Texas-Sized Million Dollar Dream for Kyle Larson

Above all else, Kyle Larson enjoys his dream season with a NASCAR All-Star Race win at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Above all else, Kyle Larson enjoys his dream season with a NASCAR All-Star Race win at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

DJ Khalid’s “All I Do Is Win” rings true for Kyle Larson. In fact, he’s won the last two NASCAR All-Star Races he’s competed after winning this year’s edition at Texas.

Not just that, the entire No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports crew are hitting all cylinders with its third straight win. Simply put, Kyle Larson doesn’t know how to lose now despite late round effort from Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. Since Kyle Larson didn’t have to worry about being on the losing end, it’s all about living the dream.

Podium Reflection:

Kyle Larson

“I can’t believe it. That second run there, we were really bad and I was like, ‘Man, we’re in trouble,” said Larson. “I went backwards that round, so I was like we’ve got an uphill battle. Did not  imagine seeing myself winning this race today.

“Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) and everybody works so hard on this thing. Made some good adjustments throughout the first, second and third rounds and got us in position.”

Brad Keselowski

For the third time in his All-Star career, Keselowski couldn’t seal the deal. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, but not enough to stop Hendrick’s 2021 dominance.

“Running second to Hendrick is kind of an accomplishment. They’re stupid fast,” Keselowski exclaimed. “I had them off Turn 4, but they have so much speed. Motoring around by me, like damn!

“Feels like a first in class day. The team did a great job on executing and putting us in position. Just didn’t have enough speed to make most of it.”

Chase Elliott

Defending All-Star Race winner Elliott leaves “The Lone Star State” rounding out the top-three. Certainly, not the result he was looking for after looking like a late-race contender.

“Kyle got to my outside and that was the end of it, really. Just got beat,” said Elliott. “Appreciate the effort today by Alan (Gustafson) and everybody on our NAPA team. I’m super proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. We’ll keep it rolling and try to find another spot or two when it counts.”

All-Star Open:

Opening Round Hell

To say it was hot at Texas, that’s a total understatement. The hottest track temperatures of the year influenced certain circumstances in The Open. Tyler Reddick led the field to the green flag to kick-off the festivities after a tremendous push by Matt DiBenedetto.

Right away, would be contenders would fall by the wayside such as Chris Buescher after beating Reddick at the start. Consequently, an irate Texan had to serve a pass-thru penalty.

Austin Cindric switched lanes and he too had to serve a penalty. The reigning Xfinity Series champ started at the rear of the field for failing pre-race tech.

Then on Lap 4, fourth-place competitor Bubba Wallace spun at the exit of Turn 1. Unlike in Fall 2019, that wasn’t an intentional spin. He reported over the radio that his No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota was “pretty loose on entry.”

Make matters worse for Buescher, he got turned around by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in Turn 3. That wouldn’t be the only tangle in a span of a 100m race. Stenhouse ran into the left side of James Davison, who got informed right away that’s just Stenhouse being Stenhouse.

More pain transpired with Erik Jones tried battling with Chase Briscoe for second. Turn 3 happened as they tangled, resulting Jones spinning. Then Daniel Suarez ran out of real estate and crashed into Jones. Both competitors’ days were over.

Intense Conclusion

All the madness led to a two-lap shootout to determine who’ll move onto the main event. Ross Chastain, who also started in the rear, threaded the needle by going on the outside to battle Reddick.

Didn’t take P1 right away, but the gutsy drive ultimately got the job done. Chastain beat Reddick at coming to the white flag by inches and cleared him in Turn 1. The Floridian went on to be the first of four guys locked into the big show.

For Chastain, it continues the mantra of living the dream. More so on what’s been a long week in Texas. Not only he got disqualified from third in Truck Series race. Chastain also lost his Cup crew chief due to the pre-race penalty.

“It’s been a good weekend on track, but it’s also been even tough. That fired me up,” said Chastain. “Racing with Reddick and those guys, I thought I was getting turned on the backstretch. A dream come true and now get to race with my heroes.”

Second Round

What we saw in the opening round was utter chaos. Fairly the opposite in the second round as Reddick was the class of the field. Behind him, Cindric and DiBenedetto were trying to find ways of catching the RCR racer.

Aric Almirola tried getting into the mix, attempting to get by DiBenedetto for third with 14 to go. Close but no cigar on that exchange. Moments later, Cindric made a wild block on DiBenedetto, but lost out on second.

DiBenedetto and Almirola were on the move in the second half of the round, cutting the gap on Reddick’s lead. Almirola went low, trying to take P2 but it wasn’t meant to be. With six to go, Almirola finally got by DiBenedetto in Turn 1 and the chase was on.

Reddick then had to deal with the two MBM Motorsports cars of David Starr and Timmy Hill. Almirola was able to make most out of the ordeal and caught Reddick a lap later. Despite the effort, Reddick was still out front as he made quick business out of lapped traffic.

No shortcomings this time for Reddick who held off Almirola to also make his All-Star Race debut. Last summer’s runner-up finisher was relieved to make it to the main event after having his work cut out for.

“It’s kind of disappointing to give it up to Ross,” said Reddick. “I was hoping to get it into the All-Star Race (in Round 1). But I was loose and let him go by. Thankfully, we executed in the second segment. That was the hottest 40 laps (I’ve ever run).”

Final Round

Two more spots had to be filled. The winner of the 10-lap shootout and of course the coveted fan vote. When the green flag waved, it was Almirola and DiBenedetto fighting hard to get the final round victory. Give the advantage to Almirola and never looked back as he was triumphant.

At long last, something went Almirola’s way after having such an appalling season thus far.

“Helps make me happy about something,” said Almirola. “The guys continue working their guts out and bring the best car you can. We took the long way in, but I’m happy to be racing for a million bucks tonight.

“The track is so gripped up on the PJ1, but it was sketchy at the beginning of the race. I wasn’t sure what to do and was skeptical on the outside. Track is so fast with the reduction of horsepower, so much throttle time. We have a great Ford Mustang.”

Gutted about finishing second was DiBenedetto, but his Sunday wasn’t over. The fans have spoken and voted the Wood Brothers Racing driver into the All-Star Race.

“That’s a relief man,” said DiBenedetto. “We struggled a bit on the car, but it means a lot to get the votes from the fans.”

All-Star Race:

Rounds 1-2

As the sun went down, the madness began for the 21 All-Star heroes with Larson leading the fray. But first, Sammy Hagar who at 73 years old, made sure we’re in 2021 and still can’t drive 55.

Christopher Bell kicked things off with a wild Turn 1 save on Lap 2, bringing out the opening caution. Already, Bell had to use one of the four set of tires given to the competitors and got back going.

Kyle Busch took the lead from Larson with Cole Custer showing his muscle early in the show. Custer would fade, but Larson nor William Byron didn’t. With 9 to go in Segment 1, Larson regained the lead from Busch and went on to get the victory.

Chastain was the man on the move, who went from starting 19th to finish ninth. He’d start Stage 2 in fourth after the top-12 were inverted. Thus, Ryan Blaney led the field off while Larson had to work from 12th.

The Penske show transpired with Blaney and Keselowski duking it out for the lead. Blaney’s race almost ended following a bump from Chastain. Anyhow, the maddening duel continued with the Penske duo and even them couldn’t keep themselves separated. Finally, Blaney cleared the pack and led the rest of the segment.

Entering Segment 3, the number of cars inverted was Blaney’s door number if it swapped locations – 21.

The biggest benefactor was Aric Almirola after ending the segment 21st, who had his turn leading the field to green.

Rounds 3-4

Certainly, Hendrick Motorsports looked quite strong at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Certainly, Hendrick Motorsports looked quite strong at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

When the next 15-lap segment got going, it was the Open 2.0 with Almirola and DiBenedetto in the mix. Unlike the final round of such Open, DiBenedetto was number-one. Until Michael McDowell tried spicing things up.

McDowell tried, but just can’t quite get by the Fan Vote winner. Alex Bowman would enter the chat and take second from the Daytona 500 champ. With 9 to go, Bowman passed DiBenedetto at the end of the backstretch and went on to take top honors.

Further back, Kyle Larson was running outside the top-five while Blaney going from 21st to 13th. It became clear that you must be towards the front to have a shot of winning a million bucks.

The invert for Segment 4 was the top-nine, putting Byron in first for the final 15-lap segment. Byron and Bell briefly battled with the former leading the pack.

Larson finally reemerged in the front warzone, but the question was can he pass his teammate?

Short answer – nay. Give the set point to Byron who barely held Larson off in the final corner.

Round 5

Now for the longest portion of the event – 30 laps with a live and mandatory green flag pit stop. Also, the lineup was determined by the lowest cumulative points from the quartet 15-lap runs. The top-five drivers were Byron, Larson, Elliott, Blaney and Hamlin.

However, the mindset went to the pit crew as there’s $100,000 on the line for the fastest stop. Just a few catches, don’t get caught speeding and have all lug nuts tight.

Right away, a handful got their stop out of the way including Hamlin, DiBenedetto and Bell. Some took their time to make their mandatory trip like Byron and Larson, who pitted with 14 to go. Others were snake bitten for speeding like Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon.

When the dust settled, the cash went to Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA squad.

Meanwhile, treacherous Turn 1 bit Chastain, who got sideways with 11 to go and brought out the second in-race caution.

How? Ryan Newman clipped him at the entry of Turn 1, causing toxicity for the McDonald’s Chevrolet.

This caution sparked a debate because Keselowski had just exited pit road but was well ahead of Elliott for the top spot. On the restart, Keselowski frantically tried fending off the Hendrick parade, but it failed as Elliott was back out front.

On the last lap, Byron tried making a move on his teammate but no dice. The defending All-Star Race winner took the 30-lap segment. Keselowski wound up fifth.

Final Stage

Indeed, Kyle Larson proved unbeatable once again in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Indeed, Kyle Larson proved unbeatable once again in the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

The situation was set, can Team Penske spoil the Hendrick Motorsports parade in Texas? They had 10 laps to solve the million-dollar question.

Blaney went low but just couldn’t stop Elliott and Kyle Larson. Keselowski also gave it a go and when Elliott and Larson went up the hill in Turn 3, game on! BK to the point but for how long?

Briefly because coming to the backstretch with 8 to go, Larson redeemed himself and passed Keselowski for the lead.

Keselowski just wouldn’t quit as he valiantly tried catching Kyle Larson in the closing laps. Unfortunate for BK fans, it wasn’t meant to be as Larson won his second non-consecutive All-Star Race victory.

“That last restart worked out exactly how I needed it to,” said Larson. “I wanted Chase to not get a good run down the back. Thankfully, I think Blaney got to his inside.

“Just shoved him down the back and he probably thought I was going to just follow him. I thought there had to be enough grip above where we’d been running for one corner. It was a little slick up there, but I was able to get it and hold him off from there. I can’t believe it.”

Final Top 10 Results: Larson, Keselowski, Elliott, Logano, Blaney, Bowman, Byron, Almirola, Ky. Busch, and Ku. Busch

luisdtorres94@hotmail.com'
Luis Torres

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA (occasionally F1 and IMSA stuff as well). Whether it's the Daytona 500 or an ARCA Menards Series West race at Evergreen Speedway, content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going.

I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content.

Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to The Aces. Not only that, expect my social media filled with GIFs about my Seattle Seahawks because they make things a roller coaster experience.

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