Kyle Larson's All-Star Race performance last Sunday will be one that is talked about for years to come. The Cup Series exhibition race being held at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway arguably made it the most hyped All-Star event since 1992, which marked the first time ever that a Cup race that was held on a superspeedway at night.
Though many fans weren't happy with the results of Sunday's event — given that Larson won the race by more than four seconds and lapped over half of the 23 other drivers — it was still a memorable performance.
One driver who lauded Larson's All-Star domination was Chase Elliott, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Chase Elliott says excellence like what the 5 did on a night like this should be celebrated.
He thought the tire was directionally positive.
Ultimately, he says the 5 was just that good and landed on the right strategy. pic.twitter.com/jeb8ST9RnT
— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) May 22, 2023
Some NASCAR fans may not like seeing one driver dominate a race, but Larson's win was a peak 1990s-style short-track result. What Larson did was very similar to what Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, and even Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip used to do back in the day.
The North Wilkesboro Speedway used to be famous as a track where drivers dominated. That's its nature as a 0.625-mile track.
The convincing win at the North Carolina track was no easy feat for Larson, who started the race deep in the field and even had to start at the end of the field after a speeding penalty on his first pit stop. Following that restart, Larson didn't look back as he passed all 23 other cars in the field, including Elliott's.
Larson led 145 of the 200-lap race, and that hasn't been seen in an All-Star event since the 1990s. North Wilkesboro delivered once again.
Elliott and the rest of the field had nothing for the No. 5 team. He spent most of the night fighting with Chase Briscoe for position, ending the race with a fifth-place finish. Elliott made sure to share his thoughts following the race, especially about how dominant Larson was.
"A dominant performance should be celebrated just as much as a close finish, in my eyes some weeks," Elliott said. "They're not always going to be barn burners, and that's okay. It still doesn't take away from the fact that it's still very difficult and these races are very hard to win, so that should always be celebrated regardless of what the race looked like."
Elliott himself is no stranger to turning in dominant performances. The 2020 Cup champion has led nearly half of the laps in six of his 18 career victories. That includes leading 80 of the 90 laps at Watkins Glen in 2019.
Elliott didn't expect very much chaos during the North Wilkesboro race, as the track has only one good groove. Trying to bump and run another driver would pretty much wreck the driver attempting it, he said. It was almost not worth trying, given the racing surface.
"I didn't think it was going to be very chaotic, personally," Elliott said. "It's more you can't get close enough to somebody most of the time to hit them without just really hurting yourself. I'm sure everybody would have been very willing to punt people out of the way if they could have gotten close enough to do it. But it was difficult to do and not hurt yourself in the process."
Whether a race is a side-by-side battle at the finish line or a case of one car dominating, it seems to make fans angry. As Elliott said, you can have it both ways. That's racing sometimes — it has happened all throughout the 75-year history of NASCAR. Time to grow up, fans.
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