With a bold move to the front of the field in overtime, Tyler Reddick won Sunday‘s Hollywood Casino 400 and left his car owner frustrated at the end of the second NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race at Kansas Speedway.
Reddick beat Joe Gibbs Racing driver and 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin to the finish line by 0.327 seconds. Hamlin led 63 laps and was more than two seconds ahead of Reddick when Playoff driver Chris Buescher blew a right rear tire on Lap 261 of a scheduled 267 to cause the ninth and final caution.
Diverging strategies then gave Reddick the opening he needed to gain automatic entry into the Playoffs‘ Round of 12. Daniel Suarez stayed out on 31-lap-old tires and inherited the lead. Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano made two-tire stops and restarted second, third and fourth.
Reddick restarted on the bottom of the third row and surged forward while Hamlin hung back in the top lane. After the field rounded Turn 4 on the restart Lap, Reddick shot to the bottom of the track and took the lead right before the start/finish line.
On the final circuit, third-place finisher Erik Jones moved up the track on the backstretch to block Hamlin‘s progress for a moment, and that gave Reddick all the breathing room he needed to secure his second victory of the season, his first at 1.5-mile Kansas and the fifth of his career.
“Just an outstanding job by this whole 23XI team,” Reddick said, after climbing out of the window of his No. 45 Toyota during his celebratory burnout.
“We had really good pace, but just couldn’t get ahead of Denny there, but chaos ensued, people stayed out, some took two tires, and the bottom lane opened up. Pretty crazy.”
Beaten by a car he owns, Hamlin took the defeat philosophically. The second-place run leaves him 49 points ahead of teammate Martin Truex Jr., the first driver below the current Round of 12 cut line.
“Well, the 5 (Kyle Larson, behind Hamlin in the top lane for the final restart) was just laying back so much,” Hamlin said. “I was trying to back up to him. Should have just kind of focused forward probably.
“It gave the 45 (Reddick) an opportunity to get up there in front of us. Just kind of sleeping on the restart, looking in the rear view instead of looking in the front.
“Just another really, really fast car—just didn’t need that caution at the end.”
Larson finished fourth after leading a race-high 99 laps and winning the first stage. Logano came home fifth, thanks to the two-tire call by crew chief Paul Wolfe. Chase Elliott was sixth, followed by Kyle Busch, pole winner Christopher Bell and Brad Keselowski, who won the second stage.
The race, however, had dire consequences for Playoff drivers now in danger of elimination next Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Disaster struck Regular Season Champion Martin Truex Jr. before the race was four laps old. As the field was working Lap 4, Truex started to slow on the backstretch and then slammed the wall in Turn 3, the result of a cut tire.
With the suspension on his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota damaged beyond repair, Truex retired to the garage in 36th place and fell seven points below the cut line for the Round of 12.
“Just unfortunate and very unlucky,” Truex said after exiting the infield care center. “I took off really tight, and I knew something was up, and then cut a right rear. Not really sure what happened, obviously, but it blew in the worst place possible.
“I hate it for my guys. We had an awesome Bass Pro Toyota Camry. We were going to have a great day, just not sure what we need to do to get some luck here.”
Bubba Wallace was next to have his hopes of advancement to the Round of 12 suffer a crippling blow. Wallace was running second on Lap 108 when his right rear tire exploded, sending his No. 23 Toyota hard into the outside wall.
Wallace brought the car to pit road to repair a bent right rear toe link and lost three laps in the process. After a second trip to pit road, he was five laps down in 34th place and could recover only to 32nd by the end of the event.
Now 14th in the Playoff standings, Wallace leaves Kansas 19 points behind Kevin Harvick in 12th.
After two brushes with the outside wall, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came home 23rd and is 22 points behind Harvick. Michael McDowell dropped 40 points below the cut line with a 26th-place result and realistically needs a victory at Bristol to advance to the Round of 12.
— NASCAR News Wire —