Byron, Wallace Jr., Larson advance to All-Star race in Monster Energy Open

Image by Harrelson/LAT

Byron, Wallace Jr., Larson advance to All-Star race in Monster Energy Open

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Byron, Wallace Jr., Larson advance to All-Star race in Monster Energy Open

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William Byron, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson all advanced into the All-Star Race by winning a segment in today’s Monster Energy Open. Alex Bowman has joined the All-Star field by virtue of winning the Fan Vote.

These four drivers complete the All-Star field line-up, bringing the count for tonight’s Charlotte Motor Speedway event to 19 drivers all competing for $1 million.

Stage 1

Poles-sitter Daniel Hemric pulled away after clearing Michael McDowell in Turn 1. The RCR rookie had gapped the field by over one second and was in command until the caution flew with four laps to go. A blown engine from the No. 53 of BJ McLeod set up overtime to conclude the segment.

Hemric and Kyle Larson stayed out under the caution, along with Darrell Wallace Jr., Matt Tifft, and Corey LaJoie. Alex Bowman was the first driver off pit road with fresh tires, and he restarted sixth with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron seventh.

On the restart, Wallace shoved Larson into the lead going into Turn 1 on the bottom lane before getting underneath to challenge for the top spot. The two would be side by side through the final lap, until Turn 3 when Wallace cleared Larson and went high, leaving the bottom open. Byron got a run from third place, cleared Larson, and then, in a drag race off the last corner and contact with Wallace, beat the Richard Petty Motorsports driver to the finish line by a nose to advance into the All-Star Race.

“My eyes were pointing toward the infield and I thought, man, this is over,” Byron said of the last lap. “It was just crazy; the seas kind of parted for us. I actually had four new tires and I got a little tight off of (Turn) 4 and didn’t realize how much room was there, and then actually got the left sides in the grass a little bit coming to the line.

“It was just amazing. It feels awesome to be in the All-Star Race.”

Stage 2

In the break, Larson, Wallace, Hemric, and Tifft all hit pit road for fresh tires which gave the race lead to Daniel Suarez. Bowman lined up second with Matt DiBenedetto third. Bowman took the lead rather quickly from Suarez and pulled out a comfortable gap until Suarez started closing the distance with 10 laps to go.

Contact between Ryan Preece and Hemric with two laps to go brought out the caution, though. Hemric cleared Preece coming off Turn 4 but bounced off the wall and then was spun by Preece. Severe damage to Hemric’s No. 8 Chevrolet ended his night.

Under the caution, Bowman, Wallace, Tifft stayed out with Suarez the first driver off pit road with fresh tires. On the outside, Wallace cleared Bowman with help from Suarez, and Wallace had Suarez cleared until coming off Turn 4 on the final lap when Suarez got underneath. There was contact, resulting in the Stewart-Haas driver spinning through the infield as a jubilant Wallace won the stage and ticket to the All-Star race.

Stage 2 winner Wallace Jr.: “Damn, we needed this.” Image by Kinrade/LAT

“Appreciate the support from everybody. This has been tough,” said Wallace. “Damn, I’ve been feeling like a failure for a really long time, and I didn’t give a damn out there. I love Suarez to death but he knows what’s on the line. Damn, we needed this. I needed this. It’s been tough.”

Stage 3

Larson and Ty Dillon started the final stage on the front row, with Dillon quickly taking the race lead. But Larson hounded him, eventually charging by in Turn 1 with five laps to go. Larson then drove away to the checkered flag with Dillon finishing second and Bowman, who had previously pitted for fresh tires, moving through the field to a third-place finish.

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