Ryan Blaney is ready to close the window on last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Officials “prematurely” displayed the caution flag moments before Blaney took the checkered flag in the All-Star Race. That sparked a chain of events that led to confusion, including whether Blaney’s window net was properly fastened after he unlatched it, thinking the race was over.
The All-Star winner plans to commemorate the victory by putting that window net on display.
“I want to hang it up somewhere,” Blaney said in a Thursday teleconference. “I don’t know. They said they can get it for me, so I think I will save that one. There is a neat story behind it. I am looking forward to getting that and I think I have a decent spot picked out for it right now. Maybe it will move around throughout the years. I am excited to keep that thing.”
Controversy surrounded the race’s conclusion, with conversations centered around both the call to display the yellow flag and whether NASCAR should have allowed Blaney to complete the race without being certain his window net was secured. Denny Hamlin, the race’s runner-up, vocalized his frustrations on his radio after the race noting Blaney was “holding it up.”
“Heck, it isn’t like I put it down two seconds after we crossed the start/finish line,” Blaney said Thursday. “I waited for a whole lap to take it down. That is when I found out it wasn’t over yet. I don’t know. We joked that next time we win I am going to come out the roof hatch. I am not even going to undo my window net. I am not even going to touch the thing.
“It was a weird deal with the rules and thinking we took the checkered (flag), but we joked that if we win another one, I will come out the right side or roof hatch just to kind of stick it to everybody. I am not touching that window net. We will see.”
Blaney said NASCAR officials spoke with him in Victory Lane and explained what happened from their perspective, noting they “admitted their mistake on the caution side of it and probably shouldn’t have thrown it.
“To me, I appreciated them coming to me and getting their thoughts on things and where they were at,” Blaney said. “It was a lot more clear to me because I don’t know those things. I don’t know what the caution was for and stuff like that. So they explained everything to me, and I appreciated them doing that.”
The No. 12 Ford is still looking for its first points victory of the year. Blaney leads the series in average running position at 10.3 and sits second in points, but his past four points races have resulted in finishes outside the top 10. That stretch includes finishes of 11th (Talladega), 26th (Dover), 17th (Darlington) and 12th (Kansas).
“I would say the last month or so, we have been okay,” Blaney said. “In some of the circumstances, I feel like we didn’t finish as good as I thought we could have. Like we went to Kansas and I thought we could have ran fifth probably at best, but we got put in a bad spot on the last restart and ended up outside the top 10 and then I hit the wall.
“Dover was kind of the same thing. We were running pretty good up towards the front and we had some pit road issues and had to go to the back. That is something that some of it is circumstantial, but you want your cars to be a little faster because it makes everything a lot easier when your car is faster.”
Texas, while an abbreviated race that didn’t pay points, appeared to be a step in the right direction for Team Penske. Blaney won the third stage and led 84 of 140 laps before winning while rookie teammate Austin Cindric won the Stage 2 and finished third. Joey Logano, the 2018 series champion, finished fourth after his pit crew won a $100,000 bonus and propelled him to third place to start the final stage.
“I think the biggest thing that helps us with momentum is that our whole group, all of Penske, we kind of tried a little something new with our cars at Texas,” Blaney said. “We have been lacking a little bit of speed. That is something we have been really working hard on trying to find, and we came to Texas with a little different idea of how to do things. It seemed to work.
“I think all our cars were pretty fast. You hope it carries over to other races and tracks and for the (Coca-Cola) 600 this weekend. That was the biggest thing for me, looking back on that race, I thought our cars were really fast and you hope that carries forward.”