Suarez on pole for $1 million All-Star Race

Suarez (#99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet) has qualified on pole for the All-Stars Race. Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez and RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher won their respective heat races and put themselves on the front row of the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Suarez will start from pole after the NASCAR Cup Series drivers set the starting order for the event that pays USD$1 million  for the win.

The format for the heat races was simple – 60 laps to set the starting order for the All-Star Race. Heat 1 set the inside lane while Heat 2 set the outside lane. Unlike normal NASCAR races, there would only be one overtime attempt if needed.

Inside Lane: Daniel Suarez (pole), Joey Logano, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Austin Cindric, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Erik Jones.

Outside Lane: Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, William Byron, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, and Tyler Reddick.

Heat 1 started in a unique fashion due to some rain at North Wilkesboro Speedway. The initial group of drivers headed out on the short track with the grooved, wet weather tires. This marked the first time at a short track since NASCAR announced over the offseason that certain ovals would use the wet weather package in 2023.

The drivers were able to complete 32 laps before the track dried to a point where NASCAR initially felt they could put on the racing slicks. The officials threw the caution and sent everyone down pit road, but NASCAR made a change and told all of the teams to remain on the wet weather tires.

Chase Elliott and Suarez were the class of the field during the early laps of the opening heat race. They ran within .31s of each other while the rest of the drivers remained more than three seconds behind.

Once the teams put on fresh tires, the situation changed for Elliott. He started on the front row, but he remained stuck in the outside lane. This provided five drivers with a chance to pass him on the inside.

Meanwhile, Suarez built up a lead of more than 1.5s through a combination of factors. He had a strong #99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro while Joey Logano held up the rest of the field from second place in a slower #22 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Heat 2 was a different situation. The track was dry enough for the teams to put on racing slicks, which provided the drivers with a bit of an advantage. They were able to learn how the tires changed over the course of the first 24 laps before the rain began again and forced NASCAR to bring out the wet weather tires once again.

Wet weather tires or racing slicks, it ultimately didn’t matter. Buescher led every single lap of Heat 2 and secured a spot on the front row next to Suarez. He capitalized on the starting position secured by his #17 crew in Friday’s pit stop challenge, and he used his speed to put distance between himself and the rest of the field.

Heat 2 was not competitive early as drivers ran single file around North Wilkesboro Speedway. Once NASCAR put on the wet weather tires, they were able to start making passes. Buescher’s boss/team-mate, Brad Keselowski, was able to work his way through the field and put himself on the fourth row.

The next race for this group of Cup Series drivers is the All-Star Race on Sunday. The main event will start at 20:00 local time/ET after the winless drivers compete in the All-Star Open at 18:00 local time/ET.

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