It was a NASCAR All-Star Race that won’t be remembered as a classic.
And, for winner Ryan Blaney, it almost went in the record books as an upset loss.
Blaney outran Denny Hamlin, who was racing with fresher tires, and his Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric, in a two-lap overtime to score his first All-Star victory, pocketing $1 million Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.
Blaney rocketed to a three-second lead in the fourth and final stage of the race and was cruising to an easy win. But his victory was delayed when NASCAR threw the caution flag an instant before he crossed the finish line first in regulation. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had hit the wall on the last lap.
Blaney and virtually everybody else at the track thought he had won the race at that moment. He went so far as to drop the window net on his car so the celebration could begin. But NASCAR bunched the field for a restart. The rules for the race call for it to end under green-flag conditions.
Blaney’s challengers had a second chance, but he powered away from them quickly and won by .26 of a second over Hamlin.
Blaney was not able to reattach the window net, and officials allowed him to hold it in place for the two-lap run to the finish. This didn’t sit well with Hamlin, who said after the race that NASCAR rules call for the net to be attached.
Blaney was simply relieved to keep first place despite the last-second caution and the drama with the window net.
“Everyone thought the race was over,” he said. “I already had my window net down. I want to thank NASCAR for letting us kind of fix it. Then I had to do it all over again.”
For the first 47 laps, the race belonged to Kyle Busch. He led every lap and seemed invincible, setting a precedent for a night in which there was little serious competition at the front of the field.
The first stage (25 laps) was uneventful as Busch sailed away from the rest of the field. The lack of action drew the attention of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who tweeted, “Stage 1 was about as fun as a rice cake.”
The calm disappeared in stage two, and Busch was the main victim. A tire went down on his Toyota, and Busch slowed. Ross Chastain sailed into the area and slammed into the left rear of Busch’s car, contact that launched Chastain’s car into the air and then into Chase Elliott’s car.
Busch, Chastain and Elliott all left the race with smashed cars, and the dynamic of the evening suddenly changed with three of the top cars sidelined.
Cindric outran Blaney to win the second stage, and Joey Logano’s crew won the pit crew competition after the stage to earn $100,000 and a third-place starting spot for Logano in the final stage.
Blaney won the third stage and was easily the class of the part of the field that remained. He had no competition in the final stage until the night’s final caution almost cost him what appeared to be certain victory.
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Brexton Busch and Stacking $20 Bills
Even as a 7-year-old racer, Brexton Busch, son of Kyle Busch, is stacking $20 bills. Trace those dollars to his uncle, Kurt Busch.
“I made a deal with Brexton,” Kurt said. “I said every win you get for your whole life, I’m going to give you $100. So he has to call me or text me after each of the wins. I think I’m up to 14 now, so it’s gone … to $1,400. …But it’s all going into an account, and it’ll tally up over the years.”
We all should have such an uncle.
Speaking of Kyle Busch, he said over the weekend that he still has an interest in eventually racing in the Indianapolis 500.
In the meantime, Busch said he’s closely following former Cup champion Jimmie Johnson’s experience at this year’s 500.
“He’s always been fast in stock cars and everything else, so it’s no surprise to see him being up on the charts this time around,” Busch said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him go next Sunday.”
Health 'Moment' for Chastain in Truck Race
Ross Chastain had a “moment” at the conclusion of Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race and needed medical attention.
Chastain said he was “lazy” during the week and didn’t keep up with hydration protocols. He was helped out of his truck and taken to the infield care center, where he received two bags of IV fluids. He finished 12th.
“I just didn’t hydrate enough,” Chastain said. “I was fine in the truck. I mean it was hot. It was a hot race, and I went to get out and I went to step out of the truck on the floorboard and my left calf locked up, like it cramped. Then my left hamstring and then my hips both did.
“I’ve never had cramping like that, and when that amount of pain comes in it creates lightheadedness and all of that. It’s not fun, so I’m not going to let it happen again.”
How Kyle Busch Won All-Star Pole
The zany process for determining the starting grid for the All-Star Race led to a not-so-surprising conclusion: Kyle Busch emerged in the No. 1 spot.
After a traditional qualifying session determined the fastest eight drivers, the top eight moved into an elimination bracket format. They competed in pairs, with the runs starting with four-tire pit stops. The drivers roared out of the pit area and then took a lap on the track, with the faster advancing.
Busch outran Ryan Blaney in the finale to nab the pole.
“Any time you’re able to showcase the pit crew’s ability and their athleticism, I enjoy that,” Busch said.
Tyler Reddick Wins in Xfinity Series
Tyler Reddick put Big Machine Racing in an Xfinity Series victory lane for the first time Saturday as he won the SRS Distribution 250 at Texas Motor Speedway. Reddick won in the series for the 10th time. William Byron was second, 1.82 seconds behind.
Stewart Friesen Wins Truck Race in OT
Stewart Friesen is back. Friesen outgunned Christian Eckes in a two-lap overtime run to win Friday’s SpeedyCash.com 220 Camping World Truck Series race at TMS. The victory was Friesen’s first since 2019.