Matt DiBenedetto prevailed in the NASCAR All-Star Open on Wednesday night, joining stage winners Aric Almirola and William Byron in clinching starting spots in the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
DiBenedetto led all of the final 15-lap stage in the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford. Almirola’s Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford led 25 of the 35 laps in the opening segment, and Byron set the pace for every lap in the second 35-lap stage in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet.
“Oh, man. I was hanging on for dear life,” DiBenedetto said. “We were so loose on entry. I was right on the ragged edge, so just thankful to the team for battling back. My gosh, we had big damage there at the start and had to fix it. That’s battling back. That’s been this team lately. We’ve been fighting so hard.”
All three drivers sealed berths in the NASCAR All-Star Race (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The final All-Star starting spot goes to Clint Bowyer, who was the top eligible vote-getter in fan balloting, which closed Tuesday.
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The overall top five in the Open was DiBenedetto, Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon.
Byron finished second in the first stage, followed by Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Buescher to complete the top five.
In Stage 2, Byron was followed to the start-finish line by DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Bowyer and rookie Christopher Bell in order.
The first stage was marked by an incident between pole-starter Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace, contact that ended Wallace’s day in last place after heavy damage to the No. 43 Chevrolet. He’ll finish last in the 21-car field.