FORT WORTH, TX (AP) — Ryan Blaney talks about constructing a window sill in his Ford 12. The Penske team thought they had already won once.
“It’s oddly unique,” Blaney said. “I will never forget this.”
Such a strange night, as NASCAR later admitted, should not have been called to last minute attention in a race that had to end under the green. 2nd place Denny Hamlin agreed, but was frustrated that it wasn’t black flagged because Blaney dropped a spear net when he thought Sunday night’s race was over.
“Obviously Ryan Blaney thought he won the race,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “It’s another byproduct of the All-Star sort of special rule. Because if we had done every other race besides this he would have won the race when the warning flag came out.”
Miller said that NASCAR “probably called that yellow flag prematurely” is clear to everyone.
Checkered flags were already waving for Blainey, who was getting close to the start-finish line, and a caution light suddenly came on as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. scraped a wall from behind the field. Crew 12 was already celebrating a win in the pit, and Blaney lowered the window net in the back stretch.
“It was kind of a short-lived panic for me about how the heck I was going to re-install these window nets because it had to be two people outside the car, let alone me and my skinny arms in the car. You can’t get a lot of influence from a car sitting down,” Blaney said.
Blaney spent most of the week protecting the net while maintaining speed. He was clearly holding the handlebars with both hands until he backstretched just before starting again and when the net went up NASCAR decided he could go. Blaney said he felt perfectly safe.
“It’s tough because he deserved to win the race,” Hamlin said.
In a post-race tweet, Hamlin said NASCAR “put Blaney in his situation. To make up for it, they made him break the rules. Number two is not right. Blaney W, NASCAR L.”
Miller said there was no way to know whether Blaney had completely walked the net, but NASCAR did not see anything that could impose a penalty at the time.
Blaney said he won’t fall into the pit and also understands Hamlin’s frustration.
“But it’s just a product of running second compared to winning,” Blaney said. “If he wins the race he’ll be happy for me, and I’d be just as happy as he was when he was in second place. It depends on the field, so I can’t blame it,” Blaney said. .
Hamlin said he would have done the same thing Blaney did if the situation had been reversed.
Pushed out by his Penske teammate Austin Cindric when restarting after a green-white checkered finish. Blaney stayed in the lead and was able to stop Hamlin, who was 0.266 seconds behind.
Cindric, who finished third over other Penske driver Joey Logano, said, “Team 12 had the fastest car all night and if I don’t win, I’ll do everything I can to help him.” “I lined up behind him in the last restart and did the best I could for him.”
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