FORT WORTH, Texas – The checkered flag was already waving for Ryan Blaney when warning lights came on just yards before he hit the line to win the NASCAR All-Star Race and Million Dollars. He had to put his net back in place and go two more times.
NASCAR subsequently admitted it “may have prematurely launched” that final yellow flag.
Blaney’s crew was already celebrating victory in the pits, and the driver had already lowered the window grille of his #12 Ford after crossing the start and finish line. But the All-Star race must end under the green.
“This rule was never passed on to us,” Blaney said. “I actually removed my window grille and everything. My left arm was damaged from trying to get this damn thing back. I rigged it up enough to where I stayed halfway.”
After a period of caution, when Blaney fiddled with the grille while having to maintain speed, he stayed ahead by finishing in green and white. Driven by his Penske teammate Austin Sendrich in the restart, Blaney managed to stay ahead and fend off Denny Hamlin, who finished the race by 0.266sec.
“I appreciate NASCAR for not making us go down a pothole road to fix it and letting me clip it back to where we can stay,” Blaney said.
Hamlin said NASCAR was wrong on both fronts, first even calling out the warning for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to go to the wall in the back at the back of the field.
“It shouldn’t have been yellow in the first place,” Hamlin tweeted minutes after the race. “They put Blaney in the position he was in. To make up for it, they let him break the rule. 2 A Wrong That Doesn’t Really Correct. Blaney W, NASCAR L.”
“Obviously I think everyone knows we may have launched this yellow flag prematurely,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, told reporters. “The way it works in the tower…we all watch and watch the car and remember the car is facing the wall, ride the wall in the back immediately. The race director looked up, I’m not sure what Saw said, but he pulled it off right away. I wish we wouldn’t have done that.”
Blaney, who said he can understand Hamlin’s frustration, said NASCAR deemed the grid safe when he was behind before the final restart. Blaney said the net was off and he had his hands on the steering wheel.
Miller said the window net was high and there was no way NASCAR would know if Blaney had been 100% closed, but also couldn’t be sure at this point if he hadn’t.
Cendrick finished third, and Joey Logano, another Team Penske driver, finished fourth. Daniel Suarez, who competed in the main event as Stenhouse with an open 16-car qualifying earlier in the day, finished fifth.
Previous NASCAR All-Star winners Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson all crashed into the second stage.
This was Roger Pinsky’s fourth All-Star race win. The most recent was Lugano in 2016.
“The Mustang was a rocket ship,” Blaney said. “I’m really glad we finished winning after that last warning… Tonight is going to be fun.”
Bosch, the 2017 Politester winner and winner, was in the lead when a flat right rear tire came out of Turn 4 on lap 48 late in the second stage. He was slowing and heading toward the bottom of the front tensioner when he was hit from behind by Ross Chastain, who was traveling about 185 mph.
Chastain’s No. 1 nearly snapped onto its left side after the sudden collision, before slashing back on all four tires and then crashing out of the track and onto the 2020 All-Star Award winner Elliott.
“I saw Kyle having a tire failure issue,” Chastain said. “I guessed the left and I had to guess correctly.”
Elliott said he saw Busch having a hard time as well as when Chastain hit him hard.
“I just didn’t give him enough space,” Elliott said. “I knew it was going to go straight, and I didn’t realize it was going to go far right so fast. I kind of misjudged it. It was really avoidable on my part. I kind of messed up and I didn’t get a gap fast enough.”
Busch had driven all but one of the first 48 laps before the wreck. His #18 car wobbled out of Turn 4 due to the flat right rear tires, before slowing into the front extension.
That came just a few laps into the second stage after Larsson, who had won his previous two All-Star games (2019 and 2021), lost his fourth inning and fired hard into the wall before sliding across the turf land. Larson didn’t change the tires and the right front tire was going down.
“I left in the center and drove off,” Larson said. “I hate that this happened. I feel like our car was good enough, depending on the restart because you can’t get through at all, especially the driver anyway.”
Bosch led all 25 laps in a cautious first stage after starting from pole.
Cindric was the first at the end of the second part. Blaney was second, just as he was at the end of the first stage after starting the race there. Blaney won the third stage of 25 laps and started the last 50 laps ahead with teammates Penske Cindric and Logano, whose team had the fastest pit stop between stages two and three.
The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday begins the second half of the 26-race regular season before the 10-race playoff chase begins. That race will be 14 points this season.
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