Back to News

May 19, 2024

Fresh from Indy 500 qualifying, Kyle Larson makes All-Star entrance at North Wilkesboro

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Kyles show of speed Sunday wasn’t limited to his qualifying performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fresh from scoring a second-row starting position for next weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Larson threaded a tight timing window to arrive for Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Larson, the NASCAR Cup Series points leader, strapped into his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and finished fourth in his Sunday night bid to defend last year’s All-Star Race win. NASCAR officials moved the green-flag time back 16 minutes to 8:30 p.m. ET to add a slight cushion to Larson’s travel logistics, but he flew in with plenty of time to spare, landing on the speedway grounds more than an hour before the start.

Related Story
Kyle Larson recaps ‘unbelievable’ weekend at Indy 500 qualifying Kyle Larson recaps ‘unbelievable’ weekend at Indy 500 qualifying

Larson was among the fastest six drivers advancing to the final round of Indy 500 qualifying Sunday afternoon, claiming the fifth starting spot for next Sunday’s race after making his last attempt at 5:30 p.m. ET. Then it was off to Wilkes County for his full-time ride, having completed his mission of locking into the Indianapolis 500 field for the first leg of his Sunday double attempt, with the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the NASCAR nightcap.

RELATED: All-Star Race results | At-track photos

Larson missed the All-Star Race preliminaries, with former Cup champ Kevin Harvick coming out of retirement from the FOX Sports booth to drive the No. 5 Chevy in Friday’s practice and Saturday’s qualifying. With the team making a driver change, Larson dropped to the rear of the field for the start of the All-Star Race but charged back up into the hunt.

He briefly made advances up to third place in the final 50-lap segment of the main event on a fresh set of softer “option” tires, but its effectiveness faded down the stretch.

“Yeah, I thought we were in great position there,” Larson said post-race. “Got to fourth pretty quickly; got to third pretty quickly. I thought I could just be patient. I built really loose for a little while, and then they started kind of inching away from me. I moved up and I was kind of hanging on from there. I was surprised that the guys that didn’t pit were as strong as they were. I thought we were going to be in the best position there to win.”

Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports’ Vice President of Competition, said during a pre-race availability that had Larson not arrived in time, the No. 5 team would not have participated in the All-Star Race. The only driver who met the eligibility criteria for the invitational event and who was not already entered was Shane van Gisbergen, last year’s winner of the inaugural Chicago Street Race.

Knaus said that his team discussed a plan with NASCAR officials that could have potentially placed Xfinity Series regular Justin Allgaier in as a substitute, but that he would have to reach the main event by advancing from the All-Star Open qualifying race. That plan, Knaus said, was scuttled after running through the potential hurdles and hypotheticals.

“It’s going to sit there and look pretty. We’ll save it for another event,” Knaus said about the team potentially withdrawing if Larson did not arrive in time. “… The way things are working out, all of our cards are in getting Kyle here, and that’s the plan. To put Justin in and have him run the Open, we went down that road, we thought about it, we spoke with NASCAR, we came to a collective decision, that’s not the best route for all of us. We get pretty messy pretty quickly. Where is it fair? Is it fair to the people that are in the Open or not fair to the people in the All-Star. All of that stuff just gets kind of crazy, so better off just to make sure that our helicopters, our planes light off and we get him on the ground, and we get him on a golf cart and get him here.”

Larson dominated last year’s All-Star Race, leading 145 of the 200 laps as NASCAR’s top division returned to North Wilkesboro for the first time since 1996. Knaus, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, was the grand marshal for this year’s second All-Star edition at the 0.625-mile track.