It’s All-Star Weekend on the NASCAR scene, which means let's toss out all talk about points and the championship fight. The All-Star Race is an exhibition event where the winner takes home $1 million. Winning is the only thing that matters in this race.
This year marks the second time the All-Star Race is being held at Texas Motor Speedway. It had been a staple at Charlotte Motor Speedway for over three decades prior to moving to Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020 and then TMS since then.
Last year, Kyle Larson did in the All-Star Race what he did 10 other times during his 2022 NASCAR Cup Series championship campaign — he won. It was Larson’s second straight All-Star win. He also won the event in 2019 for Chip Ganassi Racing before missing the 2020 All-Star Race due to suspension.
Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott was the All-Star winner in 2020. Should Larson score the win this year, it would be the first time a driver has ever won three straight All-Star Race appearances; and should HMS win again, it would be the first time an owner has ever won three straight.
Despite Larson holding off a late charge from Brad Keselowski last year, who was then with Team Penske, to take the win, the race was dominated by Hendrick Motorsports. The four HMS entries of Larson, William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman combined to lead 68 of the event’s 100 laps. Penske was the only other team that was a major player, with Keselowski and Ryan Blaney combining to lead 17 laps. Blaney was the only non-Hendrick car to win a stage that day.
But don’t expect this race to look how it looked last year. There’s a new racecar, with Cup switching from the Gen 6 to the Gen 7 car in the offseason. There’s a different package being raced with much more horsepower this time around. And there’s a new format for the race itself.
Expect some of the usual suspects so far in the 2022 season to be the ones competing for the $1 million. The four HMS cars will again be major threats, but this time, Byron is the one leading the charge instead of Larson. Byron is currently tied with Ross Chastain for a series-high two wins on the year, and there were two other races where he was passed for the win within the final five laps.
Speaking of Chastain, his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet has been fast this year just about everywhere. In addition to scoring his first two career wins, he’s already tallied more than double his career high in top fives and has just as many top 10 already as he did all of last year — Cup is only 13 races into the 36-race season.
Finally, there’s always the possibility that a driver can transfer into the race via the All-Star Open, held directly before the All-Star Race for those who didn’t qualify for it, and go on to win the whole night. It’s happened four times in the All-Star Race history, with the most recent driver to do so being Larson in 2019.
If anyone were to pull off that feat this year, Tyler Reddick seems to be the one primed to do so. The No. 8 Chevy has had the speed to win on multiple occasions this year, only for a problem to take him out of contention. He has two runners-up and has led 90 or more laps twice this season. Should Reddick win the All-Star Race, he would be the fifth driver to transfer from the Open to win and the third driver to win it before winning a points-paying Cup race. But first things first, he has to get into the race.
Date: Sunday, May 22
Time: 8 p.m. ET (All-Star Open at 5:30 p.m. ET)
Track: Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, Texas)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90
All-Star Race Format
The All-Star Race field is comprised of winners in the 2021 season and the 2022 season so far as well as former All-Star winners and Cup champions who are full time. That puts 20 drivers in the race.
Four more drivers will be added after the 50-lap All-Star Open: the three stage winners (stages are 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps) and the fan vote winner. If the fan vote winner won one of the stages, then the next highest driver in the fan vote will get the final spot in the All-Star field. 16 drivers will make up the Open field.
The All-Star Race will consist of 125 laps, broken into four stages. The first three stages will each be 25 laps, and the final stage will be 50 laps. The winner of the first stage will start the final stage in first, the winner of the second stage will start the final stage in second and the winner of the third stage will start the final stage in third. However, the first stage winner must finish the second and third stages in the top 15 and the second stage winner must do the same in the third stage or else they will lose their front row starting spot in the final stage.
In between the second and third stages, there will be a pit-stop competition. Each competing team must pit, and their crews will do a four-tire stop. The team with the fastest total time on pit road, including pit road entry and exit, will win the pit-crew award. The winning team’s driver will start fourth in the final stage as long as they finish stage three inside the top 15.
In the final stage, if a natural caution comes out between laps 15-25, standard race procedures will be in effect. Should no natural caution occur in that span, then NASCAR will throw a competition caution. The leader at the end of stage four will be crowned the All-Star Race winner and awarded $1 million.
Who's at the Front: Kurt Busch & Toyota
The Chevrolets of HMS and Trackhouse seemed unstoppable this year, especially on 1.5-mile intermediate tracks, which is what Texas is. That changed last week at Kansas Speedway, when the Toyotas struck back, placing all six of its entries across Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing inside the top 10.
Kurt Busch gave a convincing performance en route to his first win of 2022, tracking down Larson and brother Kyle Busch late in the going to take the victory. It was also Kurt Busch’s first win with 23XI, who started a second car for him this year. Now in his 22nd Cup season, the 2004 champion has now won with five different teams, in six different numbers, and in four different manufacturers.
The NASCAR world will find out this week whether Toyota’s performance at Kansas was a rarity or if the manufacturer rearing up for a heavyweight bout between HMS and Chastain for the rest of the season. The past two All-Star winners (Elliott, Larson) went on to win the Cup championship later that year.
Who's at the Back: Ford
Even Ford’s powerhouse teams of Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing haven’t had speed on the 1.5-mile tracks this year. Penske and SHR have combined for three wins this year, but none of those have been on 1.5-milers.
The Blue Oval’s highest finisher last week at the 1.5-mile Kansas was Austin Cindric in 11th. There have been three races on 1.5-mile tracks so far in 2022, and Ford didn’t snag a spot inside the top five for any of them. That’s very uncharacteristic for a make with drivers such as Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Blaney and Keselowski (granted, Keselowski is basically part of a rebuild after moving over and becoming a co-owner of RFK Racing this year).
Barring a come-out-of-nowhere run like Toyota had last week, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be a Ford entry laying claim to the $1 million at the end of the night.
NASCAR by the Numbers
Career NASCAR Cup Series wins between Busch brothers Kurt and Kyle following Kurt’s win at Kansas last week. The win broke a tie with Bobby and Donnie Allison for the most wins between brothers in NASCAR history.
All-Star Race wins by Hendrick Motorsports, the most in NASCAR history. The next highest on the list is a two-way tie between Richard Childress Racing and RFK Racing with four wins apiece. Hendrick could become the first team ever to win three All-Star Races in a row should one of its drivers win Sunday.
What Vegas Thinks
The vegasinsider.com odds show that even though he hasn’t been as dominant in 2022 as he was last year, Kyle Larson is still the guy to beat this weekend with +600 odds. Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott are the next highest at +700 with Busch being the only Toyota driver with under +1200 odds. Those three are all above the year’s only multi-time winners William Byron and Ross Chastain, who round out the top-five favorites with +900 and +1000, respectively. Despite not even having a spot locked up for the All-Star Race yet, Tyler Reddick is listed at +1200, which is the same as Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.
Looking for a longshot pick? You could ride the hot hand of Kurt Busch at +2500 or go with his 23XI teammate Bubba Wallace at +5000. Both already have spots in the All-Star Race, which is more than you can say for some of the drivers right around them in odds.
What I Think
The oddsmakers are onto something with those Tyler Reddick odds. I predict he wins the first stage of the All-Star Open, then races his way through the field to win the $1 million.
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