Ryan Blaney won, or “netted” (pun very much intended) his first NASCAR All-Star Race Sunday night. And he had to do it twice.
It was another lackluster All-Star Race on an intermediate track with a controversial finish that left several big-name teams with torn up equipment but fortunately no injured drivers.
Blaney took control of the non-points race on lap 57 of a scheduled 125 and held it until the end taking the white flag with nearly a 3 second lead. Deep in the field Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who won his way in via the earlier Open race, ran into the wall on the white flag lap and the caution came out just before Blaney crossed the line.
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.
In the confusion and thinking the race was over, Blaney had 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.
“It was a lot about the push,” Blaney said. “Luckily the last restart Austin (Cindric) gave me a great push, almost too good of a push because he kind of had me jacked sideways. I missed the corner but was able to get up in front of the 11 (Hamlin). The push was huge. Control of the lane was big, but a good push definitely helps out.”
After it was over Blaney pulled up to the start-finish line with a torn and tattered window net hanging from his car.
“We were cruising there and I just wanted to get to the white to have it covered and then the caution came out off of four,” Blaney said. “I thought it was like any other race. That rule was never kind of relayed to us. I already took my window net down and everything. My left arm is worn out from trying to get that damn thing back up. I got it rigged up enough to where it halfway stayed.
“I appreciate NASCAR for not making us come down pit road to fix it and letting me get it clipped back again to where we could stay out there.”
NASCAR later admitted the final caution flag had probably been thrown prematurely.
Kyle Busch, who won the pole via a drag race style pit competition the day before, led the first 47 laps and won Stage 1. He seemed to be the car to beat but near the end of Stage 2 his Toyota lost a left rear tire coming out of Turn 4. Busch slowed, tried to pull up out of the way and Austin Cindric passed him for the lead. A hard charging Ross Chastain couldn’t however, and his Chevy slammed into the front of Busch’s Toyota and went airborne. Chastain’s Chevy continued up and into Turn 1 collecting the Chevy of Chase Elliott.
All three drivers were able to climb from their cars but were done for the night. The crash happened right after a crash with last year’s winner Kyle Larson, who also lost a tire and hit the wall on lap 37.
Cindric would hold on to win Stage 2.
But it was Blaney who would lead the most laps, 84 and dominate for the win, some will say twice.
Hamlin was second, Cindric third with Joey Logano, whose crew won the pit competition held during mandatory stops during the Stage 2 break, fourth, and Daniel Suarez, who won a Stage in the Open, coming in fifth.
“I just needed to stay beside the 12 (Ryan Blaney),” Hamlin said. “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. My crew chief is taking four weeks off because of safety. I nearly crashed him off of turn two 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 and NASCAR avoids another controversy because there wasn’t a wreck in a car with no window net.”
Hamlin was asked he felt NASCAR should have black-flagged Blaney and brought him down pit road.
“That’s the rule,” Hamlin said. “I don’t know what we’re talking about here. This is not a judgement call by me. This is just, that’s the rule. It’s unfortunate for him. Very, very unfortunate for him, but it’s the rule. You have to play by the rules.”
Alex Bowman was sixth, AJ Allmendinger seventh, with Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell rounding out the top 10. Erik Jones, who won the fan vote, crashed out on lap 106 and was scored 20th.
The race had only three lead changes among four drivers over the 140 laps run.
“I feel like some guys had trouble tonight, but I felt like our car was probably the fastest all night, honestly,” Blaney said. “The 18(Busch) and 5 (Larson) both looked good but I felt like we were right up there with them. We kind of came here with a little bit of a new mindset on things to try and how to do things and it is nice to know that worked and our car was really fast, so hopefully we can build on this.”
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results NASCAR All-Star Open
Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas
Sunday, May 22, 2022
1. (2) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 50.
2. (7) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 50.
3. (6) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 50.
4. (8) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 50.
5. (4) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 50.
6. (12) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 50.
7. (10) Cole Custer, Ford, 50.
8. (14) Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 50.
9. (13) Cody Ware, Ford, 50.
10. (15) Garrett Smithley, Ford, 50.
11. (16) BJ McLeod, Ford, 50.
12. (1) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 42.
13. (9) Harrison Burton #, Ford, Accident, 42.
14. (5) Chris Buescher, Ford, Stage 2 Winner, 40.
15. (11) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 25.
16. (3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Stage 1 Winner, 20.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 82.518 mph.
Time of Race: 0 Hrs, 54 Mins, 32 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.393 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 4 for 8 laps.
Lead Changes: 4 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: T. Reddick 0;R. Stenhouse Jr. 1-20;C. LaJoie 21-31;C. Buescher 32-40;D. Suarez 41-50.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 20 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 11 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 10 laps; Chris Buescher 1 time for 9 laps.
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