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Kyle Larson earns way into Sprint All-Star Race

Kyle Larson (42) edges Chase Elliott across the finish line to end the last of three segments in the Sprint Showdown race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both earn a spot in late Saturday’s 20-car All-Star Race; Larson by winning a Showdown segment (as did Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle earlier) and Elliot via fan vote. Go to tampabay.com/sports for the result of the All-Star Race.

Charlotte Observer/TNS

Kyle Larson (42) edges Chase Elliott across the finish line to end the last of three segments in the Sprint Showdown race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both earn a spot in late Saturday’s 20-car All-Star Race; Larson by winning a Showdown segment (as did Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle earlier) and Elliot via fan vote. Go to tampabay.com/sports for the result of the All-Star Race.

CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Larson knew he wasn't winning the fan vote to get into the Sprint All-Star Race.

That meant doing everything he could to qualify on the track, including trading paint with Chase Elliott on the final lap of the final 10-lap segment of the Sprint Showdown to move on and earn a chance to win $1 million.

Larson, who received some criticism for racing clean and not doing enough to beat Matt Kenseth on the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR race at Dover, was extremely aggressive coming down the stretch Saturday.

He pinned the hard-charging Elliott near the top of the track, then edged him out at the finish line with the two cars attached.

"I'm sure Chase is upset with me and has all of the reason in the world to be, but hey, we are racing for a million bucks and I haven't had a chance to do that before," Larson said.

Elliott wound up getting into the All-Star Race through the fan vote along with Danica Patrick. Trevor Bayne and Greg Biffle won the first two segments of the Sprint Showdown, both 20-lap runs around the 11/2-mile track, to move on.

"I knew I had to win because I probably wasn't going to win the fan vote," Larson said. "I did what I can do."

Larson said making contact with Elliott was the only way to win the race.

"I hate racing like that stuck on peoples' doors, but that was my only shot to hold him off," Larson said. "He had a big run on me (on Turn 4). … I just wanted to protect the bottom of the track because I knew I could fight him off better down there."

Bayne won the first segment in dramatic fashion by edging out Elliott.

Starting from the second row on a final lap restart, Bayne forged his way in between Ryan Blaney and Elliott forcing a three-wide situation. Bayne took the lead on the backstretch and held on to edge Elliott at the finish by 0.005 seconds.

"There was a tiny hole and we got a good restart," Bayne said. "Off of (turn) two they kind of fanned out a little bit, and I got a little run and saw a little hole."

Bayne said at one point he felt stuck in the middle of the three-car pack, but got a push from behind from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse.

"Without that I probably wouldn't have won the race," Bayne said. "It is really nice to have a teammate like that that will choose to work with you when it may not be in his best interest, so I really appreciate."

Biffle, another Roush Fenway driver, was relatively unchallenged in the second segment and won going away to punch his ticket to the All-Star Race.

"Hope nobody had dinner reservations," crew chief Brian Pattie said over the radio after Biffle qualified for the night race.

Biffle credited his crew for getting him up to third place after a quick two-tire change between the first and second segments.

"I was being as aggressive as I could be, and I knew it was 20 laps and I knew that was my chance," Biffle said. "(Austin Dillon) was a little bit loose and so was I, but I made some adjustments on my driving style and was able to get by him."

The Sprint Showdown qualifying was pushed back after heavy rains washed out all track events on Friday night.

Kyle Larson earns way into Sprint All-Star Race 05/21/16 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2016 11:27pm]
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