Previewing The 40th NASCAR All-Star Race: Who Will Shine Brightest?

 The identity of this year’s NASCAR All-Star Race winner will be revealed after 200 laps of no-holds-barred, short-track tangling on May 19 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Facing a new format – including the use of faster, less-durable option tires to begin the Sunday-night spectacle – drivers and crews must perform at their highest levels to reign supreme over a slew of superstars. 

The action begins with practice, qualifying and the NASCAR Pit Crew Challenge presented by Mechanix Wear on All-Star Friday presented by Raymer Oil. The Pit Crew Challenge winner will be determined by who has the fastest stop during the three-lap, four-tire pit stop format from qualifying – which sets the grid for Saturday’s 60-lap heat races. Once Heats No. 1 and 2 conclude on Saturday, the lineup for Sunday’s 40th running of the NASCAR All-Star Race will nearly be complete.

The All-Star Open, which gets underway Sunday at 5:30 p.m., takes its top two finishers and a Fan Vote winner from the 100-lap undercard straight into the big show. 

Before the pace car rolls off and the green flag is waved, here are five drivers to watch (in alphabetical order) in the NASCAR All-Star Race:

  • RYAN BLANEY: The defending NASCAR Cup Series champion has finished sixth or better in the last four runnings of the All-Star Race, including a victory at Texas Motor Speedway in 2022. Blaney frequently leads the Ford-powered fleet and even in a down year by the manufacturer’s standards, he’ll be one to watch when the All-Star Race gets underway.
  • WILLIAM BYRON: Hendrick Motorsports has won three of the last four All-Star Races, but Byron’s still seeking his first victory in the event. A North Carolina-born driver hasn’t won the All-Star Race since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2000, so the Old North State is due for one of its native sons to claim the trophy. Maybe Byron, the NASCAR Cup Series’ most recent winner on a short track, is the man for the job.
  • DENNY HAMLIN: Despite having solidified his legacy as one of the Cup Series’ best drivers on short tracks, Hamlin surely wants to taste victory at North Wilkesboro. He grew up racing on bullrings in Virginia, and has the tenacity and the experience to succeed at one of NASCAR’s most historic venues.
  • KYLE LARSON: Larson triumphed in last year’s NASCAR All-Star Race, and he’s claimed the $1 million winner’s prize on two other occasions (Charlotte in 2019 and Texas in 2021). Larson dominated the weekend last year – also claiming the Wright Brand 250 – but his focus is shared with two upcoming Memorial Day weekend events. Can he tie Jimmie Johnson for the most All-Star Race wins on Sunday? Never count out Yung Money.
  • MARTIN TRUEX JR.: How shocking is it that Truex has never won the All-Star Race? The 43-year-old veteran driver has one Cup Series title, two Coca-Cola 600 victories and 34 total Cup Series wins on his resume, but success in the All-Star Race has eluded him. Truex hasn’t finished better than 10th in the event since 2010. Toyota-powered cars have performed well this season, however, so Truex’s luck might turn around in a big way on Sunday.

Here are five drivers worth keeping an eye on in the All-Star Open:

  • JOSH BERRY: The defending Open winner will chase a second straight victory with a new team. Berry, highly regarded as a short-track ace, substituted for Alex Bowman in last year’s Open and drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to first place. Now aboard the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Berry’s gunning for even more Wilkesboro magic.
  • ALEX BOWMAN: Bowman missed last year’s All-Star Race weekend due to injury, but with Hendrick power under him, he’s got a good chance to make sure the No. 48 car claims back-to-back Open wins. 
  • AUSTIN DILLON: Dillon – who hails from nearby Welcome, North Carolina – wants desperately to score his first All-Star Race victory. To get there, he’ll have to finish first or second in the Open, or snag the Fan Vote. While Dillon has never advanced to the All-Star Race through the Open, there’s reason to believe he could do it this year.
  • TY GIBBS: The second-year Cup Series driver raced his way into the 2023 All-Star Race with a runner-up result in last year’s Open. Gibbs’ pit crew also won last year’s Pit Crew Challenge. He’ll be a heavy favorite.
  • ERIK JONES: Jones’ LEGACY Motor Club entry is co-owned by Jimmie Johnson, the only driver to win four All-Star Races. Jones is no slouch himself when it comes to short-track racing, so the No. 43 Toyota is sure to be in the mix.

TICKETS: Tickets, camping and parking for all NASCAR All-Star Race weekend events can be purchased online by visiting www.northwilkesborospeedway.com.

MORE INFO: Fans can connect with North Wilkesboro Speedway and get the latest news regarding NASCAR All-Star week and North Wilkesboro Speedway by following on X and Instagram or becoming a Facebook fan.

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Speedway Digest Staff
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