Drivers to watch in NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas

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The NASCAR All-Star Race is back in Texas for the second straight year.

Kyle Larson took home the $1 million paycheck from the exhibition race one season ago, but that was with a car that isn’t relevant 11 months later.

So who takes home the bragging rights in a unique format this year?

FRONT RUNNERS

Kyle Larson

  • All-Star wins: 2 (2019, 2021)
  • Last three All-Star Races: 7th Charlotte 2018; WIN Charlotte 2019; WIN — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Aiming to become first driver to win three straight All-Star Race starts

Larson is on fire entering the 2022 All-Star Race. With an absence from 2020’s event, Larson has won each of his last two appearances in the main show. In the last version raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Larson transferred into the main show with a win in the Open then took home the big prize by the night’s end in 2019.

Last year, in Texas’ inaugural All-Star event, Larson led 16 laps on his way to claiming the checkered flag. His 5.4 average All-Star finish is also highest all-time of drivers with more than two starts in the race. Expect the No. 5 Chevrolet to be a factor again Sunday night.

Chase Elliott

  • All-Star wins: 1 (2020)
  • Last three All-Star Races: 14th Charlotte 2019; WIN Bristol 2020; 3rd — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Won 2020 All-Star Race en route to Cup championship

Elliott’s 2020 All-Star triumph is an interesting note on the stat sheet. That year’s event run at the 0.533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway is the only All-Star Race not to be held on a 1.5-mile oval. All others have been raced at Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas.

But Elliott was part of an impressive display from Hendrick Motorsports last year, which saw all four of its drivers win one of the five stages in the 2021 All-Star Race. Elliott led 12 laps and should be a factor this weekend.

Kyle Busch

  • All-Star wins: 1 (2017)
  • Last three All-Star Races: 3rd Charlotte 2019; 2nd Bristol 2020; 9th — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Seven straight top-10 finishes

Busch has finished inside the top three in three of the last five All-Star Races, including his 2017 win at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Last year at Texas, the No. 18 Toyota came home with a ninth-place finish after Busch led six laps.

With 267 laps led in 16 starts, nobody has led more All-Star laps than Busch, who has competed in the main event every year since 2006. Busch has shown plenty of speed on 1.5-mile tracks this season, nearly scoring the win at Las Vegas earlier this year and placing third at Kansas last week. A victory in Sunday’s All-Star Race would be far from a surprise.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kevin Harvick

  • All-Star wins: 2 (2007, 2018)
  • Last three All-Star Races: 2nd Charlotte 2019; 3rd Bristol 2020; 15th — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Joins Larson as only two-time All-Star winner in Sunday’s field

Harvick’s recent All-Star record is impressive, notching five top-three finishes in the last eight All-Star Races. That includes a win at Charlotte in 2018, where Harvick led 33 laps en route to the victory.

Sunday will mark Harvick’s 22nd straight start in the event, the longest active streak and barely trailing Mark Martin’s record of 24 consecutive starts. Last year’s race didn’t go as well for Harvick, where he finished 15th with zero laps led. He has three Texas wins but has just two top fives this year. He’s still looking for win No. 1 in 2022. Maybe an exhibition race win can spark some necessary momentum for the No. 4 team.

William Byron

  • All-Star wins: 0
  • Last three All-Star Races: 9th Charlotte 2019; 12th Bristol 2020; 7th — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Led most laps in 2021 race

Byron competed in each of the past three main events, but last year’s All-Star Race was Byron’s first time entering the event locked in. In 2019 and 2020, Byron wheeled the No. 24 Chevrolet to stage wins in the Open to advance.

His seventh-place finish a season ago doesn’t stand out, but what does is the 30 laps he led, most of any driver a season ago. His teammates have won each of the last two All-Star Races and Byron is tied with Ross Chastain for the most wins this season (two).

Joey Logano

  • All-Star wins: 1 (2016)
  • Last three All-Star Races: 4th Charlotte 2019; 7th Bristol 2020; 4th — Texas 2021
  • All-Star Notes: Finished eighth or better in 12 of 13 starts

Logano’s All-Star finishes leap off the page. Like Kyle Busch, Logano has finished inside the top 10 in each of the last seven races. But since his first All-Star Race in 2009, Logano’s only finish lower than eighth is a 22nd-place finish after he crashed out of the 2014 event.

He — and Ford overall — struggled a week ago at Kansas while driving a backup car, earning just a 17th-place finish. At Las Vegas, the other traditional 1.5-mile track NASCAR visited this season, Logano finished 14th. The No. 22 Ford will need to find some speed to keep that top-10 streak alive Sunday in Texas.