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O’Reilly Auto Parts 500: Stage Racing Cost Ryan Blaney a Win

Things were looking good for Ryan Blaney. He was fast on Sunday at Texas and had the most important piece of the puzzle — track position. There wasn’t any passing once drivers were up to speed, at least up front. You had to be a lot better than the driver in front of you to even think about making a move.

I think Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. were better than Blaney at times, but dirty air was the deciding factor. The Wood Brothers had it all working for them. Blaney had led a career best and was well on his way to his 2nd stage when the caution flew.

This put the No. 21 group in an odd position. They were faced with the decision of staying out for the stage win, or coming in to set themselves up for stage three. They chose to stay out and won the stage, but paid the price under caution. Blaney restarted 20th and never recovered. He finished the day 12th.

Hindsight is 20-20, but I would have considered coming in for tires. You knew the majority of the cars were going to pit after such a long run. I want to be in the driver’s seat for the final stage. I get that Blaney wants as many bonus points as possible for stage wins, but he had a legitimate shot at a race win — better than anyone else in the field.

If you come in, you’re going to run 4-5 laps on those tires and then stay out and retake the lead. It doesn’t matter where you finish stage two. You know you would have the lead going into stage three — and that’s really all that mattered on this day. Obviously Blaney would have had to hold off Harvick, Johnson and Truex, but he showed that he could do that earlier in the race.

I think this is just a case of getting used to stage racing. This is a decision that we may see go a different way in the future. Stage wins are great, but wins are ultimately what you’re after. I’ll bet Jeremy Bullins is thinking long and hard about this one tonight.