FORT WORTH, Texas — Ryan Blaney needed two extra laps after thinking he had already won the NASCAR All-Star race and $1 million, staying in front through a green-white-checkered finish after a caution came out just yards before he got to the line the first time.
Blaney’s crew was already celebrating the victory in the pit, and the driver had already lowered the window net of his No. 12 Ford after crossing the start-finish line.
“Everybody thought the race was over,” said Blaney, who then had to gather himself and get the window net back in position to finish the race.
The All-Star race has to finish on a green flag, and the caution flag initially came out just before Blaney had crossed the line because Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed into the outside wall going into the backstretch.
Pushed by his Penske teammate Austin Cindric on the restart, Blaney was able to stay in front and hold off Denny Hamlin, who finished 0.266 seconds behind.
Cindric was third, and Joey Logano, another Team Penske driver, was fourth. Daniel Suarez, who got into the main event like 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 out in the second stage.
It was the fourth All-Star race victory for Roger Penske’s team. The last had been Logano in 2016.
Busch, the polesitter and 2017 winner, was leading when he had a flat right rear tire coming out of the fourth turn on lap 48 late in the second stage. He was slowing and going toward the bottom of the frontstretch when he was hit from behind by Ross Chastain, who was going about 185 mph.
Chastain’s No. 1 car went almost all the way on its left side after the rattling collision, before dropping back on all four tires and then careening toward the outside of the track and into 2020 All-Star winner Elliott.
“I saw Kyle have an issue with a tire down. I guessed left and I should have guessed right,” Chastain said.
Elliott said he saw Busch having difficulty 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 that far right that quick. I just kind of misjudged it,” Elliott said. “It was really avoidable on my end. I just kind of messed up and didn’t get the gap shot quick enough.”
Busch was the polesitter and had led all but one of the first 48 laps before the wreck. His No. 18 car wiggled coming out of the fourth turn because of a flat right rear tire, before slowing on the frontstretch.
That came only a few laps in the second stage after Larson, who had won his previous two All-Star starts (2019 and 2021), got loose going into fourth turn and slammed hard into the wall before sliding through the grass infield. Larson hadn’t changed tires and had a right front tire go down.
“It just let go in the center and took off,” Larson said. “I hate that it happened. I feel like our car was good enough, depending on restarts since you can’t pass at all, especially the leader anyways.”
Busch had led all 25 laps in a caution-free first stage after starting from the pole.
Cindric was first at the end of the second segment. Ryan Blaney was second, just like he was at the end of the first stage after starting the race there. Blaney won the third 25-lap stage and started the final 50-lap run at the front with Penske teammates Cindric and Joey Logano, whose team had the fastest pit stop between the second and third stages.
Stenhouse, Texas native James Buescher and Suarez drove their way into the All-Star race earlier Sunday in an open qualifying. Erik Jones, in the No. 43 car for Petty GMS Motorsports, got the final spot in the 24-car field on a fan vote and wrecked in the final stage to finish 20th.
Stenhouse and Buescher won the first two 20-lap stages in the qualifying race. Suarez finished in front during the final 10-lap shootout, the third time the Mexican driver has raced into the All-Star field.
Texas is the fourth track to host the annual exhibition, but only the second where the All-Star race has been 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 wouldn’t allow spectators due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway next Sunday begins the second half of the 26-race regular season before the 10-race playoff chase begins. It will be the 14th points race this season.
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