Larson Hopes All-Star Win Is Just The Beginning

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 19 2019
Kyle Larson broke a victory drought Saturday night when he won the Cup Series All-Star Race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson hadn’t enjoyed a NASCAR Cup victory lane since September 2017, but that changed Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he emerged victorious in the Monster Energy All-Star race.

Granted, it wasn’t a point-race victory for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, but for the 26-year-old Larson and crew chief Chad Johnston the victory at the 1.5-mile track certainly spelled relief to what has been a rocky season.

 “I feel like I’ve been like a seventh- or eighth- to kind of 12th-place car all season, but I haven’t got (anything) to show for it,” Larson said after his first All-Star victory. “And seventh to 12th isn’t that great.  A week ago or a few days ago I would say we can’t win a race like that, but we proved today (Saturday) that we could.

            “We’ve just got to continue to keep working hard and learning what we can, making our cars better and faster and more grip, more speed, everything.  Pit crew has got to be on it. I’ve got to be on it if we want to continue to run up front.”

Kyle Larson had to hold off Kevin Harvick to get his All-Star victory. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Crew chief Chad Johnston noted the All-Star victory came at a good time for the team because it hadn’t been able to string together any good finishes until recently.

The last two races heading into the All-Star event marked the first time this season the team has posted two consecutive top-10 finishes. Its third-place finish earlier this month at Dover was its first top 10 since March at Phoenix. Last weekend’s eighth-place finish at Kansas was only its fourth top-10 this season.

“To be able to come here to the All-Star race and take home a million dollars is huge for us, and, hopefully, it’s kind of a stake in the ground for a turning point for us,” Johnston said.

Larson raced his way into the All-Star race by winning the Monster Energy Open. He’s only the second drive to accomplish that feat. Ryan Newman was the first, winning the 2002 All-Star race after claiming the event’s preliminary. Kasey Kahne won the 2008 All-Star race after advancing into the field via the fan vote.

Advancing into the All-Star race was definitely a challenge for Larson since William Byron won the Open’s first stage and Bubba Wallace claimed the second. That meant Larson had to claim the Open victory in the race’s final 10 laps.

When the race restarted following the end of Stage 2, Paul Menard led one lap and then Ty Dillon set the pace for three circuits before Larson snatched the lead with five laps remaining. Even though his margin of victory was less than a second, he was never seriously challenged once he secured the top spot.  

“This is a great time of year for me to get a win,” Larson said. “Winning not only is important for me in NASCAR because it’s what I make my living in … but this is the time of year when I start getting to race a bunch.  I’m going to be in a race car, I think, every day for the next probably almost seven or eight days, so this is a good time of year for me to get some momentum and get into my Sprint Car season, my Midget season as well as the NASCAR stuff on the weekend. Hopefully, this will turn it into where I can get some double digit wins this season.”


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 35th Annual Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Saturday, May 18, 2019

                1. (18)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 88.

                2. (3)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 88.

                3. (2)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 88.

                4. (10)  Joey Logano, Ford, 88.

                5. (17)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 88.

                6. (13)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 88.

                7. (4)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 88.

                8. (19)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 88.

                9. (16)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 88.

                10. (5)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 88.

                11. (14)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 88.

                12. (1)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 88.

                13. (6)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 88.

                14. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 88.

                15. (8)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 88.

                16. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 88.

                17. (15)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 83.

                18. (12)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 79.

                19. (7)  Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 77.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  79.439 mph.

Time of Race:  1 Hrs, 36 Mins, 18 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .322 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 17 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Bowyer 0;K. Harvick 1-19;K. Busch 20-27;B. Keselowski 28-31;C. Bowyer 32;K. Busch 33-39;K. Harvick 40-53;C. Bowyer 54;J. Logano 55-73;C. Elliott 74-75;K. Larson 76-88.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kevin Harvick 2 times for 33 laps; Joey Logano 1 time for 19 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 15 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 13 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 4 laps; Clint Bowyer 2 times for 2 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 2 laps.

Time of Race:  1 Hrs, 0 Mins, 44 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .867 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes:  8 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hemric # 0;D. Hemric # 1-24;K. Larson 25-26;W. Byron 27;A. Bowman 28-50;D. Suarez 51;B. Wallace 52;T. Dillon 53-57;K. Larson 58-62.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Daniel Hemric # 1 time for 24 laps; Alex Bowman 1 time for 23 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 7 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 5 laps; William Byron 1 time for 1 lap; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 1 lap; Bubba Wallace 1 time for 1 lap.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 19 2019
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