NASCAR’s All-Star Race produced little of the thrills fans expected from the revised stage format. Track position was the primary factor in determining stage winners. The Open qualifying race provided a preview. Clint Bowyer led all 20 laps of stage one in the Open to make the All-Star feature. Ryan Blaney did the same thing in the Open’s second stage. Rookie Daniel Suarez won the 10-lap sprint to conclude the preliminary event. Chase Elliott earned the final All-Star qualifying spot, winning the fan vote for the first time over Danica Patrick.
Pole winner Kyle Larson won the first two stages of the All-Star race leading all 40 laps. The soft compound tires improved lap times but did not provide enough grip to pass the race leader. Clean air offered a huge advantage. The spectacle of restarts following stage ending yellow flags created the evening’s biggest drama. Kyle Busch started third in the All-Star final 10-lap sprint. He took Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson three-wide into turn one. Exiting turn two Busch had the lead and, like other stage leaders, he never relinquished it. Larson started the final stage fifth and battled his way to second, but never challenged Busch.
Four Blue Oval Fusions made the 10-car, 10-lap final stage. Keselowski started in first, not pitting because he was out of tires. He slid to a ninth-place finish, Joey Logano never contended and finished eighth.
Kurt Busch finished fourth and Kevin Harvick took sixth. Open stage winners Bowyer and Blaney failed to advance to the final 10-lap sprint. As did Dale Earnhardt Jr. running in his final All-Star race. Junior won the first All-Star race he qualified for. But, his dream of a book ending victory in his last one was never a possibility. He finished 18th in the 20-car field.
Camping World Truck Series driver Regan Smith substituted for the injured Aric Almirola in the Petty 43 car. Smith will also pilot the Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in the Coca-Cola 600 next weekend. It is still unclear how much seat time Almirola will miss with the fractured vertebra suffered last week at Kansas.
NASCAR announced a fourth stage is being added to the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. The longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit will be divided into four 100-lap segments.