As the 2021 NASCAR All-Star Race regrouped for its 10-lap, final-round finish, Brad Keselowski keyed the radio to ask his crew what he did wrong on a restart. The No. 2 car had appeared to be in perfect position to win the $1 million bonus at Texas Motor Speedway, catching a lucky caution during green flag pit stops that left him ahead of the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports cars.
Keselowski restarted up front. Just a few moments later? He ended the round fifth, after the the Hendrick trio of Kyle Larson, William Byron and Chase Elliott blew by him.
"I think they're just THAT good through the corners," was his crew's reply. "They freight trained us."
HMS' teamwork was the key moment as it cost Keselowski track position for the final sprint. He gave it his all in those 10 laps, charging from fifth to briefly pass Elliott and Larson for the lead. The No. 2 car actually had enough to clear them, but Keselowski didn't realize it, a mistake that left Larson able to battle back and retake control.
That led to Larson's third straight win and a $1 million All-Star Race bonus. It's the second straight All-Star victory for HMS while Elliott's No. 9 team collected an extra $100,000 for the fastest pit stop.
Just another day at the office for NASCAR's New York Yankees-like franchise reasserting their position atop the throne. Texas did everything possible to make this race competitive, even inverting the entire 21-car field at one point. HMS still won five of six stages, charging back to the front with its drivers on a hot, slick night where passing felt like an impossible task.
"It feels like just to run second to the Hendrick cars right now is kind of an accomplishment," said Keselowski. "Even with this package, you can't draft [them]. They are so fast. We have work to do."
Once again, HMS used teamwork to perfection with the way Larson was pushed to the front. He started behind Elliott, yet the duo worked together even when the No. 9 team faced the consequences, forced to slide in behind Keselowski after pushing the No. 5.
"To go and steal it there in a shootout from Chase Elliott, who's to me in my opinion like the most aggressive and best restarter," Larson said. "That was really cool."
Since Mother's Day, Larson has made standing on the podium a weekly affair, posting runs of 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st, 1st and 1st. There's a case to be made, though he and HMS could be peaking too soon. Only twice in the seven years of NASCAR's current playoff format has the driver who won the most races gone on to win the championship. Could Larson's recent win streak cause tension with the rest of his teammates?
For now, he's got one million reasons not to worry.
"As long as our organization is winning, I'm cool with it," Larson said. "So far, I think we all are, as well. If we can keep running good and working together, we'll be – all four of us will be hard to beat. So we've just got to keep that up."
Green: Chevrolet. Once upon a time, from 2003-15 Chevrolet dominated the NASCAR Cup Series manufacturer's race with 13 straight titles. They've been shut out since then but with the way HMS is running, would you bet against them?
Yellow: All-Star Race Format. There were Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, Sammy Hagar and more field inversions than any race in All-Star history. Retiring Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage went all out as his track hosted the exhibition for the first time.
I'll give TMS this much: the last 10 laps lived up to the billing, Keselowski-Larson easily the best battle of the day. But everything else? It was a whole lot of lipstick to buy for this pig. Intermediate racetracks are the worst track type for this race under the sport's current handling package. It's as simple as that.
Red: Bubba Wallace. An early spin took Wallace out of the running in the All-Star Open, then Matt DiBenedetto beat him out on the Fan Vote. It was another big miss in a long line of them this season for Michael Jordan's 23XI Racing outfit.
Speeding Ticket: NASCAR Officiating. Not one, but two cautions came out in the All-Star Race for skidding. That's right; it's the type of thing you can do overshooting an exit on your local highway. Both drivers, Christopher Bell and Ross Chastain, were able to regain control of their cars and keep from doing a full 360 spin. Neither one made impact with the wall or suffered significant damage.
So why did the yellow come out again? In a race NASCAR is asking the drivers to get aggressive, racing hard for the fans throwing a caution that easily seems like a direct contradiction in terms.
The SRX Racing Series debuted on CBS Saturday night with a Cinderella-style upset. Doug Coby, a six-time Whelen Modified Series champion, beat racing legends like Tony Stewart and 2021 Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the Stafford Motor Speedway main event.
It was a lifetime achievement for the 41-year-old who dedicated the victory to "short trackers everywhere." Coby just needs to work on his dismount.
For more on the SRX Series, check out my post-race analysis here.