Kyle Larson turned the North Wilkesboro Speedway revival into the equivalent of a very quiet church service.
Larson was clearly the top dog in Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at the revitalized short track, leaving the rest of the field to race among themselves for most of the evening.
Larson pocketed the $1 million winner’s prize like a thief in the night, one no one could catch. He led 145 laps, including the final 96. Daniel Suarez, out front for 55 laps, was the race’s only other leader. He finished seventh.
MORE: North Wilkesboro All-Star results
MORE: What drivers said at North Wilkesboro
Larson’s victory gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 11th win in the All-Star Race.
“So much fun there,” Larson told Fox Sports. “That was old-school ass whipping, for sure. We had a great car on the long run there and was just thinking for sure there was going to be a caution. I got out to a big lead and I could see everybody’s cars were driving like crap in front of me, but I cannot thank this 5 team enough. We were God-awful all weekend. Practice I was like the worst on 30-lap average, went backwards in a heat race yesterday. You obviously had some strategy work out there in the beginning, but we drove from dead last to the lead and checked out by 12 or 13 seconds. Then just could pace myself there that last run.”
Larson won by 4.5 seconds. Following in the top five were Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Chase Elliott.
The race was the first full-length Cup competition at North Wilkesboro since 1996. The track underwent an extensive — and expensive — renovation in preparation for NASCAR’s return.
Larson charged to the lead with 90 laps to go after a caution period and methodically built his lead.
Larson took control late in the first half and had a 12-second lead on second-place Wallace when NASCAR called a competition caution at Lap 101. Larson had been pushed to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road earlier but marched through the field with newer tires.
The race’s first caution flew on Lap 17 because of Turn 4 contact between Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Josh Berry and Ty Gibbs finished one-two in the preliminary All-Star Open to advance to the feature. Noah Gragson won the fan vote and also was added to the All-Star field.
Who had a good race: Kyle Larson was easily the star of stars in taking his third All-Star win. … Bubba Wallace ran near the front most of the night. … Joey Logano rallied from a pit-road penalty to finish in the top 10. … Daniel Suarez led 55 laps.
Who had a bad race: Brad Keselowski, William Byron and Kyle Busch were non-factors, finishing near the back of the field. Keselowski was 19th, Byron 20th and Busch 22nd.
Next: The series moves on to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the season’s longest race at 600 miles May 28 at 6 p.m. ET.