Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway got a little larger, as four drivers punched their tickets into the race for $1 million on one of NASCAR’s most historic short tracks.
Matt DiBenedetto won the All-Star Open, the three-stage qualifying race to set the final three positions into the All-Star Race. He now starts at the tail end of the field for the 140-lap event in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
“Oh, man. I was hanging on for dear life,” DiBenedetto said. “We were so loose on entry. I was right on the ragged edge, so just thankful to the team for battling back. My gosh, we had big damage there at the start and had to fix it. That’s battling back.
DiBenedetto is excited to run his first All-Star Race for a historic team.
“That’s been this team lately. We’ve been fighting so hard,” he said. “I’m so proud to be driving this thing and thankful for Menards, FVP, the Wood Brothers team, Motorcraft/Quick Lane, everyone that allows me to have the opportunity to race in my first All-Star Race.”
Aric Almirola won the opening stage of the race, earning his spot in his third All-Star appearance. William Byron went on to win Stage 2, making the race for the second time.
But even when the race was done for, the night didn’t end for Clint Bowyer, who finished second to DiBenedetto in the final stage. The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing driver earned the Fan Vote, which paved the way for his 11th All-Star event.
“You hate to lean on them (the fans), but it damn sure feels good to have the fans back at the track,” Bowyer said. “Thank you, guys! We’re gonna go out here and see if we can make some more noise. It’s fun to be around this place. You want to talk about an All-Star event, this is the right track to do it. It’s only gonna get better as we go here. We’ve already seen sparks flying, tempers flaring.
“I think you’re gonna see more of it. We’ve got a little bit of work to do on our car, but we’re in it. I watched my buddy, Kasey Kahne win it one time off a fan vote — maybe we can do the same thing.”