The final laps of the NASCAR All-Star Race on May 22 turned heads for unexpected reasons. A late caution flew with Ryan Blaney just shy of the finish line, and then he completed overtime while driving with a partially-fastened window net. Now a NASCAR official has weighed in.
Scott Miller, NASCAR’s SVP of Competition, met with media members after the end of the All-Star Race to address the numerous questions. He acknowledged that the race director has jumped the gun by throwing the caution flag for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hitting the wall on the final lap.
“Yeah, so obviously, I think, you know, everybody knows that we probably prematurely called that yellow flag,” Miller said after the All-Star Race. “The way it works in the tower is that we are all watching around the race track. Obviously, the race director who has the button and makes the call has the final say about when the yellow gets put out.
“We all watched and saw the car and mentioned the car against the wall, riding the wall down the back straightaway. The race director looked up, and I’m not sure what he saw, but he immediately put it out. So, wish we wouldn’t have done that, but we did that and we’ll own that we probably prematurely put that caution out.”
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Miller Explained Why Blaney Couldn’t Make a Pit Stop
With Blaney unable to refasten his window net during the caution laps, there were concerns about potential safety issues. Many people also called for NASCAR to let Blaney make a pit stop and fix his window net before retaking his spot on the front row. After all, the All-Star Race was purely an exhibition race with no impact on the season standings.
NASCAR did not let Blaney make this stop. Miller acknowledged that the officials in the tower were not able to truly determine whether the net was 100% fastened, so they did not throw the black flag or have Blaney stop at his pit box. They also decided to avoid making a special rule change for the exhibition race.
“That would really have kind of gone out-of-character and been out of anything else that we’ve ever really done,” Miller said. “There was some speculation about doing that up there, but I think… Like I said, we saw [the net] and no way we could have known it was latched properly or not.”
NASCAR Officials Deemed the Window Net Safe
Blaney met with media members after winning the first All-Star Race of his career, and he took them through the final restart and the emotional swing after he initially thought that he had won in regulation.
“Yeah, I think that caught all of us off guard, and so it was kind of short-lived panic mode in my spot of like 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 and not being able to get a lot of leverage on it,” Blaney explained.
The driver of the No. 12 continued and said that NASCAR officials deemed that his net was safe as he headed down the backstretch in preparation for the overtime restart. He said that his net was up and that both of his hands were on the steering wheel.
“Coming to green, he was warming his tires back up on the [backstretch],” Miller added. “You could clearly see both hands on the wheel, warming the tires up. The window net was up. No way for us to know if he got it 100% latched or not. At that point in time, no way we could be certain he didn’t get it latched, so there was no way we could call him down pit road at that time.”
Once the race went green once again, the situation changed. The window net flapped as Blaney held off both Denny Hamlin and Austin Cindric. If this had been a points race, the officials would have black-flagged Blaney and made him come down pit road during the final two-lap run to the checkered flag. However, they let him continue racing.