Denny Hamlin doesn’t hold Ryan Blaney responsible for his late-race window net adjustment, but he thinks NASCAR should obey its own regulations.
In the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday night, Blaney first claimed the checkered flag ahead of Hamlin. On Sunday night, however, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was cautioned on the penultimate lap.
Blaney would have been crowned champion under regular circumstances, but specific rules for this year’s race required the victor of the last 50-lap section to capture the triumph under a green flag.
Blaney, believing he had already triumphed, had let down the window net on the driver’s side of his No. 12 Ford, forcing the race into a two-lap overtime.
Blaney remained on the racetrack and tried to make the best of the netting he could – and NASCAR never summoned him to pit road to replace it. Blaney won the All-Star race and the $1 million reward by 0.266 seconds on the restart.
“This isn’t a Denny Hamlin judgement call,” Hamlin said. “I’m just saying, ‘Whatever the rule is, let’s be consistent and play by the rules.’ It’s unfortunate because he made a mistake.
“He should have won the race (the first time). He was a 100 yards from winning the race. But many cars have not won races because of a green-white-checkered or a mistake on a restart at the end. Those things happen.”
Window netting fasteners must be “fully tightened and remain tight during an event,” according to NASCAR regulations, and racers have been required to pit during races to repair broken window nets.
On the penultimate lap, Hamlin even raised a serious safety worry when two cars nearly collided in Turn 2 while vying for the win.
“I nearly crashed (Blaney) … if I send him into traffic and he has no window net, then what?” Hamlin said. “Then they have a lawsuit on their hands.
“That’s the rule. I dunno what we’re talking about here. That’s not a judgement call. You got to play by the (expletive) rules.”
Nevertheless, if he had been in Blaney’s shoes, Hamlin confessed that he would have waited for NASCAR to make the call for him to pit and have the window net problem fixed.
In this case, that never happened.
“If they just look away and turn the other way and say, ‘That rule don’t count right now’ then more power to him. I would have done the same thing 100 percent,” Hamlin said.
“I don’t know whether it’s a moral problem that they have – ‘Well, we’ll cost him the win because we threw the caution and we hate to take away that.’ I think they just had a moral dilemma instead of just playing by the rules like they’re supposed to.”
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