By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Clearly, Ryan Blaney had one of the strongest cars in Saturday’s Sprint Showdown, but a restart violation with one lap left in the race’s first 20-lap segment squelched his hopes of advancing to the Sprint All-Star Race.
Blaney was in hot pursuit of leader Chase Elliott when NASCAR called a caution on Lap 15 because of Michael McDowell’s spin through the infield grass. To begin Lap 20, the one that would decide the first transfer position, Blaney and Elliott entered the restart zone side-by-side.
But NASCAR flagged Blaney for jumping the restart, a penalty that sent the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford to the rear of the field for the start of the second segment. Blaney spent the rest of the race trying to work his way to the front and fell two spots short, finishing third in the final 10-lap run.
“First of all, we had a really, really good car,” Blaney said after the race. “We had a shot at the first segment, and the 24 (Elliott) kind of took my line away there (before the caution), which is what you’re supposed to do, and then we had that restart. He was spinning his tires on the bottom and the 6 (eventual segment winner Trevor Bayne) was pushing me, and I was half-throttle on the brakes and I don’t know what to do.
“I’ve got someone driving me forward, and the 24 is spinning his tires. I don’t know what I could have done to stop. I really don’t, and we maybe beat him by two feet. I don’t know. It’s such a weird and tricky call to make. It’s a judgment call and it’s unfortunate it bit us, but I think one thing we can look back and be proud of is how fast our car was. It’s a shame we won’t be racing tonight, but it’s definitely something to look forward to next week (in the Coca-Cola 600).”
Yes, Blaney beat Elliott to the start/finish line, which is permissible on a restart. But Blaney was penalized for putting power down in the restart zone a split second before Elliott did, which is not permissible.
Image: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway