May 19, 2019 | By Lee Spencer

Larson advances to the feature, collects a million dollars in All-Star race

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Charlotte Motor Speedway was a madhouse on Saturday night. 
 
The 2019 Monster Energy All-Star Race was more reminiscent of a local short track row than NASCAR’s finest on an intermediate speedway
 
Drivers tangled and tempers flared. After 88 laps, a dirt track demon—Kyle Larson—came from the B Main (his terminology for the Monster Energy Open) to win the feature and $1 million.
 
“This is unbelievable,” Larson said. “This whole day was up and down from the B Main we were into getting a little bit of damage, having to repair the car, had some great restarts there the last few, and Harvick gave me a heck of a push to get to the lead from the third row, and that was huge.”
 
Kevin Harvick finished second, followed by Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman, William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. 
 
Larson made the All-Star field by winning the Open, becoming only the second driver to win both the qualifying race and the All-Star race after transferring.
 
William Byron won the first stage of the Monster Energy Open. Bubba Wallace claimed Stage 2. Larson had the lead for the final segment of the Open. He dropped to fourth after taking the inside lane for the restart then gouged his way back to the lead with five laps remaining. Alex Bowman earned the fan vote to transfer to the All-Star race. Of the four drivers transferring to the Main, only Larson had previously competed in the event.
 
Clint Bowyer started on the pole for the race but Harvick took the lead on the first lap. Larson started the event 18th. Kyle Busch passed Harvick for the lead on Lap 20. Erik Jones’ issues started on Lap 28 after tagging the wall and damaging a tire. Busch came out of the pits and took the lead from Brad Keselowski on the Lap 32 restart to win Stage 1.
 
Busch led the field to green for Stage 2. Ryan Newman went for a wild ride through the frontstretch grass following contact with Wallace on Lap 37 to ignite the third caution. The race returned to green on Lap 40 and Harvick passed the No. 18 Toyota for the lead. He remained at the point for 14 laps to win the second segment.
 
Bowyer returned to the lead to start Stage 3 but Logano easily passed the No. 14 Ford on the restart. The action was slowed when Austin Dillon came down on Kyle Busch, then bounced up into Jones to trigger Caution 5. Logano remained in the lead to win the stage. 
 
Logano, Chase Elliott, Jones and Kyle Busch remained on the track as the rest of the field pitted. Denny Hamlin was the first driver off of pit road with two tires. Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney followed suit. Larson restarted 14th for the 15-lap shoot out. 
 
Elliott took the lead on Lap 74 while eighth-place Truex received damage attempting to come through the field. Hamlin stalled due to problems with his left rear tire on Lap 75. Blaney plowed into him, then Hamlin spun in Turn 3 forcing NASCAR to wave the yellow flag a seventh time.
Harvick restarted eighth and pushed Larson to the lead on Lap 76. Kyle Busch tagged the wall. Despite an eighth and final caution for Jones in Turn 4, Larson was able to hold off Harvick for his first All-Star win.
 
“Kyle was extremely fast on his old tires, so I was nervous about that,” Larson said. “And Harvick, I felt like he had the quickest car throughout the last two days. Just clean air, I held it wide open.  
 
“That's as hard as I've ever pushed a pedal for that long. I just had to guess where he was trying to go, take his air away and got the job done. Can't say enough about these guys. They've been working so hard, and we've been tearing up a lot of equipment, having a lot of bad luck. But we can kind of forget about all that now.”
 
Larson won the event in his fourth attempt—joining Newman (2002) as the second driver to do so after winning the Open.
 
Newman wasn’t nearly as fortunate on Saturday night. In the closing laps, he battled Bowyer for 12th-place. Bowyer chopped him and Newman dumped the No. 14 Ford on the cool-down lap.
 
“After the race, I just went up and tapped him in the back and let him know I didn’t appreciate the way he raced me and body-slammed me,” Newman said. “Then I hit him back a little bit on the back straightaway, then he just cut across my nose in Turn 3.
 
As Larson celebrated on the front stretch, Bowyer darted over the Newman’s car and began pounding his face. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver claimed he didn’t know “what the hell (Newman’s) beef was.” 
 
“Our day was over, we lost track position,” Bowyer said. “They got four-wide off of (Turn) 4. Hell, I thought he was a lap down. I checked up and he ran into my left rear and that’s the last I saw of him.
 
“After the race, he comes and runs into my back and turns me all around. I pull up next to him and he dumps me. Where I come from you get poked in the nose for that. That’s what he got.”
 
Newman questioned Bowyer’s strategy of attacking him while still strapped into the race car.
 
“It doesn’t take much of a man to try to fight someone with his helmet on,” Newman added. “I think he should be embarrassed of himself.”
 
Both drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler at the end of an evening full of hard contact and drama.

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