Kyle Busch Knocks Out Blaney For All-Star Pole

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2022

Kyle Busch, top, and Ryan Blaney compete during the elimination bracket qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Busch will start Sunday night’s 38th annual NASCAR All-Star Race from pole position after defeating Ryan Blaney in an eight-driver/knockout elimination format that transformed a portion of Texas Motor Speedway’s pit road into a drag strip.

Busch, of Joe Gibbs Racing, and Team Penske’s Blaney will start the four-stage, 125-lap main event from Row 1, with Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson in Row 2.

“Anytime you’re able to showcase the pit crews’ ability and have them and their athleticism in this competition and in this qualifying format., I enjoy that,” Busch said. “I think that’s my most favorite part of the year, coming to the All-Star Race. Whether it’s Charlotte (Motor Speedway) and coming down pit road and sliding into the box, having those guys go over the wall certainly means a lot.

“Especially with this No. 18 bunch that I’ve had a lot of success with over the years. Obviously changed-up a few times, most recently, but we’ve always been a threat to be reckoned with when it comes to getting on the pole for the All-Star Race. It feels good to have that today.”

Ben Beshore, Busch’s crew chief, gave his stamp of approval to the unique format. “This is a cool event,” Beshore said, “a good way to showcase our pit crew and they did a great job. They put in a lot of hard work this offseason and throughout the year. They clicked off awesome stops there and it’s exciting.”

Main event programming will begin at 8 p.m. (EDT) and televised live on FOX Sports 1. Radio coverage will be available on MRN and SiriusXM Radio Channel 90.

The eight-fastest drivers emerged from a round of single-car, one-lap qualifying. Also advancing were Ross Chastain of TrackHouse Racing, Kurt Busch of 23XI Racing, Martin Truex Jr. of JGR and Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing.

Eliminations for the Final Eight started with a launch from a standing start, a four-tire pit stop and a lap around the track to the start/finish line.

Kyle Busch defeated JGR teammate Truex in Round 1 and Kyle Larson in Round 2 to advance to the final. Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Menards Ford Mustang, defeated Chastain and Byron.

“It was decent, I guess,” said Blaney, referring to the format. “It was better than doing nothing. It puts a big emphasis on the pit crew, for sure. Our only job is to not stall it getting to the box and stop on the sign. I think a couple of guys did stall. It puts a big emphasis on those (crew) guys and their skill-set.

“I’m saying it’s good because it worked out decent for us. If it went bad for us I would be saying the opposite. It was unique and I thought our guys did a good job. We got hurt on the lane choice there. I thought the bottom was better.

“Yeah, I thought our stop was honestly a little faster than his (Busch). I was on the top for the first round, bottom in the second round and top in the last round. I could notice a big difference. The bottom launched a lot better after you got done with your stop. Whether it was cleaner or whatever it was, fresh asphalt or something. It just seemed to launch better. 

“It‘s one of those things. I was hoping that the No. 5 (Larson) would beat the No. 18 (Busch) in their round because then I would have had lane-choice but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Earlier, JGR’s Denny Hamlin posted the top speed in All-Star Race practice with a lap in 28.838-seconds at 187.253 mph in the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota. And Tyler Reddick earned pole for the All-Star Open after topping the charts with a hot practice lap of 29.059-seconds at 185.829 mph, followed by a qualifying run of 28.880-seconds at 186.981 mph in his No. 8 Guaranteed Rate Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

Tyler Reddick needed two hands to prop the silver trophy he earned for winning Saturday’s 26th annual SRS Distribution 250 onto the post-race dais at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chances are the folks at Big Machine Racing will be requesting the original, or at least a duplicate.

Moonlighting from his fulltime Cup Series job at Richard Childress Racing, Reddick gave Big Machine its first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in what otherwise was a 167-lap crash fest. Reddick started second and led 31 of 167 laps around TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval to score his first series win since the 2019 season _ when he clinched his second consecutive Xfinity championship and graduated to Cup.

A 26-year-old native of Corning, Calif., Reddick held off fellow-Cup Series regular William Byron over the closing laps en route to his 10th Xfinity win by a margin of 1.825-seconds.

“It’s a huge deal for me,” said Reddick, who made his first start in the No. 48 Big Machine Racing/JAG Metals Chevrolet Camaro at Darlington Raceway on May 7. “I know how hard everyone at Big Machine Racing has worked to get to where they are today from where they started. To be a part of that the last two races and go to work to make the car better was a huge opportunity for me.

“We were pretty good at Darlington but we weren’t really happy. We went to work the last two weeks and found some things and the car is better. For our car to have the speed that we did when we got here was pretty unreal. We knew we were going to make the cars better. But it’s pretty cool that we were able to wreck at Darlington (and finish 26th), really work and next time out here we are sitting with the trophy.”

Big Machine Racing, founded by West Coast music mogul Scott Borchetta, scored its first NASCAR win in its 45th start. BMR is part of Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group, one of the top independent record labels in Nashville and nationwide.

Byron placed second in his first Xfinity start since his championship campaign of 2017, driving the No. 88 HendrickCars.com Chevy Camaro fielded by JR Motorsports. JRM teammates Sam Mayer and Justin Allgaier finished third and fourth, respectively, but the team fronted by former Cup Series star Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw its three-race winning streak snapped. RCR’s Austin Hill completed an all-Camaro top-five.

Reddick took the lead from Brandon Jones and his beat-up No. 19 Menards/Delta Faucets Toyota Supra on Lap 137 and avoided the carnage of the race’s 11th and final caution period. That was for a seven-car melee that included Carrollton native Jesse Iwuji and his No. 34 Equity Prime Mortgage Chevy Camaro on Lap 139.

Iwuji, who finished 34th, co-owns Jesse Iwuji Motorsports with Dallas Cowboys legend and NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, who was present for the race.

(Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1997) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service and Ford Racing). 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2022
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