FORT WORTH, TEXAS — Ryan Blaney won Sunday’s All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway, but it didn’t come without controversy to end the race.
Blaney, who dominated the second half of the race, seemed well on his way to an easy victory. He took the white flag with a 2.5-second lead with victory in his sight.
As Blaney exited Turns 3 and 4 toward the checkered flag, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the outside wall on the backstretch. NASCAR called a caution as Blaney was mere feet from the start/finish line.
Stenhouse Jr. seemed out of the way, and after the race, NASCAR admitted they prematurely called a caution.
“The race director looked up, and I’m not sure what he saw, but he immediately it [the yellow] out,” said Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition. “I wish we wouldn’t have done that, but we did that and we’ll own that we prematurely put that caution out.”
In a points-paying race, NASCAR would deem the race complete and call Ryan Blaney the winner. But, under special rules for the All-Star Race, NASCAR stated the event must end under green flag conditions.
After crossing the finish line, Blaney cruised around to the backstretch and lowered his window net. He thought the race was over.
“I think we just got locked in our heads of the leader takes the white flag, the next flag ends the race,” Blaney said. “We all thought it. I thought it. Josh (Williams, spotter) said we won. Jonathan (Hassler, crew chief) got on the radio and said congrats. So I got to the backstretch and I took the window net down.”
To continue racing, Blaney needed to re-raise his window net, a task typically completed by crew members outside of the car. Blaney tried to latch it for several minutes but could not fully raise it.
“I think that caught all of us off guard,” Blaney said. “It was kind of short-lived panic mode in my spot of like how the hell am I going to get this window net back up.”
Finally, Blaney raised the net and NASCAR gave the OK to complete the green-white-checkered finish. Blaney held off Denny Hamlin and Austin Cindric to win the race, but the net partially fell during the attempt as it wasn’t properly latched.
“Coming to green, [Blaney] was warming his tires on the back straightaway and you could clearly see both hands on the wheel,” Miller said. “The window net was up. No way for us to know if he got it 100% latched or not.
“We wouldn’t have allowed him to start if it was just laying down on the door.”
Hamlin finished the race in second and was unsurprisingly upset at the situation. He didn’t like NASCAR’s decision or the format of the race, which many fans thought was confusing.
“Never should have been a yellow in the first place,” Hamlin tweeted. “They put Blaney in the situation he was in. To make up for it they let him break a rule. 2 wrongs don’t make a right. Blaney W, NASCAR L.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR on NBC commentator and former Cup Series driver, voiced his displeasure with the All-Star Race.
“Nascar is gonna gladly let you debate the window net so as you don’t reflect on how ridiculous that yellow flag situation was as Blaney was crossing the finish line to win,” Earnhardt Jr. tweeted.
After the race, angry race fans didn’t hold back on Twitter.
If you watched the 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
— Dalton Good 1️⃣8️⃣🏁 (@daltongood18) May 23, 2022
The All-Star Race just doesn’t have the same feel to me anymore.
— 𝙈𝙄𝘾𝙃𝘼𝙀𝙇 𝙋𝘼𝙇𝙈𝙀𝙍 (@Mikey2082) May 22, 2022
I know it is easy to pile on #Nascar, but damn that was bad. Bad track. Bad format. Bad racing. Bad start time. Bad final caution. Bad ruling on the 12. NASCAR needs to rethink the ENTIRE All-Star race.
— Classic Nascar (@classicnascar) May 23, 2022
— ✨Chrissi Luttrell✨ (@ctluttrell9) May 23, 2022
From its inaugural running in 1985 up until 2019, Charlotte Motor Speedway always hosted the All-Star Race. In 2020, Bristol Motor Speedway hosted due to the COVID-19 pandemic before NASCAR moved it to Texas in 2021.
The Cup Series returns on Sunday, May 29 for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.