All-Star Race winners and losers

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A look at the winners and losers in the aftermath of Sunday’s All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway:

WINNERS

Ryan Blaney — Blaney was essentially forced to win the All-Star Race twice Sunday, thanks to a “premature” caution flag thrown moments before the No. 12 Ford took the checkered flag. The race’s rules stated that it must finish under green flag conditions. With a questionably secured window net, Blaney fended off Denny Hamlin and Austin Cindric in overtime to claim the $1 million check in the exhibition race, his first All-Star win in six tries. Blaney is still looking for his first points win of 2022.

Austin Cindric — Third place in a race that doesn’t pay any points may seem fairly worthless, but Cindric had a great showing in his inaugural All-Star appearance. The No. 2 Ford was locked in via the Daytona 500 victory earlier this season and the rookie driver made it count, winning Stage 2 and competing for the win in the closing laps. Cindric hasn’t placed inside the top 10 since March at Circuit of the Americas but finished 11th at Kansas last week. A good showing at Texas might be a good boost for the team heading into next week’s race at Charlotte.

Daniel Suarez — Not all drivers who advance from the Open are competitive in the main event. Suarez proved his worth Sunday night, notching a fifth-place finish after winning the final stage of the Open earlier in the evening. The No. 99 Chevrolet was contending inside the top five and top 10 much of the night and capitalized with a top five.

LOSERS

NASCAR — While Blaney is a popular winner for the sport, fans will be centered on how the ending of the All-Star Race was officiated. The exhibition race was largely strung out by the time the checkered flag was scheduled to fall, but that was all erased when the caution came out seconds before Blaney got to the line — for innocuous wall contact by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. That decision — as well as whether Blaney’s window net was safely secured — will be scrutinized heavily.

Kyle LarsonLarson was running second in the second stage when his right front tire when flat at the exit of Turn 4, sending the No. 5 Chevrolet hard into the outside wall. Larson had won each of his last two All-Star starts (2019, 2021) and could have been the first to win in three consecutive appearances. Instead, he finished this year’s race in last place.

Kyle Busch — Busch had led each of the opening 47 laps before a right rear tire failed. And while trying to get out of his competitors’ way, Busch’s car ended up in the path of Ross Chastain, who crashed heavily into the No. 18 Toyota and then Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet. Busch seemed to have an excellent chance to win his second All-Star trophy. That wasn’t meant to be Sunday night.