By David Rogers. May 18, 2019. CONCORD, NC — Some might call it Grand Larsony.
Elk Grove, California native Kyle Larson had to transfer into Saturday night’s main NASCAR event, the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He had to either win the first or second stage of the Monster Energy Open, or cross the finish line first. Not only did he win the curtain raiser, but he double down and won the All-Star Race — and took home a million dollars in the process (less, of course, divvying some of it up with his crew).
Another California native, Kevin Harvick (Bakersfield) led the most laps (33), but he came in second after giving Larson a huge shove from behind after the last restart. Larson lurched into the lead with Harvick close behind, an advantage the tandem didn’t give up for the remainder of the race. Harvick could never quite catch up, finishing approximately 4/10s of a second behind.
Kyle Busch finished third, followed by Joey Logano (4th) and Bubba Wallace (5th).
Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman didn’t figure in the finish (12th and 13th, respectively), but they were central figures in the Saturday Night Special undercard, with Newman spinning Bowyer into the wall after the race and Bowyer rushing over to Newman’s car to throw punches through the window a short-time later. Of course they both blamed the other for the dust-up because of contact earlier in the race, to which Newman took exception.
The other race-in winners had a good showing in the All-Star race, too. Bubba Wallace finished fifth, while William Byron came in ninth. The other transfer drive, Alex Bowman (fan favorite), was just ahead of Byron in eighth.
The all-star race had 10 lead changes among seven drivers. Pole sitter Bowyer gave up the lead to Harvick on lap 1, and the veteran hot rodder led 1-19, then later led 40-53. Bowyer did lead one lap, #54, but never really threatened. Kyle Busch led 20-27 and 33-39, Brad Keselowski held the lead from 28-31, and Joey Logano 55-73. Late in the race, it looked like Hendrick Motorsports would take home the top prize after leading going into the last restart (leading #74-75), but Larson surprised a few drivers by surging to the lead with Harvick’s big push and never gave it up.
There were eight cautions for 17 laps.
All of Saturday is a prelim to next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race of the season, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway, on Sunday, May 26th.