Kyle Larson Delivers An Old-Fashioned All-Star Whoopin’

NASCAR and Kyle Larson were both in rare form for the return to North Wilkesboro for the 2023 All-Start race. Fans were delighted to see Cup racing return to the famed track for the first time since 1996. All the TV talking heads were crowing about how great this race was going to be, what a challenge it would be for the drivers. They even trotted out Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for leading the charge to bring back short track racing in the heart of NASCAR Country.

This had all the makings of a great race given the worn racing surface and the threat of tire fall off and bump and run racing.

Only problem was that race never really materialized.

Evidently only 10-time track winner Darrell Waltrip remembered that this was not a well-liked track by the drivers back in the day.

Maybe the next race, if there is one, will be better with the teams having some post-1996 data to use. Or it could be another follow the leader stinker that NASCAR would have to figure out a way to fix with the short track package that is taking so much heat.

The race was an entire night of follow the leader, first with Daniel Suarez (55 laps) and then with Kyle Larson (145 laps). No one else led a single lap. And it got to the point where Larson was leading by double digit seconds as he lapped most of the field. Of the 24 cars in the field, only 12 stayed on the lead lap.

As Larson described it, it was an old-fashioned (butt) whoopin’.

Not that there wasn’t any bumping and running but mostly it happened further back in the field and we rarely saw it on the broadcast. It’s too bad the race didn’t live up to the hype.

On the upside of the race, Larson joins an elite group with at least three All-Star race wins. And Larson has done it on three different tracks.

Things of note: Ross Chastain apologizes. Again.

Shortly after Ross Chastain’s boss admonished him by saying “I love the kid. I love the opportunity it’s given every single person at Trackhouse to be able to put a championship run together. But there’s stuff that has to be cleaned up, and it’s a process he’s going to have to start going through sooner rather than later.”, Chastain said that “”I just need to hit less things. It’s as simple as that.”

Maybe this will change Ross Chastain as a driver, but I hope not. NASCAR does not need another vanilla race driver. NASCAR needs a hard-nosed, aggressive driver who isn’t afraid to buck the establishment. Just because Rick Hendrick threw down the gauntlet doesn’t mean you hide in the corner. No, you pick that glove up and smack around Kyle Larson once more and say, “I am going to win this race, not you.”

Sound alike any other driver you can think of? Anyone? I know I sure can think of at least two and one of them was in the broadcast booth for the All-Star race.

I appreciate Justin Marks desire to make Chastain even better but get behind your driver dude. Can you imagine Junior Johnson apologizing for the way his driver was winning races?

I sure can’t.

Next up: The Coca-Cola 600.

After a short race of 200 laps we now turn our attention to the grandaddy of all race weekends with the Coca-Cola 600 preceded by the Indy 500.

This is a tough race to handicap with because of the 600 miles that have to be raced. Sure, the cars are better than ever and you see fewer mechanical issues but there is usually attrition with brakes or something as well as a few wrecks that will end the day for a large handful of drivers. Let’s look at the last few races.

2022 – Denny Hamlin leads just 15 laps on his way to victory after Ross Chastain leads 153 laps.

2021 – Kyle Larson delivers another whoopin’ by leading 327 laps on his way to victory.

2020 – Brad Keselowksi leads just 21 laps to win after Alex Bowman dominated the early part of the race leading 164 but finished 19th.

2019 – Martin Truex, Jr. led 166 laps to win over Kyle Busch (79) and Chase Elliott (43). Keselowksi also led 76 laps this race.

2018 – another stinker with Kyle Busch leading 377 of 400 laps.

So as you can see, you can lead a few laps or most of them and still win. Fortune favors the bold so go out a lead some laps!

Overall at Charlotte, Kyle Larson is the top driver and no one else is even close. He has led over 46% of all laps.

He is the hot driver right now so he has to be one of the favorites. I wouldn’t count out Brad Keselowski right now. He and Chris Buescher are making great strides and this is the kind of race where things can happen. This could also be a nice race for Chase Elliott who has the second best lap led average at 12%. As quiet as Kyle Busch has been, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him pop out of nowhere and win this again.

Who are your picks?

(Photo by Chris Owens/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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