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Larson finds path to All-Star victory

by The Associated Press | June 14, 2021 at 2:03 a.m.
Kyle Larson (5) William Byron (24) head out of Turn 4 into the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

FORT WORTH -- Kyle Larson was back in the NASCAR All-Star race, and got another $1 million by winning it again.

Larson held off a hard-charging Brad Keselowski during the final 10-lap shootout at Texas on Sunday night, after a slippery three-wide pass to get back in front and push Hendrick Motorsports to its second consecutive win, and 10th overall, in the annual non-points race with a seven-figure prize.

Defending All-Star winner and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott, who started the sixth and final segment out front, didn't stay there long. Larson pushed his teammate, then got in front on the outside through the fourth turn. They were three-wide while Keselowski pulled ahead briefly at the line before Larson finally got ahead to stay for the last eight laps.

"That last restart worked out exactly how I needed it to. I wanted Chase to not get a good run down the back," Larson said.

"Thankfully, I think (Keselowski) got to his inside, and I just shoved him down the back and he probably thought I was going to just follow him and I was like, there's got to be enough grip where we'd be running for one corner," he said. "It was a little slick up there but I was able to get it and hold him off from there. I can't believe it."

There were no points on the line, but Larson went to Victory Lane for the third weekend in a row and the fourth time overall this season.

Keselowski said running second to Hendrick cars these days is somewhat of an accomplishment.

"They're just stupid fast, and I had him off of Turn 4 but they just have so much speed," Keselowski said. "He just motored right on back by me."

Larson was with Chip Ganassi Racing when he won the 2019 All-Star race, but missed last year's big event at Bristol while serving a six-month suspension after using a racial slur during the livestream while in a virtual race during the pandemic. That nearly cost him his career, but Hendrick gave him an opportunity this season to get back into the Cup Series.

Second in points with 10 races to go before the playoffs, Larson now only the eighth driver to be a two-time All-Star race winner.

Elliott finished third with Joey Logano fourth, ahead of Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman. William Byron, Aric Almirola, Kyle Bush and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10 in the 21-car field.

Hendrick drivers Elliott, Byron and Larson started the final segment 1-2-3. Elliott had moved from third to first during the 30-lap fifth segment that included a required four-tire stop and $100,000 prize for his crew that had the fastest stop.

Byron won the fourth segment, and had the lowest cumulative finish through the first four 15-lap segments. Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman finished in front for the first three segments.

Larson, who won the last two Cup races, was on the pole by a random draw and was still in front at the end of the first segment. After a random inversion of the top 12 finishers in that first stage, Blaney was moved from 12th to first to start the next 15 laps.

Blaney stayed in front, even holding on after wiggling because of contact from behind by Ross Chastain, one of three drivers who advanced to the main event from the earlier open qualifying race.

After a full-field inversion going to the third stage, Aric Almirola, who also got in through the qualifying race, went from last to first, but it was Bowman -- after getting pushed up from 17th to fifth -- in the lead after that 15 laps.

Texas is the third different track in three years for the All-Star race. It was moved last summer from Charlotte, which hosted 34 of the first 35 All-Star races, because of covid-19 restrictions in North Carolina.

Fans look on as Kyle Larson comes out of Turn 4 during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Fans look on as Kyle Larson comes out of Turn 4 during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
William Byron (24) and Austin Dillon (3) compete for position down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
William Byron (24) and Austin Dillon (3) compete for position down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Tyler Reddick (8) leads the field into Turn 1 during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Tyler Reddick (8) leads the field into Turn 1 during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Ross Chastain (42) leads the field into Turn 1 during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Ross Chastain (42) leads the field into Turn 1 during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Aric Almirola (10) and Matt DiBenedetto (21) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Aric Almirola (10) and Matt DiBenedetto (21) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR All-Star Open Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Christopher Bell (20) spins coming out of Turn 2 in front of Austin Dillon (3) and Joey Logano (20) during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Christopher Bell (20) spins coming out of Turn 2 in front of Austin Dillon (3) and Joey Logano (20) during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Ryan Blaney (12), Brad Keselowski (2) and Ross Chastain (42) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Ryan Blaney (12), Brad Keselowski (2) and Ross Chastain (42) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Kurt Busch, left, and Chase Elliott (9) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Kurt Busch, left, and Chase Elliott (9) head down the front stretch during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Drivers get the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
Drivers get the green flag for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Sunday, June 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)
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