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NASCAR: Ryan Blaney wins All-Star Race after ridiculous late caution flag

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It took Ryan Blaney two tries to win Sunday night’s All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Blaney held off Denny Hamlin and Austin Cindric on a two-lap restart after he thought he won the race just minutes before. The restart came after an unnecessary caution for Ricky Stenhouse Jr, as Blaney was between Turn 4 and the finish line. Blaney didn’t realize the caution had flown when he crossed the finish line and took his window net down to start celebrating.

He spent most of the ensuing caution trying to get the window net reattached as NASCAR appeared to not be willing to let him pit without losing his spot to get the net secured. Window nets are mandatory at all times during a race for drivers and it did not appear that Blaney's net stayed up during the overtime period. Check out the video below at roughly the 18-second mark.

The All-Star Race has to end under green per NASCAR rules. In an official NASCAR points race, a caution on the final lap would mean the race is over. But since Blaney hadn’t crossed the finish line when NASCAR called the caution, the race had to continue and Blaney had to try to win again.

Simply put, the caution was a terrible call even if it was thrown too early. Stenhouse hit the wall in Turn 2 and kept going. He was near the back of the field and wasn’t posing a danger to anyone else on the track. It’s seems inexplicable that NASCAR threw the caution with Blaney just a couple of seconds from the finish line.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Wrangler Ford, attempts to replace his window net after a caution on the final lap and before overtime in the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 22, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TEXAS - MAY 22: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Wrangler Ford, attempts to replace his window net after a caution on the final lap and before overtime in the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on May 22, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR's Scott Miller said after the race that the caution was "probably" thrown too early. Via NBC:

“We all watched and we saw (Stenhouse’s) car and mentioned the car against the wall, riding the wall down the back straightaway,” Miller told reporters after the race. “The race director looked up — and I’m not sure what he saw — but he immediately put (the caution) out. Wished we wouldn’t have done that, but we did that, and we’ll own that we probably prematurely put that caution out.”

Had Blaney not beaten Hamlin and Cindric, NASCAR’s officiating would have been a significant focus after the race. The actions of race control still deserve scrutiny, but Blaney at least bailed them out from a lot of discussion by winning the race on the final restart. And it's worth wondering why NASCAR just didn't end the race with the caution flag if it really was thrown too early given how close Blaney was to the finish line.

When will the All-Star Race end?

NASCAR needs to end the All-Star Race experiment going forward. We’ve advocated for the extinction of the race for years now and Sunday night’s race did nothing to show how or why the race should continue in its current form.

The grandstands at Texas were sparsely crowded and the $1 million prize for the winning driver and team hasn’t been adjusted in nearly 20 years. Television ratings for the race will also likely be underwhelming as Texas is one of the most lackluster tracks on the Cup Series schedule. After all, it’s a track that needed significant applications of traction compound on it so that cars could race side-by-side in the corners.

Texas got the All-Star Race ahead of the 2021 season as part of a deal that netted Circuit of the Americas a race and took a points race away from TMS. Texas doesn’t deserve two races in any capacity at this point and especially not the All-Star Race if it’s going to continue to exist in 2023 and beyond. It’s a track incapable of producing decent racing without glue on the track or tire failures.

Reddick fails to make All-Star Race

Tyler Reddick had the fastest car during the All-Star Open on Sunday but didn’t make the race after a crash while trying to race for the lead.

Reddick started 15th out of 16 cars and quickly made his way through the field. He looked set to get to the All-Star Race but instead found himself on the sidelines as the four qualifiers from the open were Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.

Each of the first three drivers mentioned won the race’s three stages while Jones won the fan vote as the most popular driver among the drivers who didn’t win or crash during the race.

All-Star Race results

1. Ryan Blaney

2. Denny Hamlin

3. Austin Cindric

4. Joey Logano

5. Daniel Suarez

6. Alex Bowman

7. AJ Allmendinger

8. Chris Buescher

9. Brad Keselowski

10. Christopher Bell

11. William Byron

12. Aric Almirola

13. Kurt Busch

14. Martin Truex Jr.

15. Michael McDowell

16. Bubba Wallace

17. Kevin Harvick

18. Chase Briscoe

19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

20. Erik Jones

21. Kyle Busch

22. Ross Chastain

23. Chase Elliott

24. Kyle Larson

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