By David Rogers. May 18, 2019. CONCORD, NC — After putting on four tires during a caution with two laps to go in the first stage of the Monster Energy Open race-in event, William Byron made short work of the field ahead of him on the restart. The first stage win qualified Byron as the first “extra” driver to be added to the All-Star field. The final lap of Stage 1 was the only lap that Byron led — and the only one he needed to lead.
COVER IMAGE: Hey, don’t wast that fuel, I might need it at the end! All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Stage 2 of the Open may have been the most thrilling for the fans in the grandstands and watching on TV. First, pole sitter Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece got into a “spat” toward the end of the second stage, with Preece appearing to exact a measure of revenge in spinning Hemric across the infield after the pole-sitter drifted up in front of Preece a short while earlier and force him to brush the wall. At the time of the dust-up, the two NASCAR drivers were in contention for the stage win, battling for third and trying to move up.
Once the race restarted the second stage immediately went into overtime — and ended in thrilling fashion. In a car bearing the historic #43, Bubba Wallace outdueled the #41 of Daniel Suarez to win Stage 2 and advance to the All-Star race. Taking a page from Byron’s success in the first stage, Suarez took four new Goodyear tires when the race when under caution after the Preece-Hemric brouhaha, but Wallace effectively blocked the Stewart-Haas Mustang at the end of the stage that saw Suarez’ hot rod spinning into and through the infield grass.
Both Byron and Wallace sat out the third and final stage, leaving it to Kyle Larson to win the third stage and be declared the winner of the Open in his Chip Ganassi Racing-owned Chevrolet. It is the second career victory for Larson in the non-points event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He first won in 2016.
Driving the #88, Alex Bowman was voted by the fans to be the fourth “race-in” driver added into the the 2019 Monster Energy All-Star Race.