By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Texas native James Buescher and Daniel Suarez drove their way into the NASCAR All-Star race for a chance to win $1 million Sunday night, and Erik Jones 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.
“It means we’re going to get another shot at it, and have some fun,” Suarez said.
That trio and Jones, in the No. 43 car for Petty GMS Motorsports, joined the 20 drivers that were already locked into the non-points All-Star race being held at Texas Motor Speedway for the second time.
Kyle Busch, the 2017 All-Star winner, was on the pole for the main event.
Ryan Blaney qualified second on Saturday night, ahead of William Byron and reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, who has won his last two All-Star starts. After winning the All-Star race last June, Larson also won the Cup playoff race at the 1 1/2-mile Texas track in the fall.
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.
“Took off good on that start,” said Stenhouse, who advanced to his fourth All-Star race. “Once we had clean air, felt I could control the car behind me.”
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.
Last year’s All-Star race was 100 laps broken into six segments, four of them only 15 laps, with some inversion gimmicks and a green-flag pit stop. It is a bit more straightforward this year with 125 laps over four segments (25, 25, 25 and 50 laps). There will be a pit stop competition before the longest segment, with the winner of that starting on the front two rows with the three stage winners.
“A good balance between short, quick, but also long enough to let the tires fall off and let some things happen, especially in that last stage,” said Kevin Harvick, a two-time All-Star winner and four-time runner-up.
Harvick is in his 22nd All-Star race, while Kurt Busch is in his 21st. Mark Martin holds the record with 24 All-Star appearances.
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