CONCORD – The biggest racing day in NASCAR driver Kyle Larson’s life began as relaxing as one could have.
Early Saturday morning, unsure if he would be racing that even in one of the year’s headline events, Larson and his crew chief Chad Johnston were sitting outside a ballfield watching their sons play baseball.
“It’s kind of funny,” Larson said. “Everyone has these big stakes. They’re racing for a lot of money, and we’re out here watching our kids in a T-ball game,” Larson said. “So I guess I was pretty relaxed.”
Larson could relax even more by the time Saturday ended, as his bank account received a million-dollar jolt after he won the 35th Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Larson, who needed to win the Monster Energy Open earlier in the day just to earn a spot in the All-Star lineup, became the first person ever to win both the Open and the All-Star race in the same day.
Three drivers -- Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Michael Waltrip -- all advanced out of the Open and later won the All-Star race in the past. But Larson became the first to win both races.
The All-Star victory was Larson’s first NASCAR win of the season and it was the second time he has captured the Open, having won it back in 2016.
Larson said competing in the earlier race was beneficial for him in the All-Star race in the evening. “It was good to get a feel for the track,” he said.
With the All-Star victory came a $1 million payday. But after a season that saw him crash out three times in a four-race stretch, Larson says getting his first victory since 2017 is what mattered most.
Crew chief dealing with different emotions
As Larson’s crew chief, Chad Johnston has had a front-row seat to the frustrations that have plagued the Advent Health Chevrolet team.
So when Larson took home the checkered flag for the first time this season, was there relief or excitement coming from Johnston?
“I think it was a little bit of both,” he said. “This was a big win. Obviously, it was a little different, with no points involved. But everyone was putting everything on the line in this one.”
Tempers flare in post-race scuffle
Almost immediately following Larson’s victory, broadcast cameras caught a fight between pole winner Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.
Bowyer got out of his car, ran over to Newman -- who was still in his vehicle -- and delivered about 10 punches until both crews intervened.
NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said the organization met with each driver and he isn’t expecting any penalties to be handed down.
“I don’t really want to get into talking about penalties and the reasons why,” Miller said when he faced the media after the race. “Every situation is different. We handle everyone different.
“Great race, a lot of passion,” Miller added. “Out of a night like tonight, you almost kind of expect tempers to flare.”
Hottest night ever
By the time the first stage of the Monster Energy Open began, the temperature at Charlotte Motor Speedway was 89 degrees, making it the hottest day ever for the All-Star race.
And the early forecast for next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 could be even hotter, with the high expected to be 93 degrees.