By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Kyle Busch was knocked out of NASCAR’s All-Star race when his car was hit from behind by Ross Chastain when slowing down on the frontstretch at Texas.
Busch was the polesitter and had led all but one of the first 48 laps before the wreck.
Busch’s car wiggled coming out of the fourth turn because of a flat right rear tire, and the 2017 All-Star race winner was moving down the track and slowing when he was hit by Chastain, who was going about 185 mph. The hard contact sent Chastain into Chase Elliott, ending the 2020 All-Star winner’s night as well.
“Felt like the driver of the 1 car chose the wrong lane to go,” Chastain said afterward when asked about the hit, and referencing his own car number.
That came only a few laps in the second stage after Kyle Larson, who had won his previous two All-Star starts (2019 and 2021), got loose going into fourth turn and slammed hard into the wall before sliding through the grass infield. Larson hadn’t changed tires, and had a right front tire go down.
“It was big, but I’m fine,” Larson said of hitting the outside wide.
Busch led all 25 laps in a caution-free first stage after starting from the pole. The 2017 All-Star winner was in a good position to stay at the front of the field for the start of the fourth and final segment of the race — a 50-lap run to the $1 million prize. But the wreck ended that chance.
Austin Cindric was first at the end of the second segment. Ryan Blaney was second, just like he was at the end of the first stage after starting the race there.
The All-Star race followed a concert by country music superstar Blake Shelton in the infield after the 16-car open race to help complete the field for the main event.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Texas native James Buescher and Daniel Suarez drove their way into the All-Star race earlier Sunday in an open qualifying. Erik Jones, in the No. 43 car for Petty GMS Motorsports, got the final spot in the 24-car field on a fan vote.
Stenhouse and Buescher won the first two 20-lap stages in the qualifying race earlier Sunday. Suarez finished in front during the final 10-lap shootout, the third time the Mexican driver has raced into the All-Star field.
Along with the concert by Shelton, the prerace activities included appearances by several athletes from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Hall of Fame receiver Drew Pearson who played for the Dallas Cowboys, three-belt welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr, and former Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco.
Shelton participated in the introduction of the drivers, who entered the stage through oversized saloon doors on a huge facade, and then gave the command for drivers to start their engines.
At the start of the All-Star open race Sunday, Stenhouse was pushed to front row after pole winner Tyler Reddick had to go to the back of the 16-car field because of unapproved changes since qualifying Saturday. Reddick was up to fifth by the end of the first stage, but wrecked out in the final segment when he got loose and went into the wall.
Texas is the fourth track to host the annual exhibition, but only the second where the All-Star race has been multiple times. The inaugural All-Star race was held in Charlotte in 1985, with Atlanta hosting in 1985 before 33 in a row in Charlotte. The race moved to Bristol in 2020 when North Carolina wouldn’t allow spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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