactly how I needed it to do…I can’t believe it.”
Keselowski finished in second place in his 13th appearance in the All-Star event, which marked his third runner-up event in the event.
“It feels like to run second to the Hendrick cars right now is kind of an accomplishment,” Keselowski said. “They’re just stupid fast. I had [Larson] off of Turn 4, but they just have so much speed. He just motored right on back by me like damn. It feels like a first in class day for the Discount Tire Ford. [Crew chief] Jeremy Bullins and the team did a great job of executing and getting us in position. We just didn’t have enough speed to make the most of it, but good execution day and I’m proud of that.”
Elliott, winner of last year’s All-Star event at Bristol Motor Speedway, settled in third place. Logano and teammate Blaney finished in the top five. Bowman, teammate Byron, Almirola, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch completed the top 10 on the track.
There were 10 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured seven cautions. All 21 starters finished on the lead lap.
1. Kyle Larson, 17 laps led
2. Brad Keselowski, five laps led
3. Chase Elliott, 12 laps led
4. Joey Logano
5. Ryan Blaney, 15 laps led
6. Alex Bowman, nine laps led
7. William Byron, 30 laps led
8. Aric Almirola
9. Kyle Busch, six laps led
10. Kurt Busch
11. Christopher Bell
12. Michael McDowell
13. Martin Truex Jr.
14. Cole Custer
15. Kevin Harvick
16. Tyler Reddick
17. Matt DiBenedetto, six laps led
18. Ross Chastain
19. Austin Dillon
20. Ryan Newman
21. Denny Hamlin
Next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the series’ inaugural event at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 20, with the event to occur at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN as FOX’s coverage of this year’s NASCAR season concludes.