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Kyle Larson is only ninth in points entering the second half of the NASCAR regular season, but he’s locked into the playoffs courtesy of his wins at Richmond and Martinsville. Now, the 2021 Cup Series champion has come up with a foolproof strategy for climbing to the top.

It turns out the competition can’t hit what it can’t catch. And no one came close to catching the No. 5 Chevy in the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro.

Kyle Larson absolutely dominated the NASCAR All-Star Race

Kyle Larson and crew celebrate after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023.
Kyle Larson and crew celebrate after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The stars came out at North Wilkesboro Speedway, but none shined brighter than Kyle Larson, the driver of the No. 5 Chevy. Fresh off winning the Craftsman Truck Series race a day earlier while pinch-hitting for injured teammate Alex Bowman, Larson turned the NASCAR All-Star Race into a joke.

After starting 15th, Larson suffered what should have been a major obstacle to winning a 125-mile race: a speeding penalty in the pits that sent him to the back of the field minutes into the race. It didn’t matter. He went from last to second place in just 36 laps, then took the lead on Lap 55.

With the exception of the opening lap of the mid-race restart, he led the rest of the way and beat Bubba Wallace to the finish line by more than four seconds to capture his third All-Star Race trophy and the $1 million first prize.

It was a nice change of pace for Larson, whose season has been marred by wrecks that have largely been of other drivers’ making. Noah Gragson and Ross Chastain made ill-advised moves in overtime at Talladega, and Chastain launched Brennan Poole into the Hendrick Motorsports car at Dover. At Darlington, Chastain tried to pinch Larson into the outside wall following a restart and ended up wrecking both cars.

There were no such issues at North Wilkesboro. By lap 125, the only danger Larson faced was from lapped traffic that mostly had the good sense to yield to a car that was vastly superior to the other 23 in the field.

The rest of the All-Star Race winners

23XI Racing – Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick finished second and third, respectively, in their Toyotas. Wallace’s season looked like a disaster up to and including Richmond. He’s been one of the better performers in the Cup Series since.

North Wilkesboro Speedway – We don’t yet know what role the track will play in future schedules, but the facility hit a home run in its return and will remain on NASCAR’s radar going forward. At the very least, the oval gets to keep the All-Star Race despite the lack of suspense Sunday night. It’s no longer unreasonable to think it could be used for points races while Fontana gets rebuilt or to replace a road course.

Noah Gragson – He hasn’t had much of a rookie season, but the fact Gragson got into the Open race based upon fan voting speaks volumes of his charisma. He needs more experience and better equipment to complete the package, but this is a guy fans gravitate toward.

Sunday’s loser

William Byron – The only three-time winner in the first half of the regular season was never a factor. His average finish on four short tracks this season is 20th, which is where he finished in the All-Star Race. Just a friendly reminder to the No. 24 Chevy team that Bristol and Martinsville are both playoff transfer races in the fall.

Next up for Byron, Kyle Larson and the rest of the field, the Cup Series moves from its shortest race other than the Busch Light Clash to its longest. The Coca-Cola 600 is part of a huge Memorial Day weekend of racing that includes F1 action and the Indianapolis 500.

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at JohnM@Sportscasting.com.

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