While Denny Hamlin believes Ryan Blaney deserved to win the All-Star Race, a rule is a rule when it comes to the window net, and Hamlin said that rule was broken.
Blaney won the race in overtime Sunday night with a window net that was not properly fastened. Believing he’d already won the race as he came to the checkered flag in regulation, Blaney lowered the window net before being told the race had to finish under green. He was just feet from crossing the finish line.
Failing to get the window net back up, as a driver cannot do from inside the car, Blaney got it hooked as best he could before going back green. He cleared Hamlin on the restart and drove to the win. Hamlin finished second.
“It’s tough because he deserved to win the race, but if you mess up and you break a rule – not intentionally – but there are rules, and we have rules in place for safety,” Hamlin said. “My crew chief is taking four weeks off because of safety. I nearly crashed (Blaney) 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, and NASCAR avoids another controversy because there wasn’t a wreck in a car with no window net.”
Hamlin asserted what he saw of Blaney’s No.12 window net was not a judgment call.
“You have to play by the rules,” Hamlin said.
The rulebook states: “all window net assembly fasteners must be properly tightened and remain tight during an event.
“The window net must remain flat and tight when in the raised position. Bunching, twisting, or rolling of the window net is not permitted. All 1.0 inch square openings must remain 1.0 inch square openings when in the raised position.”
“I’m just frustrated that we have a rule,” Hamlin said. “It can’t be a convenience rule. We’re taking four weeks off, my crew chief is, because of safety. I almost wrecked Blaney off Turn 2, and he had no window net up, so what happens when I wreck him and we go head-on into him? We’ve got a problem then.
“It’s just frustrating because we just have no consistency in our officiating.”
Blaney admitted he wasn’t going to pit for the window net. He also said NASCAR deemed it safe on the backstretch coming to the overtime attempt, and Blaney himself felt safe with the way it was hooked.
“Again, we just ask to play by the rules,” said Hamlin. “If you tell us what the rules are, we’re going to play by them. You can’t just change them, I mean, you can if you own the series, but it’s not fair to the other competitors. If you make a mistake and he clearly made a mistake, and he should have won the race, but if you make a mistake, you have to play by the rules.
“And if it breaks a rule, then you have to abide by it, and the results are the results. There are many races that have been lost because someone makes a mistake. Just because morally he should have won doesn’t mean you should win.”