A NASCAR official admitted Sunday that they made mistakes when they threw a yellow flag at the end of Sunday nights NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Ryan Blaney, who had dominated the non-points race took the white flag, signifying the final lap, with a near three second lead on the field. He exited Turn 4 and was charging towards the checkered flag when a caution was called. Behind the leaders Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran into the wall coming out of Turn 2.
Under normal rules once the leader has taken the white flag the next flag, checkered or caution, ends the race. However, for the All-Star Race the rules said the race must end under green meaning the race hadn’t actually ended.
Replays showed that the field had cleared Stenhouse who was well up out of the way and actually scraping along the wall leading to speculation that a caution wasn’t actually needed. Among the field, and the fans, there were several moments before NASCAR made the call that the race had not ended.
NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller later said they took the blame for what had happened.
“So obviously I think everybody knows that we probably prematurely called that yellow flag,” he said. “The way that works in the tower is that we’re all watching around the racetrack. And obviously the race director who has the button and makes the call is the final say of when the yellow gets put out; we all watch. We saw the car and mentioned the car against the wall, riding the wall down the back straight away. And the race director looked up and I’m not sure what he saw, but he immediately put it out.
“We wish we wouldn’t have done that, but we did that and, we will own that. We probably prematurely put that caution out.”
In the confusion and thinking the race was over, race leader Blaney put his window net down after crossing the finish line under a checkered flag and flashing yellow lights. It took a couple of caution laps for the confusion to be cleared up during which Blaney somehow secured his window net, a task normally done by pit crew members on pit road.
NASCAR cleared the field and restarted the race with Blaney in the lead. With a push from his teammate Austin Cindric, Blaney re-took the lead and held off Denny Hamlin for the win.
Second place finisher Hamlin was unhappy about the extended laps under caution which allowed Blaney to get the safety net back up and secured.
“You know, it’s tough because he deserved to win the race, but if you mess up and you break a rule – not intentionally, but there’s rules and we have rules in place for safety,” Hamlin said. “My crew chief is taking four weeks off [a penalty from a pit road infraction earlier in the season] because of safety.
“I nearly crashed him off of Turn 2 when I got squeezed there. If I send him into traffic and he’s got no window net, then what, right? Luckily, that didn’t happen.”
Miller said NASCAR was well aware of what was going on. But pointed out that rules are always different for the non-points All-Star exhibition race.
“Obviously Ryan Blaney thought he won the race,” Miller said. ”Another byproduct of kind of special rules of the All-Star, because every other race that we do besides this one, he would’ve won the race when the caution flag came out.”
“So they were celebrating, he put the window net down. We saw him struggling to get it back up but coming to green he was warming his tires back, on the back straight away. You could clearly see both hands on the wheel, the window net was up, no way for us to know if he got it 100% latched or not. And at that point in time, no way we can be certain that he didn’t get it latched.”
Miller said they considered bringing Blaney down pit road to get the window net properly secured.
“That would’ve really have kind of gone out of character and been out of anything else that we have ever really done,” he said. “There was some speculation about doing that up there.
“You know, like I said we saw it and we no way we would’ve, could’ve known that it was latched properly or not, but that that’s where we are on that one. “
“If it was hanging down on the door… if he couldn’t get it to where it was up and we had some doubt that it was latched, then we would’ve had to do something with it, because we wouldn’t have allowed him to start f it was just laying down on the door.”
After the race on social media there was a great deal of discussion about what transpired. That included comments from former driver turned TV analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. who tweeted:
Nascar is gonna gladly let you debate the window net so as you don’t reflect on how ridiculous that yellow flag situation was as Blaney was crossing the finish line to win.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) May 23, 2022
“Nascar is gonna gladly let you debate the window net so as you don’t reflect on how ridiculous that yellow flag situation was as Blaney was crossing the finish line to win.”
“We don’t deflect from anything,” Miller said, adding with a chuckle: “We pretty much own what we do. So I would have to dispute the Dale junior quote.”
Miller said the officials would learn from their mistakes.
“Here’s a little bit of insight for y’all,” he said. “I think I’ve been at NASCAR for seven years and we’ve operated under the same rules for races, you know, little tweaks here and there, but pretty much the way we operate the tower, the things that happen on the track, we do the same thing over and over and over again. And every Tuesday almost without fail a situation crops up that we need to talk about what we need, that we learn from and doing the same thing over and over again. And we still learn how to do things better.
“And then when we Institute all these special rules that we always get asked to do we’re I mean, honestly, we’re kind of setting ourselves up and the competitors up for problems, like what we saw tonight. Yeah. And I, I wish we could operate All-Star races a little bit more under kind of our normal guidelines.”
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