Ryan Blaney Holds onto All-Star Victory; NASCAR regrets late caution as race was nearly over


 Ryan Blaney Holds onto All-Star Victory;  NASCAR regrets late caution as race was nearly over

FORT WORTH, Texas – The checkered flag was already flying for Ryan Blaney when the warning lights came on just yards before he got to the line to win NASCAR’s All-Star race and $1 million. He had to reattach his window netting and complete two more laps.

NASCAR later conceded that it “probably called out that final yellow flag prematurely.”

Blaney’s crew were already celebrating victory in the pits and the driver had the window screen down on his #12 Ford by the time he crossed the start/finish line. But the all-star race has to finish under green.

“That rule was never passed down to us,” Blaney said. “I’ve already taken down my window screen and everything. My left arm is worn out trying to get the damn thing back up.

After the yellow period, when Blaney fumbled with the net while having to keep pace, a green and white checkered finish kept him ahead. Pushed by his Penske teammate Austin Cindric at the restart, Blaney was able to stay ahead and fend off Denny Hamlin, who finished 0.266 seconds back.

“I appreciate that NASCAR didn’t make us come down pit lane to fix it and let me cut it back where we could stay out there,” Blaney said.

Hamlin said NASCAR was wrong on both fronts, first because he even called for caution after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran into the wall on the backstretch in the back of the field.

“Should never have been a yellow in the first place,” Hamlin tweeted minutes after the race. “You put Blaney in the situation he was in. To make amends, they made him break a rule. Two mistakes don’t make a mistake. Blaney W, NASCAR L.”

“Obviously, I think everyone knows that we probably called that yellow flag prematurely,” Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, told reporters. “The way that works in the tower… we all watch and we saw the car and mentioned the car on the wall as we drove straight down the wall to the back. The race director looked up and I’m not sure what he saw, but he immediately deleted it. I wish we hadn’t done that.

Blaney, who said he could understand Hamlin’s frustration, said NASCAR felt the net was safe when he was on the backstretch before the final restart. Blaney said the net was latched and he had both hands on the wheel.

Miller said the window mesh was up and there was no way for NASCAR to know if Blaney had it 100% locked, but he couldn’t be sure at this point either if he didn’t have it.

Cindric was third and Joey Logano, another Team Penske rider, was fourth. Daniel Suarez, who like Stenhouse entered the main event earlier in the day through a 16-car open qualifier, finished fifth.

Former NASCAR All-Star winners Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson all crashed in stage two.

It was the fourth All-Star race win for Roger Penske’s team. The last was Logano in 2016.

“This Mustang was a rocket ship,” Blaney said. “I’m really happy that we won this after that last booking. … It’s going to be fun tonight.”

Busch, the polesitter and 2017 winner, was leading when he had a flat rear right tire late in the second stage on lap 48 out of turn four. He was slowing and nearing the end of the front stretch when he was hit from behind by Ross Chastain, who was going about 185 mph.

Chastain’s No. 1 car ran almost entirely on the left side after the rattling collision before falling back on all four tires and then hurtling to the outside of the track and into 2020 All-Star winner Elliott.

“I saw that Kyle had a problem with a puncture,” said Chastain. “I typed left and I should have typed right.”

Elliott said he saw Busch struggle and also saw Chastain hit him really hard.

“I just didn’t give him enough space,” Elliott said. “I knew he was going straight, I just didn’t know he was going that far to the right so fast. I just kind of misjudged it. It was really avoidable for me. I just screwed it up and I didn’t get the gap shot fast enough.”

Busch had led all but one of the first 48 laps before the wreck. His No. 18 car wobbled out of turn four with a flat rear right tire before slowing on the front stretch.

That happened just a few laps into stage two after Larson, who had won his previous two All-Star starts (2019 and 2021), broke loose in turn four and slammed hard into the wall before smashing through the infield grass slipped. Larson had not changed tires and had a puncture on the right front wheel.

“He just let go in the middle and took off,” Larson said. “I hate that it happened. I think our car was good enough depending on restarts as you can’t overtake at all, especially the leader anyway.”

Busch had led all 25 laps in a caution-free first stage after starting from pole.

Cindric was first at the end of the second segment. Blaney was second, just as he was at the end of stage one after starting the race there. Blaney won the third 25-lap stage and started the final 50-lap race in the lead with Penske teammates Cindric and Logano, whose team had the quickest 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. It will be the 14th points race this season.

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