Blaney holds on--literally---for first All-Star win

Blaney holds on--literally---for first All-Star win
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Ryan Blaney’s first All-Star win was worth the wait at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

After four of the favorites were eliminated from the race in the first 50 laps, it was any driver’s race to win. Blaney took the lead after the start of Stage 3. He only looked back long enough for NASCAR to throw a caution as he was two-car lengths away from taking the checkered flag.

With one hand on the wheel—and the other on his window net which was lowered following a premature celebration—Blaney held on to win in overtime.

“This Mustang was a rocketship,” said Blaney, who collected $1 million for the victory. “I am really glad we ended up winning that after that last caution. I am so proud of everybody. Tonight will be fun.”

Denny Hamlin finished .266-seconds behind the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. Austin Cindric, Joey Logano, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, AJ Allmendinger, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell rounded out the top 10.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Buescher and Suarez won the three All-Star Open segments to advance to the feature. Erik Jones won the 2022 NASCAR Fan Vote to pick up the fourth transfer spot. Tyler Reddick, who was considered a favorite in the Open, was wrecked two laps into the second stage and was unable to continue.

Kyle Busch dominated the first 43 laps and won the first stage on Lap 25 with Blaney, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain, Martin Truex Jr., Logano, Bell and Chase Elliott in tow. Eleven laps into the second stage, Larson blew a right-front tire and plowed into the Turn 4 wall.

“Just had a right-front tire let go,” Larson said. I got moved up, but I don’t really think that made the (tire) wear any worse. It just let g”o in the center and took off. 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.

“We’ll move on and look forward to the Coca-Cola 600, and hopefully put on some good racing there.” 

The race returned to green on Lap 44  with Kyle Busch in command but three laps later, a tire blew on the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota coming out of Turn 4. As Busch slowed coming down the frontstretch, Chastain collided with his nose and launched into Turn 1 collecting Chase Elliott in the process.

“It felt like the driver of the No. 1 car chose the wrong lane to get in,” Chastain said. “Our Worldwide Express Chevy was tight all night and we were just managing the tightness. I saw Kyle (Busch) have an issue with a tire down. I guessed left and I should have guessed right.

“It was a big hit into Kyle. It was a tough break, but we had a fast car.”

Elliott was just an innocent bystander, but it ended his night all the same.

“I saw the No. 18 (Busch) had a problem, and then I saw the No. 1 (Chastain) hit him really hard,” said the Cup points leader. “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. It was really avoidable on my end. I just kind of messed up and didn’t get the gap shot quick enough.”

In a matter of moments, three of the last four All-Star winners were eliminated from competition and NASCAR red-flagged the event for 14 minutes to clean up the mess.

"Just got a flat tire out of Turn 4, right rear is flat," explained Busch. "Unfortunate for our guys, everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. We had a really fast race car, a great race car. Led all the laps up to that point, obviously. Disappointing to not be able to finish it out and go race for the million bucks."

Cindric assumed the lead on Lap 48 and held serve for the Stage 2 win which ended under caution after Bell tagged the wall with four laps remaining in the segment. Blaney, Byron, Suarez, Bell, Kurt Busch, Truex, Stenhouse, Buescher and Bowman rounded out the top10.

The three Penske drivers remained on the track to start the final stage. Hamlin, whose team elected to take two right side tires, restarted in the top10 when the race returned to green on Lap 83. Jones hit the Turn 4 wall on Lap 105 to trigger the seventh caution. Hamlin was third and seized second from Cindric on Lap 119.

Blaney held a sizable lead over Hamlin and was coming to the checkers when Stenhouse grazed the backstretch on Lap 133 to ignite the eighth and final caution.

“We were cruising there and I just wanted to get to the white to have it covered and then the caution came out off of four,” Blaney said. “I thought it was like any other race. That rule was never kind of relayed to us. I already took my window net down and everything. My left arm is worn out from trying to get that damn thing back up.

“I got it rigged up enough to where it halfway stayed. I appreciate NASCAR for not making us come down pit road to fix it and letting me get it clipped back again to where we could stay out there.”

With a push from Cindric, Blaney survived a green-white-checkered and held off Hamlin by .266-seconds for the win. While the million dollars was intriguing, the driver of the No. 12 Ford was more excited over the celebratory six-shooters awarded to the winner in Victory Lane.

“I’m never going to forget this one,” Blaney said. “It was a very unique night.”

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