NASCAR dug their own hole with Ryan Blaney issue

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) /

NASCAR has absolutely nobody to blame but themselves after Sunday’s disaster of an All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Generally speaking, NASCAR Cup Series races only need to be won once. But Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney needed to win twice on Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway, and even though he did just that, there was a further controversy surrounding how he pulled it off the second time.

In regular Cup Series races, once the white flag flies, the next flag ends the race, whether it is a caution flag or the checkered flag. But for Sunday’s All-Star Race, a checkered flag was needed to end the race; the race was not to end under caution.

Blaney took the checkered flag well ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, presumably securing himself the $1 million prize.

But because a car on the opposite side of the track touched the wall, NASCAR inexplicably decided that a caution was needed.

Nevertheless, it was the checkered flag which flew when Blaney crossed the line, and he was believed to be the race winner. But NASCAR didn’t see it that way, since the caution had technically come out a few yards before Blaney officially finished the race.

Believing that he had won the race (just as any other competent individual would have), Blaney took down his window net. By the time he was given the shocking news that the race wasn’t over, he had no way of reattaching the window net, creating a safety issue.

Based on the nature of the window net, the driver of the #12 Ford simply wasn’t going to be able to fasten it on his own.

But NASCAR deemed it “safe”, and the restart took place. Fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when he held off Hamlin for a second time and officially secured the $1 million prize, though some jokingly believed that the prize should have been doubled.

Hamlin admitted that Blaney was the rightful winner of the race. But he was also correct in noting that, technically speaking, the window net issue should have led to a black flag.

Many chalked it up to Hamlin being a sore loser, but the issue at hand was nothing other than safety. NASCAR easily could have allowed Blaney and his team to fix the issue and retain P1 for the restart — the restart that wouldn’t have needed to happen if not for the, for lack of a better word, “fake” caution.

It wasn’t like he made a mistake and decided it was randomly time to get rid of the window net; any other would-be race winner would have done the exact same thing after taking the checkered flag, Hamlin included.

Instead, because of the ridiculous call to throw the yellow and effectively rob Blaney of the initial victory, NASCAR decided to further dig their own hole by completely abandoning safety protocol (which should also come as no surprise after a recent ruling).

Fortunately, there were no further incidents, and the right guy won — for the second time.

To make matters worse is the fact that, during the final 50-lap stage of the event, NASCAR was guaranteed to throw the caution flag at least once anyway. If there was no caution for cause between 15 and 25 laps into the final stage, a competition caution would take place.

An incident involving Erik Jones ended up being the caution for cause, and there was no competition yellow.

Yet even then, many fans didn’t put it past NASCAR to throw an unnecessary caution later on anyway, and that’s exactly what happened, literally a split-second before Blaney crossed the line.

Yes, the race itself was terrible. Goodyear tires, yet again, struggled to hold air, creating some nasty wrecks that could have been a lot worse. Passing was next to impossible on equal tire strategies, save for restarts when one car got a better launch than another.

But there is only so much you can blame on Texas Motor Speedway.

Generally speaking, races on 1.5-mile ovals had been somewhat lackluster in the Gen 6 era, yet the Gen 7 car has produced some pretty exciting ones. So while the Fort Worth, Texas oval had already largely been considered the worst track on the schedule, there was somewhat of an element of hope surrounding this All-Star Race.

That element is justifiably gone now, but in the track’s defense, hindsight is always 20/20, especially in the eyes of the infamous Monday morning quarterback.

Yet even with the disappointment of the on-track product, the blame lies solely with NASCAR on this one.

Like it or not, bad races happen. But NASCAR went several steps too far, and they admitted their mistakes afterward, which was the right thing to do.

All in all, it was an utterly embarrassing call which seemed to stem from desperation to manufacture an exciting finish to an all-time disappointing event, and NASCAR only made matters worse with ensuing decisions.

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Despite the fact that the race wasn’t even a points race, this one is going to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many, and NASCAR has nobody to blame but themselves.