Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After Joey Logano Dominates All-Star Night

Who… should you be talking about after the race?

A lot of people will be talking about the tires at North Wilkesboro Speedway, but that’s a bit of a distraction from what fans should have seen: Ford teams have found something. After a lackluster start to 2014, the blue ovals has come around. Joey Logano had the fastest lap in qualifying and led all but one lap (which happened during pit stops and was led by Brad Keselowski) in a dominant performance to win the 2024 NASCAR All-Star Race. 

Logano was challenged by Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney and held them all off, cruising to the million-dollar prize. It’s the first time this season that Logano has had momentum on his side. How that carries forward remains to be seen, but if Logano can put together a strong, consistent summer, his hopes for a third title aren’t dashed yet.

See also
Joey Logano Leads All But 1 Lap in Dominant All-Star Victory

You’ll also be talking about Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Early in the All-Star main event, Stenhouse and Busch made what appeared to be incidental contact which caused Busch to bounce off the outside wall. Busch went after Stenhouse on track and ended the day for the No. 47 after Stenhouse slammed the wall. Stenhouse vowed to wait for Busch after the race.

North Wilkesboro doesn’t have a pedestrian tunnel, so the only way out of the infield is a gate on the backstretch. Since Stenhouse couldn’t leave, he was left to stew, and after the race, he was indeed waiting for Busch. The two jawed at one another before Stenhouse threw a punch.

Stenhouse’s father and crewmen from both teams joined the fray, which resulted in both drivers falling to the ground. Stenhouse fired one more shot at Busch in his interview afterwards, saying Busch was frustrated because “he’s not as good as he used to be.” Busch declined comment.

It’ll be worth keeping an eye on the pair in the coming weeks just to see if it’s over or if things boil back up.

What… is the big question leaving this race in the rearview?

NASCAR brought two different tire compounds to North Wilkesboro in hopes of seeing a difference in the racing. One was a harder compound similar to what we’ve seen at most short or flat-track races this year, designed to hold up over a longer run. The other was a softer compound, designed to create faster laps for a short amount of time, similar to the primary tire used in Bristol last month.

Did the tire make a difference, and should tire choice be adopted down the road?

NASCAR has often tried out ideas during the All-Star event that it’s implemented later, but it’s hard to say whether what works on the sort runs of the ASR will translate to a longer race without planned cautions. The softer tire was faster but didn’t wear as well as it needed to.

The softer tire at Bristol did work, although it went a little too far in the wear-out department. That’s the direction NASCAR should be looking with this car. If tire choice is on the table, it should be an all-or-nothing decision teams make before qualifying and carry all weekend. Changing compounds in the race didn’t really have the desired effect. Still, in an era where there’s little else to break up the long-run strategy, the softer tire could play a significant role … if it will fall off more than these did.

Where… did the other key players wind up? 

Open winner Ty Gibbs and runner-up Bubba Wallace transferred to the main event along with fan-vote winner Noah Gragson. All three found out it would be a lot harder to work their way forward from the back of the pack against the heavy hitters. Gibbs spun just past halfway in the main event off the nose of Busch, and Gragson benefitted from the caution with the free pass.

Wallace found speed in the second half after nearly being lapped at the halfway point and drove his way to sixth, the best finish among the Open crowd. Gragson finished 11th and Gibbs 13th after recovering from his incident.

Late arrival Kyle Larson went right to work at his day job after a quick flight from Indianapolis. He worked his way forward to inside the top five with 40 to go and top three two laps later. Larson capped of his exceptional weekend by finishing fourth, heading right back to Indy for practice on Monday (May 20).

When… was the moment of truth?

Considering that the turn 1 end of pit road was a swimming pool 24 hours before the All-Star event, a big part of what made race day work was the speedway’s response to a Saturday (May 18) afternoon thunderstorm that dumped four inches of water onto Wilkes County in two hours. Much of the area lost power in the storm, which left the track drenched and the parking lots a sopping mess.

For those unfamiliar with the Wilkesboro area, it sits in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so nothing, including the speedway’s parking lots, is flat. The parking areas are mainly grass on top of North Carolina red clay, and once torn up, it’s slippery and impassible.

With the Craftsman Truck Series race still to be finished Sunday morning (May 19), track officials worked through the night to make sure fans could enjoy the races. Water was pumped out of the track, which runs downhill, making water pool on the turn 1 end of the infield. A local quarry was persuaded to open in the middle of the night, and truckload after truckload of gravel was brought in to assure that cars could park. By Sunday morning, the track and grounds were ready for fans like nothing had happened, but a lot of workers gave up sleep to make sure it worked out that way.

Why… should you be paying attention this week?

NASCAR heads into the season’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, on Sunday night (May 26). The 600 is one of the races that has improved in the Next Gen era, giving some mystique back to the Charlotte oval.

It’s also the first time that a driver will attempt both the Indianapolis 500 and Coke 600 since Kurt Busch pulled it off in 2014, with a stellar sixth-place run at Indianapolis before an engine failure shortened his night back in Charlotte. 

Larson will start fifth at Indy, an impressive effort for his first Indy Car race.  He didn’t quite have the speed of the Team Penske IndyCar group but was fast enough that he could be a factor.  Of the five previous drivers to complete the “double,” only Tony Stewart has finished on the lead lap in both races, which he did in 2001, finishing sixth in Indy and third in Charlotte. Larson is certainly capable of equaling that feat. Could he be the first to win one of the races on the same day? That’s why we’ll be watching.

How… will next year’s All-Star Race look?

NASCAR’s mid-season shootout will return to North Wilkesboro in 2025. The event has found a home in the hills in Wilkes county, and it’s a decent spot, close enough to home for teams to bring their families, which should be a part of the weekend. The track probably deserves a points race at some point after it rose from the ashes a year ago, but hopefully that will come; the track favors longer races rather than sprints.

After slower ticket sales this year, track owners Speedway Motorsports made a great call to break up the weekend, selling single-day tickets rather than only offering a weekend package. Coming for one day is an affordable option for fans who may have balked at a $250-ish per ticket weekend package. Smart move for the track.

Truth is, there’s something comfortably familiar at North Wilkes, despite a generation of fans having never seen a live race there before last year. It’s like coming home, and that’s a good feeling surrounding this race.

About the author

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Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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