The NASCAR All-Star Race makes its Lone Star state debut Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway with a new six-round, 100-lap format and a cool $1 million paycheck ready for the race winner.
The starting lineup for the first ever NASCAR All Star event at the 1.5-mile Texas high banks (8 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) was set by random draw and last week’s race winner and 2019 All Star champion Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has drawn the pole position. He will start alongside Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, on the front row.
The remainder of the 17-car field, in order of lineup, is: Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, reigning NASCAR Cup champion and defending All Star Race winner Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Michael McDowell, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney. This will be the first All Star race for Bell and Daytona 500 winner McDowell.
The winners of the first two stages and the race winner of the NASCAR Open (6 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) — the night’s opening race for drivers who have not already qualified for the main event — will transfer into the All-Star Race along with a fourth driver voted on by the fans. Reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric is among those racing in the NASCAR Open for an All Star marquee spot.
Round 1 of the All Star Race is 15 laps and the finishing order from this segment will be inverted anywhere from the eighth to the 12th positions – decided by a random draw. Round 2 is 15 laps and the entire field will be inverted following this segment.
Round 3 is 15 laps and will be inverted again anywhere from the eighth to 12th positions — decided by a blind draw. Round 4 is 15 laps — simply starting the way the previous round ended.
Round 5 is 30 laps — the starting lineup will be decided based on the cumulative finishing order of the first four rounds. The driver with the best finish will start on pole. All cars will be required to make a four-tire pit stop and the team with the fastest stop will earn a $100,000 bonus.
The Round 6 grand finale will be a 10-lap shootout with cars lining up according to how they finished in Round 5 … and a $1 million on the line for the mad dash to the checkered.
Certainly, the defending NASCAR All Star Race winner Chase Elliott has to be considered a favorite again. He has an impressive 6.6 average finish in All Star competition including that victory last season – only teammate Kyle Larson (6.5) is better. Texas has been a strong track for Elliott – statistically and sentimentally. He scored his career first Xfinity Series victory there in 2014 and has five Top-10 finishes in 10 NASCAR Cup Series starts.
Should Elliott win this weekend he would become only the third driver in history to win back-to-back All Star races, joining Davey Allison (1991-92) and Jimmie Johnson (2012-13)
“With this year’s format, there’s obviously a lot going on," Elliott said of the 2021 NASCAR All Star Race. “I think it’ll be hard to play games to try and set yourself up for the next round; that may end up hurting you more than helping.
“It’s going to be one of those deals where you just have to race as hard as you can the whole time and let the inverts play out on their own. I think it will be entertaining for the fans and hopefully, we can put on a good show. I know I’ve said it before, but I’m happy to see the All Star Race moving around to different tracks. I think it’s a race that is meant to change locations."
Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports organization leads all teams with nine NASCAR All-Star Race victories – Jimmie Johnson (four), Jeff Gordon (three), Terry Labonte (one) and Elliott (one). Certainly Hendrick Motorsports is in top form heading to this weekend’s Texas All-Star chapter. The team has finished first and second in the last four regular season races, including a historic 1-2-3-4 finish at Dover, Del. last month.
When it comes to Texas Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing all have nine NASCAR Cup Series race wins there — a record.
There are eight former All-Star race winners entered this weekend — Harvick, Hamlin, Logano, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Larson, Newman and Elliott.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick is the only multi-time All-Star winner in this week’s field (2007 and 2018) and has finished top-five in the last three races. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the all-time leading driver in All Star race laps led (271) — 100 laps more than anyone else in Sunday’s field.