NASCAR Cup Series

Tempers flare as Almirola, Byron, DiBenedetto, Bowyer win Open, Fan Vote

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Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Wednesday afternoon saw the NASCAR All-Star Race come to Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time, and drama was aplenty even before the main event. In the All-Star Open to qualify for the feature, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell clashed, leading to a feud between the two in the infield. Meanwhile, Aric Almirola, William Byron, and Matt DiBenedetto won the race’s three stages to advance to the All-Star, while Clint Bowyer did so via Fan Vote.

The race was split into stages of 35, 35, and 15 laps. In the first segment, Almirola battled with McDowell for the win before Wallace entered the fray. However, as they entered turn three, McDowell clipped Wallace, sending the latter into the wall and ending both of their race hopes.

Wallace, who has become a fan favourite as he spearheads NASCAR’s diversity and inclusiveness movement since June, was viewed as the expected Fan Vote winner but advancing via stage win was also a possibility, the latter of which he had accomplished in the 2019 race. However, the incident effectively knocked him out of racing even had he won the vote as drivers were required to have a clean car for the feature.

“People say he’s one of the nicest guys in the garage, can’t wait for the God-fearing text that he’s gonna send me about preaching and praise and respect,” an incensed Wallace said in an interview with FS1.

Wallace eventually took his car’s bumper and placed it at McDowell’s hauler.

Despite Wallace’s popularity, he has also developed into a polarising figure following his successful calls for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag and the GEICO 500 noose investigation. The former also led to a plane flying the phrase “Defund NASCAR” over Bristol during the All-Star Race by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the same protest as the one performed during the GEICO 500 weekend.

Almirola eventually took the stage win, advancing him to his third career All-Star Race.

In the second stage, John Hunter Nemechek and Ryan Preece wrecked for the second incident of the Open. Byron would win the segment to qualify for his second All-Star.

DiBenedetto won Stage #3 to make his first All-Star. The Californian had come close in previous years via Fan Vote.

Bowyer outright won the Fan Vote to reach career All-Star Race #7.

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