Overcoming a late challenge, Ryan Blaney wins the NASCAR All-Star Race – Orlando Sentinel
FORT WORTH — Ryan Blaney needed two more laps after thinking he had already won Sunday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race and $1 million, staying ahead thanks to a green-white checkered finish after a warning went out a few meters before reaching the line the first time.
Blaney’s crew were already celebrating in the pits and the driver had lowered the window net of his #12 Ford after crossing the start-finish line.
“Everyone thought the race was over,” said Blaney, who then had to pull himself together and put the window net back in place to finish the race.
The all-star race must end on a green flag, and the warning flag initially went out just before Blaney crossed the line because Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed into the outside wall entering the straight.
Pushed by Penske teammate Austin Cindric on the restart, Blaney was able to stay ahead and hold off Denny Hamlin, who was 0.266 seconds behind.
Cindric was third and Joey Logano, another Team Penske rider, was fourth. Daniel Suarez, who entered the main event as Stenhouse through a 16-car open qualifier earlier in the day, finished fifth.
Former NASCAR All-Star winners Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson all crashed on stage two.
It was the fourth all-star win for Roger Penske’s team. The last had been by Logano in 2016.
Busch, the poleman and 2017 winner, was in the lead when he suffered a punctured rear right tire coming out of the fourth corner on lap 48 at the end of stage two. He was slowing down and heading down the front stretch when he was hit from behind by Ross Chastain, who was traveling at around 185 mph.
Chastain’s #1 car went nearly all the way on its left side after the resounding crash before dropping onto all four tires and then heading off the track and into the 2020 All-Star winner, Elliott.
“I saw Kyle having a problem with a flat tire. I guessed left and I should have guessed right,” Chastain said.
Elliott said he saw Busch struggling and saw Chastain hit him really hard.
“I just didn’t give him enough room. I knew he was going to go straight, I just didn’t realize he was going to go this far and this fast. I just misjudged it,” Elliott said. “It was really avoidable on my side. I just got it wrong and didn’t manage to grab the gap fast enough.
Busch had led all but one of the first 48 laps before the sinking. His #18 car jolted out of turn four with a punctured right rear tire before slowing down the front stretch.
It only happened a few laps into stage two after Larson, who had won his previous two all-star starts (2019 and 2021), broke away at turn four and slammed into the wall hard before sliding through the grass field. Larson had not changed tires and had a flat front right tire.
“He just let go in the middle and took off,” Larson said. “I hate that this happened. I feel like our car was pretty good, depending on the restarts since you can’t pass at all, especially the leader anyway.
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Busch had led the 25 laps in a first stage without warning after starting from pole.
Cindric was first at the end of the second segment. Blaney finished second, just as he was at the end of the first stage after starting the race there. Blaney won the 25-lap third stage and entered the final 50-lap race in the lead with teammates Cindric and Logano, whose team made the fastest pit stop between stages two and three.
Stenhouse, Texas native James Buescher and Suarez battled their way into the All-Star race earlier Sunday in an open qualifier. Erik Jones, in the #43 Petty GMS Motorsports car, secured the last spot in the 24-car field in a fan vote and wrecked on the final stage to finish 20th.
Stenhouse and Buescher won the first two 20-lap stages of the qualifying race. Suarez finished ahead in the final 10-lap shootout, the third time the Mexican rider has raced in the all-star field.
Texas is the fourth track to host the annual exposition, but only the second where the Star Race has been held multiple times. The inaugural All-Star Race was held in Charlotte in 1985, with Atlanta hosting in 1985 before 33 in a row in Charlotte. The race moved to Bristol in 2020 when North Carolina did not allow spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday will begin the second half of the 26-race regular season before the start of the 10-race playoff pursuit. This will be the 14th points race this season.