Chaos and confusion reign in Ryan Blaney's All-Star Race win
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas – Ryan Blaney thought he had won the NASCAR All-Star Race at the first checkered flag. Then he thought he might have lost it. Then he had that winning feeling as the checkered flag flew – for the second time – in the NASCAR All-Star Race
Confused? You’re not the only one.
NASCAR’s special rule for the All-Star Race is that it has to finish under green. As Blaney was about to cross the finish line, NASCAR threw the caution for a relatively routine spin by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Blaney thought he had won the race – he would have under normal race rules – and lowered his window net, which keeps drivers’ arms from flailing out of a car during an accident.
Moments after thinking he had won, he was told he had not, and he not only was flabbergasted that he had not won, he also had to get the window net latched, something that is done by another crew member prior to the race.
Blaney was able to get the window net up to NASCAR’s satisfaction and then held off Denny Hamlin on a two-lap race to the finish to capture the All-Star Race and the $1 million prize.
"I was angry for about three seconds when they said the race wasn't over yet, and then it switched to, oh, s--- my window net is down and I've got another problem I've got to deal with," Blaney said. "I felt like that did kind of take my head away from getting upset that the race wasn't over, but I would have rather not had the window net issue and just dealt with, man, I've got to get another restart."
Three takeaways from a confusing night in Texas:
Hamlin upset, but not at Blaney
Hamlin said NASCAR did not follow its rules as there is no way a driver could safely latch the window net from inside the car. He said he would have done exactly what Blaney did – and that Blaney had the race taken away from him with that caution – but that, well, rules are rules.
"This isn't a Denny Hamlin judgment call," Hamlin said. "I'm just saying whatever the rule is, let's be consistent and play by the rules.
"It's unfortunate because he made a mistake. He should have won the race — he was 100 yards from winning the race. But many cars have not won races because of green-white-checkered or because of a mistake on a restart at the end.
"Those things happen. Just all I ask is that we know what the rules are and we play by them."
Hamlin said they nearly wrecked on the final restart.
"We nearly crashed off [Turn] 2," Hamlin said. "And so when I send him headfirst and the traffic and the window net is down, I don’t know. ... Inside the car, you can’t get it back up. It’s impossible."
Blaney said he felt safe and felt he had the window net up satisfactorily. He said he wasn’t going to pit no matter what unless NASCAR forced him to pit.
"The whole caution I spent trying to get that thing latched up," Blaney said. "I didn't finally get it. I finally got it on the front stretch with the choose [of lanes coming] and I had less than a lap to do it."
NASCAR admits race should have ended
NASCAR Senior Vice President for Competition Scott Miller said they should have let the race finish before throwing the caution for Stenhouse.
"Everybody knows that we've probably prematurely called that yellow flag," Miller said. "The way that works in the tower is that we're all watching around the racetrack. 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. And we saw the car and mentioned the car against the wall, riding in the wall down the back straightaway and the race director looked up and I'm not sure what he saw, but he immediately put it out. So wish we wouldn't have done that. But we did that."
Miller said if they felt Blaney had not latched his window net, they would have told him he had to pit.
"Coming to green, he was warming his tires back up on the back straightaway — you could clearly see both hands on the wheel warming the tires up and the window net was up," Miller said.
"No way for us to know if he got it 100 percent latched or not and at that point in time, no way we can be certain that he didn’t get it latched so there’s no way we can call him down pit road."
The Big One
A scary incident early in the race occurred when Kyle Busch had a right rear tire go flat and he slowed on the track. Ross Chastain clipped him and got airborne before landing back on the track and crashing into Chase Elliott.
Busch had the best car early in the race as he had won Stage 1, but it was all for naught after the accident.
No drivers were injured.
"I guessed left ... and I froze in the moment – where you’re focused on the point of contact and if you keep looking at it, you’re going to hit it," Chastain said. "And I stared at his driver’s door and that’s where I drove.
"I should have had the reflexes to turn right and go around him."
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass.