NASCAR on final caution: ‘We probably prematurely put that caution out’

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A senior NASCAR official conceded that series officials “prematurely … put that (final) caution out” just before Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line, creating a bizarre finish that would have been more controversial had Blaney not won Sunday’s All-Star Race after the overtime restart.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, made the comment to reporters after Sunday night’s race.

NASCAR called a caution after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the backstretch wall on the final lap. Stenhouse continued and stayed out of the way of the cars behind.

The caution lights illuminated moments before Blaney crossed the finish line to win the race. Normally, Blaney would have won anyway, but the All-Star Race has a special rule that the event must end under green flag conditions — a point made at the end of a rules video teams and media are given before the event.

“We all watched and we saw (Stenhouse’s) car and mentioned the car against the wall, riding the wall down the back straightaway,” Miller told reporters after the race. “The race director looked up — and I’m not sure what he saw — but he immediately put (the caution) out. Wished we wouldn’t have done that, but we did that, and we’ll own that we probably prematurely put that caution out.”

Thinking he had won, Blaney unlatched his window net to begin his celebration.

Told the race was not over, Blaney said on his team’s radio: “Are you serious, the race is not over?”

Blaney then spent the much of the caution trying to latch his window net. If the window net is down, NASCAR calls the driver to pit road to have the window net put back in place, citing the safety issue.

NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race
Ryan Blaney struggled to put his window net back up after he had unlatched it, thinking he won the All-Star Race before he was informed that a late caution forced the event into overtime. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Miller explained why Blaney was not called to pit road before the final restart:

“We saw him struggling to get it back up, but coming to green (for the final restart), he was warming his tires back on the back straightaway. 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 can be certain he didn’t get it latched, so there was no way we could have called him down pit road at that time.”

Runner-up Denny Hamlin raised questions about what NASCAR did.

Asked if NASCAR should have let Blaney come to pit road to put the window net back up but retain his position, Hamlin said:

“Then you’re changing the rules. You can’t change the rules. Why? Because you feel bad for the guy? I’ve had race-winning cars for the past four weeks and I’ve had stuff happen to me. That’s doesn’t mean they’re going to say, ‘Well, you should have won the race, so we’ll give you the win.’ It doesn’t matter. You can’t make up rules.”

Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart — facing a four-race suspension starting next week for a wheel that came off Hamlin’s car at Dover — raised his concerns about NASCAR allowing Blaney to run under caution with the window net down.

After the race, Hamlin and Gabehart discussed on the team’s radio what happened to Blaney.

“He (expletive) was holding (the latch) up,” Hamlin said of Blaney. “He should have won the race anyway. 

Gabehart responded on the team’s radio: “I don’t disagree, (Blaney) should have won the race. I just don’t really understand how letting a tire roll down pit road gets me four weeks off and he can run around with the window net down. … Yes, I purposely said that the way I did.”

Hamlin then said on the team’s radio: “Because they make up rules. They answer to themselves. That’s what they do. This is not new.”


COTA Truck race results: Zane Smith wins

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Reigning series champion Zane Smith won Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

The victory is Smith’s second of this year.

MORE: COTA Truck race results

Kyle Busch finished second and was followed by Ty Majeski, Tyler Ankrum and Ross Chastain.

The key moment came when Parker Kligerman‘s truck came to a stop on the frontstretch at Lap 28. Smith, running second, made it to pit road before it was closed. Busch, who was leading, had already passed pit road entrance.

Smith gained the lead with the move, while Busch had to pit under the caution and restarted 16th. Smith was able to build a lead and beat Busch by 5.4 seconds.

Stage 1 winner: Christian Eckes

Stage 2 winner: Kyle Busch

Who had a good race: Ty Majeski’s third-place finish is his best of the season. … Tyler Ankrum’s fourth-place finish is his best of the year. … Corey Heim has finished sixth two races in a row. … Rookie Nick Sanchez finished seventh, giving him back-to-back top 10s.

Who had a bad race: Parker Kligerman was running third when electrical issues forced him to stop on track just after the end of the second stage. … After winning the first stage, Christian Eckes had mechanical issues and had to pit for repairs, costing him several laps.

Notable: Front Row Motorsports has won the Truck COTA race all three years. Todd Gilliland won the race in 2021 and Zane Smith has won it the past two years.

Next: The series races April 1 at Texas Motor Speedway (4:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series XPEL 225
COTA winner Zane Smith’s truck catches fire after he did his burnout on the frontstretch. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

COTA Cup starting lineup


Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, who has won two of the first five races of the season, will lead the Cup field to the green flag Sunday at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron will be joined on the front row of the starting lineup by Tyler Reddick, the only driver to win multiple races at road courses last year.

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Austin Cindric starts third and is joined in the second row by Jordan Taylor, who is filling in for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick car.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

William Byron wins Cup pole at COTA


William Byron will start on the pole for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas.

Byron won the pole with a lap of 93.882 mph around the 3.41-mile road course Saturday. He becomes the first Cup driver to win a pole at four different road courses: Charlotte Roval (2019), Road America (2021), Indianapolis road course (2021) and COTA (2023).

MORE: COTA Cup starting lineup

Byron will be joined on the front row by Tyler Reddick, who had posted the fastest lap in Friday’s practice and fastest lap in the opening round of qualifying Saturday. Reddick qualified at 93.783 mph.

Austin Cindric (93.459 mph) qualified third. Former IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, substituting for an injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, qualified fourth with a lap of 93.174 mph. AJ Allmendinger (93.067) will start fifth.

Taylor’s performance is the best qualifying effort by a driver making their Cup debut since Boris Said started second in his Cup debut at Watkins Glen in 1999.

Ross Chastain, who won this event a year ago, qualified 12th. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen qualified 22nd, former world champion Jenson Button qualified 24th, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 31st and IndyCar driver Conor Daly qualified 35th.

Sunday Cup race at Circuit of the Americas: Start time, TV info, weather


Is this Toyota’s weekend?

Chevrolet won the first four races of the season. Ford won last weekend with Joey Logano at Atlanta. Is it Toyota’s turn to win its first Cup race of the season? Or does Chevrolet return to dominance?

Chevrolet drivers have won 11 of the past 12 Cup races on road courses. The exception was Christopher Bell‘s win for Toyota at the Charlotte Roval in last year’s playoffs. Chevrolets have won the two previous Cup races at COTA: Chase Elliott in 2021 and Ross Chastain in 2022.

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: Brendan Hunt, who plays Coach Beard in “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV+, will give the command to start engines at 3:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Drivers meeting at 2:45 p.m. … Driver introductions at 3:05 p.m. … Invocation will be given by Sage Steele, ESPN broadcaster, at 3:30 p.m. … Jaime Camil, actor from “Schmigadoon” on Apple TV+, will perform the national anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 68 laps (231.88 miles) on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 15. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: Fox will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Pre-race coverage begins at 2 p.m. on FS1 and moves to Fox at 3 p.m. … Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and will also stream at; SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.


FORECAST: Weather Underground – Mostly cloudy with a high of 80 degrees and a 2% chance of rain at the start of the race.

STARTING LINEUP: COTA Cup starting lineup

LAST YEAR: Ross Chastain scored his first career Cup win in a physical battle with AJ Allmendinger on the final lap. Alex Bowman finished second. Christopher Bell placed third.


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