Busch makes bold move to earn first All-Star win

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - NASCAR BY JENNA FRYER

concord, n.c. — Kyle Busch used a bold three-wide pass for the lead Satur­day night to win NASCAR’s an­nual All-Star Race for the first time.

Although the race does not count in the stand­ings, it was Busch’s first Cup vic­tory of the sea­son and first at Char­lotte Mo­tor Speed­way. Busch also won the truck se­ries race Fri­day night, but the vic­tory Satur­day was worth a cool $1 mil­lion.

Busch dived low around Brad Ke­selowski and Jim­mie John­son on the restart to take the lead on the fi­nal 10-lap sprint. This year’s for­mat pit­ted 10 driv­ers against each other for 10 fi­nal laps with the money on the line.

Clean air was the dif­fer­ence, and Busch was un­touch­able once he was out front.

“We have never won in Char­lotte in a Cup car, and we fi­nally did that,” Busch said from Vic­tory Lane. “We won a mil­lion dol­lars. There is rea­son to cel­e­brate big. We are re­lieved . . . and ex­cited.”

Kyle Lar­son, win­ner of the first two 20-lap seg­ments in the clear car to beat, fin­ished sec­ond. He was stymied by a slow fi­nal pit stop that pre­vented him from restart­ing as the leader.

“My pit crew has been awe­some all year. We came down pit road the leader, and three peo­ple passed up. That was pretty much the dif­fer­ence,” Lar­son said. “With 10 laps, track po­si­tion is huge, and we just didn’t have it at the end. We had the best car out there for sure.”

John­son won the sec­ond seg­ment to ad­vance but let the win get away on the restart for the fi­nale.

“I drove too hard,” John­son said. “I saw a mil­lion dol­lars out the wind­shield, and I drove too hard.”

NASCAR, Char­lotte track Pres­i­dent Mar­cus Smith and Goodyear of­fi­cials hoped the in­tro­duc­tion of a “bonus tire” would liven the race. The idea was that the softer tire — which was faster — could be used once at any time dur­ing the race.

Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez, who raced their way into the event in an ear­lier qual­i­fier Satur­day, join­ing Chase El­liott, win­ner of the fan vote, opened the race with the softer tires. It made lit­tle dif­fer­ence, as the first seg­ment was more like a 20-lap pa­rade, with lit­tle ac­tion and Lar­son lead­ing flag to flag.

The manda­tory pit stops af­ter the seg­ment were a dis­as­ter for Matt Kenseth, who de­vel­oped an oil leak and went to the garage.

Martin Truex Jr. was among the five driv­ers who took the softer tires on the pit stop, but a penalty by his team sent him to the rear of the field for the start of seg­ment two. The softer tires had min­i­mum in­flu­ence, and no one had any­thing for Lar­son any­way. He again led the en­tire seg­ment, then took his softer tires for the third seg­ment.

Lar­son wasn’t the leader at the start of the sec­ond seg­ment be­cause Clint Bowyer and Blaney took only two tires on the pit stop to jump to the lead. John­son won the stage to earn the au­to­matic berth into the fi­nale.

Lar­son and John­son locked in the first two spots in the fi­nale as stage win­ners.

John­son won the race off pit road, Ke­selowski stayed out on old tires, and Busch pounced on the restart.

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