Kyle Busch took center stage on Saturday evening by qualifying for the NASCAR All-Star Race, knocking out a unique format with an elimination-style arc at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bush knocked out Brian Blaney in a head-to-head battle on the pole as his team 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota completed a four-tire pit stop, Bush got a solid start and won the off-road race and a return to the checkered flag in the final.
“Anytime you’re able to showcase the pit crew’s ability, involvement, and athletic style in this competition, in this qualifying format, I enjoy it,” said Busch, the 2017 All-Star winner. “I think my favorite part of the year is coming to the All-Star race, whether Charlotte and she goes down the pit road and slips into the penalty area and so on. But having these guys definitely means a lot, especially the #18 group that I had so much success with. Over the years. He’s obviously changed a few times, recently, but you know, we’ve always been a threat when it comes to getting first place in the All-Star race. So it’s nice to have that day.”
18 Crew Chief Ben Peshour said: “It’s something new, a good way to showcase our pit crew. They have done a great job. They’ve put in a lot of hard work this season and throughout the beginning of the year and they’ve clicked and got three really good stopping points. So that’s exciting. .”
Blaney will start second in Sunday’s All-Star Race (8PM ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Team 12 Penske Ford. William Byron, defending race winner Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch complete the top five in the standings.
The 20 drivers who were already locked up in the All-Star Race first did the qualifying rounds on one lap, with Byron taking the top seed as the fastest of that course. The fastest eight drivers were placed in the elimination bracket, with the race crews participating in session two to battle for first place. Eric Almerola finished eighth and final in the group, beating the ninth fastest Joey Logano during single-lap testing.
Byron, Blaney, Larson and Kyle Busch were eliminated from the first round matches. Byron overtook Almirola, jumping from the green light in the opening match. Blaney blasted away from Ross Chastain outside the penalty area in Game Two. Larson got better than Kurt Bosch in their head-to-head encounter in the first round, and a quick stop was key to the defending cup series champion. Kyle Busch has passed his fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr. , whose crew had trouble shifting the left side during the stopping section.
Blaney defeated Byron in the first semi-final, and Kyle Busch beat Larson—who stopped off the starting streak—in another second-round match to reach the final.
Larson’s stumble essentially secured Bush’s advance to the final round. Larsson managed to smile and shook his head, admitting his mistake in the playoffs.
“I feel good (about my racing chances), I felt my car was good, and there was room to improve, but I feel like we’re on the playing field for the win,” Larson said. “I have to do a better executive job than I did at the time and hopefully we’ll get a good chance.”
“I just turned it off,” he said of the error. “I didn’t want to spin my tires too badly and obviously a bit greedy and I stopped. It’s embarrassing, it’s embarrassing, I’m the only guy who stopped so embarrassing.”
Tyler Riddick claims pole at All-Star Open
Tyler Reddick took first place in the NASCAR All-Star Open qualifying race Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Texas Motor Speedway.
Riddick put his #8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at the top of the speed charts at 186.981 mph in Saturday evening one-lap qualifying. Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez will enter the front row after setting the second fastest lap at 186 laps.903 mph at the No. 99 Chevy.
Reddick said in a post-qualification interview with FOX Sports that he will fall back during Sunday’s championship sprints, noting that his RCR crew will need to make adjustments to the No. 8 Chevy before Sunday’s race.
The 16 drivers already ineligible for the NASCAR All-Star Race main event will attempt to race their way through the 50 open laps. The three open stage winners will advance to the advantage, with a fourth driver added to the All-Star starting lineup as the top pick-up from fan voting on NASCAR.com.
Denny Hamlin topped the chart in 20-minute practice for the All-Star Race, clocking a lap of 187.253 mph in No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Chevrolet Hendrik Motorsports, ranked fifth in a Kyle Larson car, came second, with Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. making the top five.
Reddick was also the fastest (185.829 mph) in 15 minutes Practice for the All-Star Open Championship.
Contributing: Holly Kane, NASCAR Wire Service