In NASCAR nowadays, there aren’t many occasions that you see anybody deliver a butt-kicking in the magnitude that Kyle Larson did in Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Larson collected his third victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race on Sunday, leading 145 of 200 laps. Though, that number doesn’t provide much background information on the night for the Elk Grove, California native.
Larson started Sunday’s 200-lap ‘feature race’ from 16th, after a fairly poor finish in his All-Star Heat Race on Saturday – although, that was partially run in damp conditions. With poor track position, it was clear it was going to be a long night for the No. 5.
However, when the first and only non-competition caution of the evening was displayed for the contact between Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Erik Jones on Lap 17, Larson was one of the eight-or-so drivers to come down pit road.
Then came the ultimate kick in the gut. A penalty for speeding on pit road would force the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion to restart dead last, with about 75 laps until the ‘halfway break’.
What transpired over the next half-hour or so, is what most people will probably leave North Wilkesboro talking about, simply because of the rarity associated with such a feat.
Larson, who had tires about 20 laps newer than the field, drove through the field completely to the lead of the race, with what looked like ease. Then, the Hendrick Motorsports driver stretched his lead to an insane 12-second margin.
From the halfway point of the race forward, things seemed to get pretty easy for Larson, who never looked back from re-claiming the lead midway through the opening 100-lap segment.
While it wasn’t as crazy as 12 seconds, Larson still led the field by 4.537 seconds at the checkered flag, putting on what the 21-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, and several others, considered to be a massive butt-whooping.
“So much fun there,” said Larson. “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. In practice, I was like the worst on the 30-lap average, and went backward in our 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.”
Bubba Wallace, who also took tires on the single for-cause caution of the event, was able to hold onto a runner-up finish in the NASCAR All-Star Race, while Tyler Reddick came home in third for 23XI Racing.
Chase Briscoe and Chase Elliott completed the race’s top-five finishers. Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ty Gibbs, and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10. Ross Chastain, and Christopher Bell rounded out the 12 cars that finished the race on the lead lap.
After advancing through the All-Star Open, Josh Berry finished 15th in his first All-Star appearance driving the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro. Similarly, Noah Gragson, who got in through the Fan Vote, came home in the 23rd.
Wrapping up a historic weekend in North Wilkesboro, the NASCAR Cup Series will march forward with a Memorial Day celebration in the Coca-Cola 600, the longest and most grueling race of the year.