Ryan Blaney says NASCAR deemed his window net safe before the overtime attempt where he went on to win the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway.
“They deemed it safe on the backstretch coming to the green because it was up and latched, and I had two hands on the wheel,” Blaney said.
The window net was lowered because Blaney thought he’d already won the race. He was feet from the checkered flag when the caution was displayed for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brushing the wall off Turn 2. Blaney lowered the window net before being informed All-Star Race rules state the race must finish under green.
“Coming off (Turn) 4, I guess the caution came out 300 feet or so before the line,” Blaney said. “None of us knew that you had to see the checkered flag, I guess. I think we just had it locked in our heads that the leader takes the white flag, and the next flag ends the race. I guess that wasn’t the case. But we all thought it. I thought it. Josh (Williams, spotter) said we won. Jonathan (Hassler, crew chief) got on the radio and said congrats. So, on the backstretch, I took the window net down, and then Josh told me off of [Turn] 4 they’re saying the race isn’t over and you need to end under green.
“I think that caught all of us off guard, so it was kind of short-lived panic mode in my spot of how the hell am I going to get this window net back up? Because it almost takes two people to do it outside the car, let alone me and my scrawny arms inside the car sitting down, not being able to get a lot of leverage on it. I could get millimeters away from latching it, and I’d have to give up. My shoulder is going to be junk in the morning.
“But I was able to get it latched, finally, enough to where it was up and sealed and NASCAR deemed it safe. Yeah, very, very odd, wild. Luckily it worked out for us that the best car ended up winning the race.”
Blaney spent the entire caution trying to get the window net up, but it was never properly secure. With his focus on the window net, Blaney said he wasn’t paying attention to warming his tires or anything else a driver does under caution.
However, Blaney said he wasn’t going to pit to get it fastened and he, too, felt it was safe the way he hooked it.
“I finally got it [hooked] on the frontstretch with the choose [rule],” Blaney.
Denny Hamlin, who finished second, was notably upset afterward. Hamlin believes a rule was broken and NASCAR let it slide. Blaney understands where the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is coming from.
“I’d be upset too if I was in position,” Blaney said. “You’re running second, and the guy makes a mistake and puts the window net down, and you expect it to be handed to you if the leader gets black flagged. So, I can understand his frustration for sure. But obviously, I’m not going to say I’m frustrated about it. It worked out for us; we had the best car all night. We were leading by three seconds before the last caution.
“I can understand where he’s coming from. But that’s just a product of running second compared to winning. He would be over the moon elated if in my position if he won the race, and I’d be ticked off just like he was if I was second. So it just depends on the spot.”