Blaney survives for first NASCAR All-Star Race victory at Texas

From having the race won to not having it won before officially emerging triumphant under the lights, Ryan Blaney outlasted Denny Hamlin and the field during an overtime shootout to win the 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 22.

The 28-year-old Blaney from High Point, North Carolina, led a race-high 84 of 140 over-scheduled laps and was initially within striking distance of claiming the checkered flag and the win during the final 50 scheduled laps.

However, an untimely caution due to an incident involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sent the event into overtime as part of the All-Star Race format that stated the event could not finish under caution.

Despite initially having issues re-attaching his window net after having it partially down prior to overtime, Blaney managed to streak away from the competition that included his Team Penske teammates and Denny Hamlin to win NASCAR’s annual exhibition event with a million dollars on the line for the first time in his career.

The starting lineup for the event was based on a newly-formatted qualifying session, consisting of a single qualifying lap session before the top-eight competitors transferred to the second round, which was an elimination bracket session. In this session, the drivers competed against one another in a side-by-side four-tire pit stop before drag-racing off of pit road and cycling for a full lap, where the first competitor across the start/finish line would transfer to the following round.

Following all qualifying sessions and rounds, Kyle Busch started in the pole position for the third time in his career. Joining him on the front row was Ryan Blaney. Twenty competitors earned guaranteed spots for the main event and they were joined by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chris Buescher, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones (fan vote), all of whom transferred from the All-Star Open.

Prior to the event, Alex Bowman dropped to the rear of the field after unapproved adjustments were made to his No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Kyle Busch broke ahead with an early advantage followed by Blaney while teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson battled for third place. Behind, Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain raced one another for fifth place.

Following the first lap, Kyle Busch was out in front ahead of Blaney, Byron, Larson, Chastain, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Chase Briscoe.

Through the first five laps of the event, Kyle Busch continued to lead by nearly half a second over Blaney followed by Larson, Byron and Kurt Busch while Truex, Chastain, Logano, Allmendinger and Briscoe were in the top 10. Chase Elliott was in 11th followed by Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace, Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, rookie Austin Cindric, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Michael McDowell, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

At the Lap 10 mark, Kyle Busch stabilized his advantage to half a second over Blaney while Larson, Byron, Kurt Busch, Chastain, Truex, Logano, Allmendinger and Briscoe remained in the top 10.

Ten laps later, Kyle Busch remained as the leader and led by four-tenths of a second over Blaney while third-place Larson trailed by nearly two seconds. Byron remained in fourth followed by Kurt Busch, Chastain and Truex. By then, Christopher Bell was in ninth behind Logano while Elliott cracked the top 10 ahead of Bubba Wallace, Hamlin, Allmendinger, Suarez and Briscoe.

At the start of the final lap of the first stage, Kyle Busch was leading by nearly half a second over Blaney. Remaining uncontested at the front, Busch was able to cruise his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota TRD Camry back to the start/finish line and win the first stage on Lap 25. With the stage win, Busch was guaranteed to start with the lead for the final stage as long as he remained in the top 15 for the following two stages.

Under the stage break, some of the drivers, led by Kyle Busch, remained on the track while others, led by Byron, pitted.

The second stage started on Lap 26 as Kyle Busch and Blaney occupied the front row once again. At the start, Kyle Busch received a strong push from Chastain to maintain the lead. Blaney got loose behind Chastain entering the first turn, which allowed Kyle Larson to rocket into the runner-up spot while Cindric and Bell also moved into the top five. In the midst of the restart, Blaney was left battling Byron for sixth place.

On Lap 30 and while Kyle Busch remained as the leader. Blaney got into the rear of Chastain through the frontstretch in a bid for third place but got loose and shot up the track toward the outside wall. As a result, Blaney dropped from fourth to sixth. By then, Bubba Wallace had made an unscheduled pit stop under green and was a lap behind the leaders.

By Lap 35, Kyle Busch continued to lead by six-tenths of a second over Larson followed by Chastain, Byron and Cindric. Running in sixth was Suarez followed by Hamlin, Bell, Truex and Elliott.

Just then, the caution flew when Larson, winner of the last two All-Star events, lost a right-front tire and pounded the outside wall hard in Turn 4. Despite limping back to pit road, the damage to his No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was terminal as Larson retired in his pit stall.

“[I] Hate that that happened,” Larson, who was released from the infield care center, said on FS1. “I felt like our car was good enough, depending on restarts since you can’t pass at all, especially the leader anyways. It’s pretty impossible to pass. Yeah, we’ll move on and look forward to the [Coca-Cola] 600 and hopefully, put on some good racing there.”

During the caution period, names like McDowell, Wallace, Almirola, Briscoe and Erik Jones pitted while the rest led by Kyle Busch remained on the lead lap.

Following an extensive cleanup, the race proceeded under green on Lap 43. At the start, Kyle Busch and Chastain dueled for the lead for a full lap until Busch managed to pull ahead and clear Chastain for the lead during the following lap. Soon after, Cindric moved his No. 2 Keystone Ford Mustang into the runner-up spot while Blaney and Byron were in the top five. 

By Lap 45, Kyle Busch was leading by nearly half a second over Cindric and Chastain while Blaney and Elliott were in the top five. 

Two laps later, trouble ensued when Kyle Busch cut a right-rear tire and was off the pace through the frontstretch. Just as Busch moved his slow car to the inside lane, he was T-boned by an oncoming Chastain, whose No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 got airborne and nearly flipped as he shot up the track, clipped Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and sent him hard against the Turn 1 wall while Chastain came to a stop below the apron. The incident, which knocked out all three competitors, was enough for NASCAR to cease the competition for more than 14 minutes.

“I felt like the driver of the No. 1 car chose the wrong lane to go,” Chastain said. “I saw Kyle have an issue, like a tire down, and I guessed left [lane] and I should’ve guessed right. Big hits. Tough break, but fast cars.”

“Just got a flat tire off of [Turn] 4,” Kyle Busch said. “Right rear’s flat. Unfortunate for our guys. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, M&M’s. We had a really fast race car. Led all the laps up until that point. Disappointing not to be able to finish it out and go race for the million bucks.”

The second stage resumed with a two-lap, overtime dash and teammates Cindric and Blaney dueled for the lead through the backstretch until the former pulled ahead through Turns 3 and 4 as the field behind jostled for positions. When the second stage concluded on Lap 54, Cindric claimed the second stage victory.

During the stage break, a pit stop competition occurred as all the remaining competitors on the track led by Cindric pitted for four tires. Following the pit stops, Team Penske’s No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang team, piloted by Joey Logano and led by crew chief Paul Wolfe, was awarded $100,000 for performing the fastest pit stop during the stage break and won the pit stop challenge. With that, Logano was given a guaranteed starting spot toward the front for the fourth and final stage so long as he remained in the top 15 during the third stage.

During the pit stops, Kurt Busch was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes.

The third stage started on Lap 55 as Byron and Blaney occupied the front row. At the start, Suarez gave Byron a bump to enable Byron’s No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to the lead while Blaney dueled against Suarez to retain the runner-up spot. With the field stacked up and dueling for spots, Bell was in fourth followed by Cindric.

Two laps later, Blaney moved his No. 12 Menards/Wrangler Ford Mustang to the front ahead of Byron as Bell tried to close in on the two leaders. 

At the halfway mark between Laps 64 and 65, Blaney was leading by more than half a second over Bell followed by Byron, Suarez, Truex, Cindric, Buescher, Hamlin, Stenhouse and Logano while Kurt Busch, Keselowski, Bowman, McDowell, Wallace, Harvick, Erik Jones, Allmendinger, Almirola and Briscoe were still running on the track and on the lead lap.

By Lap 70, Blaney stabilized his advantage to nearly eight-tenths of a second over Bell followed by Byron, Suarez and Truex. Soon after, Stenhouse, who was in ninth, dropped off the pace after his No. 47 Viva Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 sustained a flat right-rear tire.

On Lap 75, the caution returned when Bell, who was in the runner-up spot, got his No. 20 DeWalt Toyota TRD Camry loose as he made contact against the outside wall between Turns 3 and 4.

Under caution, a majority of the field led by Byron pitted while the rest, including Blaney, Cindric, Logano and McDowell remained on the track.

With the third stage sent into another two-lap, overtime shootout, Blaney rocketed away with the lead entering the first turn while his teammates Logano and Cindric struggled to go as they briefly stacked up the field. 

At the start of the final lap of the third stage on Lap 80, Blaney was leading by half a second over teammate Logano, who had Suarez pressuring him for the runner-up spot. By then, Blaney was long gone as he went on to claim the third stage victory on Lap 82. Behind, Suarez was able to overtake Logano for the runner-up spot followed by McDowell, Cindric, Byron, Hamlin, Buescher, Truex and Kurt Busch.

During the stage break and amid the reshuffling of the field, Cindric emerged with the top starting spot for the final stage followed by teammates Logano and Blaney. In addition, names like Cindric, Logano, Blaney, Michael McDowell and Stenhouse pitted while the rest remained on the track.

With the race entering the final stage comprised of 50 laps, the race proceeded under green. At the start, teammates Cindric and Blaney dueled for the lead while Suarez and Logano battled against one another for third place. As Blaney started to pull ahead of Cindric and Logano, Hamlin moved his No. 11 FedEx Toyota TRD Camry against Suarez’s No. 99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in a bid for fourth place.

Down to the final 40 laps of the event, Blaney was leading by nearly a second over teammate Cindric while teammate Logano trailed by nearly two seconds. Suarez and Hamlin were in the top five followed by Truex, Byron, Kurt Busch, Buescher and Brad Keselowski while Allmendinger, Bowman, Harvick, Erik Jones, Wallace, Bell, McDowell, Almirola, Stenhouse and Briscoe were still running on the track and on the lead lap.

Just past the final 35 laps of the event, Wallace pitted his No. 23 Dr. Pepper Dark Berry Toyota TRD Camry under green after he suffered a flat tire while Blaney continued to lead ahead of his Team Penske teammates.

With 30 laps remaining, Blaney stabilized his advantage to more than a second over teammate Cindric while teammate Logano trailed in third place by more than three seconds. Suarez and Hamlin remained in the top five ahead of Truex, Byron, Kurt Busch, Buescher and Keselowski.

Two laps later, the caution flew when Erik Jones, the Fan Vote winner, got loose and spun his No. 43 Focus Factor Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 against the outside wall entering Turn 4, with Jones’ car suffering significant damage as the driver retired.

Under caution, a majority of the field led by Hamlin pitted while eight competitors led by Blaney and including Cindric, Logano, Suarez, Buescher, Keselowski and Almirola remained on the track.

With 21 laps remaining, the race resumed under green. At the start, teammates Blaney and Cindric dueled for the lead until Blaney managed to clear the field entering the backstretch. Behind, Suarez moved up to third place while Logano and Hamlin battled for fourth place in front of Buescher, Keselowski and Byron.

Six laps later, Blaney extended his advantage to more than a second over teammate Cindric, who had Hamlin closing in for the spot.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Blaney continued to lead by more than two seconds over Hamlin, who overtook Cindric for the runner-up spot three laps earlier. Behind, Suarez and Logano remained in the top five ahead of Buescher, Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Bell and Kurt Busch. Meanwhile, Byron was back in 11th ahead of Harvick, Stenhouse, Allmendinger and Truex.

With five laps remaining, Blaney extended his advantage to nearly three seconds over Hamlin while Cindric, Suarez and Logano were running in the top five. 

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Blaney remained as the leader by nearly three seconds over Hamlin. Just as Blaney was within reach of crossing the finish line to capture the victory, the caution flew when Stenhouse got into the wall. As part of NASCAR’s policy for this year’s All-Star event to conclude under green, the event was sent into overtime.

During the caution period, some like Harvick, Truex, Almirola and Kurt Busch pitted while the rest led by Blaney, who was struggling to get his window net secured, remained on the track.

During the start of the first overtime attempt, Blaney, who was able to attach his window net to an acceptable rate without having to pit, received a push from teammate Cindric to take off with the lead ahead of Hamlin.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Blaney was still out in front of Hamlin and the field. As he cycled his way back to the finish line and with no cautions in the air, Blaney officially crossed the finish line in first place as he cashed in a million dollars.

With the victory, Blaney became the 26th different competitor to win the All-Star Race and recorded the fourth All-Star victory for Team Penske while Ford earned its first All-Star win since 2016 with Joey Logano. The victory was also a first in the Cup Series for crew chief Jonathan Hassler as Blaney also won for the first time in 2022.

“It was about to be real bad for us,” Blaney said on FS1. “I thought the race was over. Everyone thought the race was over. I already had my window net down. I do wanna thank NASCAR for letting me kind of fix it and not make us come down pit road. Yeah, that was really tough and then, having to do it all over again after trying to get that window net back up there. Great car. [Crew chief] Jonathan Hassler, everybody on this No. 12 group did a great job. Can’t thank Menards, Ford enough…This is cool! I know it’s not a points race win, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun. The party’s gonna be pretty big.” 

Hamlin, who won the All-Star Race in 2015, settled in second place but was left fuming over NASCAR’s decision to not penalize Blaney for having his window net not properly secured prior to the overtime attempt.

“You know, it’s tough because he deserved to win the race, but if you mess up and you break a rule – not intentionally, but there’s rules and we have rules in place for safety,” Hamlin said on MRN. “My crew chief is taking four weeks off [a penalty from a pit road infraction earlier in the season] because of safety. I nearly crashed him off of Turn 2 when I got squeezed there. If I send him into traffic and he’s got no window net, then what, right? Luckily, that didn’t happen.”

Cindric, who made his All-Star debut, came home in third place followed by teammate Logano while Suarez, the All-Star Open winner, completed the top five. 

Finishing in the top 10 were Bowman, Allmendinger, Buescher, Keselowski and Bell.

There were three lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 31 laps. Nineteen of the 24 starters finished the event, with 18 finishing on the lead lap.

Results.

1. Ryan Blaney, 84 laps led

2. Denny Hamlin

3. Austin Cindric, seven laps led

4. Joey Logano

5. Daniel Suarez

6. Alex Bowman

7. AJ Allmendinger

8. Chris Buescher

9. Brad Keselowski

10. Christopher Bell

11. William Byron, two laps led

12. Aric Almirola

13. Kurt Busch

14. Martin Truex Jr.

15. Michael McDowell

16. Bubba Wallace

17. Kevin Harvick

18. Chase Briscoe

19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., one lap down

20. Erik Jones – OUT, Accident

21. Kyle Busch – OUT, Accident, 47 laps led

22. Ross Chastain – OUT, Accident

23. Chase Elliott – OUT, Accident

24. Kyle Larson – OUT, Accident

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 29, during Memorial Day weekend. The event is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. ET on FOX.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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