Reddick wins Sunday’s embarrassing Round of 12 opener at Texas, my takeaways

On the hottest race day in the history of the Texas Motor Speedway, we saw one of the worst NASCAR races to ever occur. We saw multiple drivers crashing while leading. We saw fire. We saw rain on a day with minimal rain chances. We saw lighting. We saw a driver crash another driver under caution without penalty. We saw chaos.

In the end, more than 5 hours after the race started, Tyler Reddick outlasted the exhausted field in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark 500 at Texas. It was Reddick’s 3rd career Cup Series win, all coming this year, but his first on an oval (the other 2 came at Road America and Indianapolis).

Reddick led 3 times for 70 laps on Sunday but took over the lead for the final time on lap 311 and would lead the final 34 circuits for a bittersweet win for the third-year driver.

“We had a lot of issues today, I’m not going to lie,’’ Reddick said with a smile, listing a number of setbacks from pit road mishaps, vibrations in his No. 8 RCR Chevrolet to holding off a hard-charging Logano, who has now taken the NASCAR Cup Series championship lead by 12 points over Trackhouse Racing driver Ross Chastain.

While a win is a win and this is one that he’ll celebrate as much as the others, this win felt different in a sense that if he could have made it past the first round, a win like he had on Sunday would have stamped his name into the Round of 8.

Instead, it’s just another win as he becomes the 4th straight non championship eligible driver to win a playoff race following Erik Jones (Southern 500), Bubba Wallace (Kansas) and Chris Buescher (Bristol).

Reddick was nervous that his No. 8 Chevrolet would even last until the end. The day say a flurry of tire problems with crew chiefs having to adapt knowing that the Goodyear tires weren’t going to last for a full stint.

16 cautions for 91 laps ensued with most of the crashes being single car incidents due to blown tires. It happened to three race leaders in fact.

Playoff driver Chase Elliott found the Turn 4 wall on lap 183 while leading. It ended his day in 32nd. Kevin Harvick was the next race leader victim on lap 252. Then it was Martin Truex Jr’s turn from the lead on lap 267.

Reddick found the lead on lap 281 and would lead 53 of the final 54 laps. That entire final stint had Reddick on edge because he not only knew that several cars were crashing due to tire problems on Sunday, but he too has crashed from the lead on multiple occasions this season due to tire failures as well.

“Every time we’ve had a strong car we’ve been bit by something,’’ said Reddick, who announced earlier this season he is leaving the RCR team to go to 23XI Racing in 2024.

“This is a tough race, 500 miles here is not an easy feat and I know it wasn’t easy on you,’’ Reddick said motioning toward the grandstands. “So great to win here in a Cup car, been close here a couple times.’’

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 25: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 Lenovo/ThinkEdge Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Trader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Still, Reddick led playoff driver Joey Logano across the finish line by 1.190-seconds in the end for his second top 2 finish in 4 Cup starts on this track to go along with 5 top 2’s across his last 8 Texas tries if you factor in his final 4 Xfinity Series starts as well.

For Logano, this was a day about survival. He started 2nd and finished there to net his 3rd top 5 finish in his last 5 Texas starts including 12 total in general.

Justin Haley scored a quiet third place finish in his No. 31 Chevrolet while Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe rounded out the top five.

Sunday was also a day that saw more troubles for playoff drivers. Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman joined Elliott in all finding the Turn 4 wall and all did so by the end of the second stage. Each of the three are now on upset alert to even get out of this round.

Bell, Bowman and Elliott have each struggled in this Fall Talladega race. Elliott has never had a top 5 in it and just 1 top 10 in his 6 starts. Bowman’s Fall race finishes at Talladega are 33rd, 37th, 14th and 38th. Bell has finished 34th, 23rd, 22nd, 19th and 36th on these tracks this season.

We also saw Ross Chastain get collected in Aric Almirola’s late race incident on lap 305 and drop him down to finishing 13th. Denny Hamlin was running 3rd and slightly got into William Byron late in the race too. It squeezed Byron into the Turn 2 wall. Byron said he broke a toe link but continued on. Not too long later, a caution occurred and Byron who was displeased with Hamlin, purposely spun Hamlin under caution while Hamlin was 2nd and Byron in 3rd.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” said Hamlin. “I tried to wreck him (William Byron) back. I don’t think we touched. I got to look. I don’t think we touched. Obviously, he sent us into the infield under caution.

Byron wasn’t penalized and it drew the ire of his competitors. He’d end up finishing 7th with Hamlin who had to restart outside the top 20 went from a potential race win to being 10th.

“Yeah, he (Denny Hamlin) ran me out of room,” Byron said of the incident. “The toe link. We’re lucky we finished. It was really, really hard contact. It wasn’t like just a light contact or anything like that. Yeah, I didn’t mean to obviously spin him out over there. Obviously, I’m pissed off — just not going to get run like that.

“We’ve always raced so well together. I don’t know what it was all about. The 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) took his air away, he ran out of racetrack, so he chose to run me out of racetrack completely. Again, look, it’s not like it was just contact. I thought we were going to be done. I went to go show my displeasure. I didn’t mean to hit him and spin him out. There’s a ton of guys that do this and go do something like that. I see it all the time. I’m just not going to get run like that. Yeah, there’s really no reason. We’re running second and third I think. Had a shot to win. Killed our car, for sure. That was a bummer. We’ll probably talk. Look, we’ve never had issues, so I didn’t really get it. … Yeah, it was uncalled for. Feel like we handled it.”

Hamlin says that while he wasn’t going to handle it on the track, he’ll be around Byron again and has his name on a list of a handful of other drivers that will be facing a payback from him soon.

“I keep hearing these guys. I’ll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance,” Hamlin said on Byron said that he’s never had a problem with Hamlin in the past. “They’re going to get it. It all just works itself out. We’ll be racing each other at some point. He’ll lose a lot of spots because he’s racing me. This is hard racing, obviously. I’m fine with hard racing. But wrecking me under caution is obviously not what we were bargaining for.”

However, NASCAR may have payback themselves as they admitted that not only did they not see the incident, that they would have given Hamlin his spot back as well. Also, they didn’t rule out a potential future penalty for Byron as well.

I have to be honest with you. When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” said Scott Miller, Senior Vice President of Competition.

“The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass. By the time we got to a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.

“I’m not sure that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”

Kyle Larson was also running near the top 5 in the end but got loose in the resin and slid up the track. He lost a few spots which relegated him to a 9th place result.

Chase Elliott gets out of his car after crashing in Sunday’s playoff race at Texas on Lap 183

Elliott Going To Need Those Playoff Points Again? Forgoing Stage Points Could Cost Him

Chase Elliott went off strategy in the opening stage to forego points for track position in the end. It paid off. He pit on Lap 98 and after the opening stage ended, he was back in the top 10 as those in front all hit pit lane.

Then came that Lap 136 caution for Christopher Bell. It put everyone on the same pit cycle and with Elliott with track position and on that same sequence, this was playing out well for him.

He would take over the lead on Lap 138 and would maintain it until he had a right rear issue and smacked the Turn 4 SAFER barrier on Lap 183. It ended his race with a 32nd place finish.

“The tire blew apart, that’s why I crashed,” said Elliott. “Something came apart, I could hear it flapping in the right-rear fender well. If it wasn’t down, it was certainly coming apart.”

Does he regret not getting stage points now? He has to hope advancing to the Round of 8 doesn’t come down to that.

Like last round, Elliott crashed in Darlington and finished 36th. He was only 11th in Kansas but sat good enough above the cut line due to his 40 playoff points he accumulated in the regular season.

That was with 16 drivers though. Now it’s down to 12. How much does this crash cost him?

It could a lot. He’s only +4 now and heading to Talladega to where anything can happen. He’s not had a top 10 in any of his six Fall races at the track there. His finishes are 12th, 16th, 31st, eighth, 22nd and 18th respectively in fact.

Then it’s to the ROVAL to where he’s won in 2 of the last 3 years and may need a win in 2 weeks..

“It’s not a great position to be in for sure, it is what it is now. We were actually decent here for once, that was nice while it lasted. We’ll go to Talladega and try to survive and get a win down the road.”

LOUDON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – JULY 17: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem/WATTS Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 17, 2022 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Bell’s Championship Hopes Now In Peril

Entering the Round of 12, no driver was as hot as Christopher Bell. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the only one to score a top 5 finish in all 3 opening round playoff races and found himself first in points after the first round.

“It makes me really excited about where we are going, especially Texas – which is one of my best race tracks,” Bell said following his top 5 in Bristol. “I proud of everyone on this group. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum.”

However, with the points reset, he dropped to 4 points up on the cutline heading to a pivotal track to his championship hopes. Bell hasn’t fared well on drafting tracks in 2022 and has been equally as bad on road courses.

His Daytona finished were 34th and 36th respectively. His Talladega result in April was 22nd. For road courses, he was 3rd, 27th, 18th, 12th and 8th respectively.

That’s why Texas was key to him. He had finished 3rd here in each of the last 2 years and had a realistic shot at a victory.

“Looking at the next seven races, I would say Texas is arguably the most important race, outside of Phoenix (the championship race),” Bell said. “Talladega, we all know how that is – there is going to be some lucky guys, and some unlucky guys.

“Texas is kind of the one place where you can control your destiny into the next round and the winner is going to feel really good if it is a playoff car.”

Instead, he only qualified 22nd and after 2 tire problems, he would finish a disappointing 34th in his No. 20 Toyota dropping him to 29 points below the cutline now.

“To have two right rears go in the first half of the race is very strange,” Bell said. “I don’t know. It’s a very disappointing day. We are probably going to be in a deep hole now.

“Talladega – I guess we are going to go roll the dice. We were hoping to come out of here good and be able to ride around and just survive Talladega. We are going to have to race and get some stage points and be up front all day.

“[At the] Roval, I think we will be alright. Road courses haven’t been our strength, but we have been good at a couple of them. I don’t know if we are going to be able to get out of this points hole, but we will give it our best.”

Kyle Busch’s miserable last 4 months continued with a crash on Sunday in Texas

Kyle Busch’s Bad Luck Continues

Kyle Busch is counting down the days until 2023. That’s all he can do. The end of this 2022 season has been nothing but troubling for the one multi-time NASCAR Cup Series champion in the garage today.

When asked after his third DNF in the last 4 weeks what would flip the script on this season?

“2023,” he quipped.

Busch lost control of his No. 18 Toyota in Turn 4 and hit the outside SAFER barrier on Lap 48 causing him to finish last (36th) in Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway.

“I didn’t know as a race car driver you could push too hard, but certainly, it was a resin issue,” Busch said after his crash. “I guess you would think being a hundred-and-something degree track temp, it would be activated and ready to go, but I tried to get in it earlier than everybody else. I was behind the No. 11 [Denny Hamlin], catching the No. 11. If I tracked the No. 11 in the lower groove, I was going to lose time to him, so I just decided to go high and try to keep time or make time on him and it just snapped.

“Once these cars snap, they are gone. They are not like the old one where you have a little bit of time to react and catch it. But yeah, just trying hard trying to go and conditions are not ready. Banana peels out there, it seems. When that stuff is not activated, it is just ice.”

Busch has finished 30th, 26th, 34th and 36th respectively in the playoffs. 2 of the 3 races ended in an engine failure. That’s why for the first time of his career, he was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.

However, that’s not where these problems started. It stems back to his contract situation in early June.

On June 5, he finished runner-up in the inaugural race at Gateway. That’s the last time in the last 15 races that he’s had a top 5 finish. In fact, he’s only had 2 top 10’s since then and those finishes were 9th and 10th at that.

By comparison, at the time of his last top five, it was his third straight top 3 and 5th in the last 7 races.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 25: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 Lenovo/ThinkEdge Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Trader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Embarrassing Playoff Race With Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Kyle Larson said on Saturday afternoon in Texas. A day later, I think he’ll have some fighting between who’s going to drive the bulldozer. It’s time for an end to Texas. This is just embarrassing. A playoff race, one that holds a lot more weight than most others on the schedule, just produced the worst race of the season and arguably one of the worst in the entire history of this sport. I know the 2008 Brickyard 400 would like a chat but you have to put this sad excuse for a race in that category with that event.

While I get there’s a lot of blame to go around here, you can’t dismiss that Texas once again didn’t produce. While I get that there was a 56-minute red flag for lightning, this race began at 3:49 p.m. ET and didn’t end until 4-hours, 21-minutes and 53-seconds later not counting that red flag period.

16 cautions for 91 laps occurred. Multiple crashes for race leaders via blown tires. Some hard hits too. Which is why this isn’t solely on Texas. This is a Next Gen problem. This is a Goodyear problem too. How much longer as we going to keep doing this? When is enough, enough? Is it when we critically injure someone?

These crashes are far from what they were with this old car. I don’t care what the data says. The drivers are saying they feel more violent than they did before, and I would tend to side with the ones feeling the effects from them.

Cody Ware slammed the Turn 4 wall due to an issue and slammed into the pit wall as a result. He nearly went through the opening. What happens if he hits a person behind pit wall? Is that when we’re going to react?

What happens if that driver is knocked unconscious and slams into someone behind the pit wall? Both can happen. Do we react then?

“My whole body, literally my jaw hurts,” Denny Hamlin said after his Daytona crash. “I feel like my jaw was one of those boxers who gets his whole face demolished. That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us (about the impacts), all the other drivers, it’s true.”

As much as we’ve gained and improved in a lot of areas, we’ve taken a step back in others. Safety is one you should never fall back on and so far this season it’s proven that we have. Between the fires and the hard hits, you can’t ignore the fact that this car is more violent so far than the past one.

Kurt Busch wrecked on July 23 and he’s still dealing with effects of that routine crash 2 months later.

“The safety cannot be slow,” Harvick stated. “This car is screwed up as far as the way that it crashes. And whether the data says it or not, every driver in this garage will tell you that’s not right, and it hurts — feet hurt, hands hurt, head hurt.”

Then you have the unacceptable parts failure. Power steering units, steering racks, fires, etc, this just can’t keep happening.

“It blew the seal out and pushed all the (power steering) fluid out on the right-front tire. Just unbelievable,” Martin Truex Jr. said at Bristol after his mechanical failure. “What did (Kevin) Harvick say? Crappy parts. … You literally can’t drive the car here without power steering. You lose it, you’re done. It’s been a horrible string of luck for us, and we had another strong car tonight. We were working our way forward, every run going forward. Ready for this year to be over and start over.”

That’s exactly what Harvick said after his car spontaneously erupted in flames at the Southern 500.

“I’m sure it’s just the crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” Kevin Harvick said in an NBC TV interview after exiting the race. “We haven’t fixed anything. It’s kinda like the safety stuff, we just let it keep going.”

“The car started burning, and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and as the flames got bigger it started burning stuff up. I think you see all the brake fluid. It burned the brake line. The fire was coming through the dash.

“What a disaster. For no reason. We didn’t touch the wall, we didn’t touch a car and here we are in the pits with a burned up car and can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts. 

“I just stopped. The rocker was on fire for a couple laps. I just stopped because I couldn’t see any more as the flames were coming through the dash. I couldn’t make myself sit in there and burn up.”

Now we have tires as an issue again. 2 straight weeks. Bristol and now Texas.

“Bristol is definitely a unique load case,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition last week. “Some things cropped up with the steering that weren’t expected. Honestly no excuse, but with the newness of this car and the newness of everything, I think that it’s not acceptable to have problems, but it’s probably part of the learning process for us. 

“All the teams and (manufacturers) were involved in the RFP process when we chose the parts. Everybody’s got a stake in this, and it’s not just NASCAR choosing quote-unquote, crappy parts.

“With every part of this car actually being a new part and a new design, I think historically in racing, and in any walk of life, when you do something completely new … there’s a learning curve. 

“We’re in that learning curve and working really hard to make sure that everything works. I think for the most part it has.

“We did have some steering issues at Bristol. That is, again, a part that was chosen through the RFP process, and it is team-serviceable. That’s where we are right now. 

“Are we looking to improve on when we have problems? We absolutely 100% are every single day. What happened at Bristol was not acceptable. We will diligently work to come up with a solution to where that doesn’t happen again.”

Well, it happened again. 6 days later. This was just as bad if not worse. It would be one thing to blame this car, blame this track, but at what point do we blame Goodyear too.

Both Goodyear and NASCAR knew this tire was a problem in May and here we are 4 months later, and it was worse.

“It has been widely documented that the balance of the Next Gen car has shifted towards the rear,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “On a weekly basis, optimizing tire performance is a key element in having a successful weekend. Air pressure, suspension geometry and shock settings work in unison to get the most out of the tire package. Being aggressive in any one of those areas is certainly a recipe for short-term speed, but the risk vs. reward of those choices can often come back and bite you.

“We work very closely with teams throughout the week and at the track, providing as much data as we can to help them make the right tire choices. We understand that teams are in a constant search for speed, but finding the edge of that envelope is key to finishing races.”

Someone screwed up for Texas because they couldn’t go very long without problems creeping up which is why I fault all 4 sides, the track, NASCAR, Goodyear and this Next Gen. We’re 30 races into the season and it’s not gotten any better.

These are some serious issues and while you can applaud the parity, how much of that is a direct result of the top teams being taken out unexpected chaos not of their doing.

From faulty parts, to blown tires, to cars spontaneously combusting, that’s had a direct involvement in these final finishing orders.

I get this car has a wider tire and the loads in the corners are higher as a result. So, if we know that, why aren’t we making the necessary changes?

As far as Texas though, this track greatly helped this because you just can’t race here. Get out of the racing line and you have to get off the gas and slide up the track. You can’t catch it like you can elsewhere. That’s a track problem, not a car or driver.

That track has become a disaster ever since that repave/reconfiguration. There’s talks now of a complete do over.

“I think they should just put it back to the way it was from my standpoint,” Jimmie Johnson lobbied. “In all my years in Cup, it was the best mile-and-a-half, especially once it aged, from my perspective.

“Based on my previous experience in NASCAR, I think just put it back.”

Larson agreed.

“For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration,” Larson said. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever.

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

But will they? Atlanta got a revamp and it’s 2 races were a slam dunk. Does Texas go in the direction that Atlanta did or does it go in a different route?

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Denny Hamlin says anything, even another superspeedway is better than what is here now.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

It’s hard to just resurface the turns because that costs money and you’re basically doing what you’re already done without any capital coming back in. While you absolutely can’t put any traction compounds back on those areas, is the configuration really going to be that much better?

That’s part of the issue to why traction compound even had to be put down to begin with. So then you open the door to repaving the entire track and reconfiguring again. While you’re at it, why not do something to stand out because if you haven’t noticed, 1.5-mile tracks are a dying form.

No matter what they do, they have to do something because they’ve already lost 1 points paying race for the All-Star race and that event flopped so badly there, it got taken away after just 2 years.

They’re in jeopardy of becoming the next Chicagoland and Kentucky…

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” Logano said.

Reddick Further Proof That He’s The Real Deal

Kyle Busch was worried about his future and has seen no top 5 finishes and just 2 top 10’s over the last 4 months (15 races). Tyler Reddick’s is still undecided, but he’s won 2 of the last 9 races and has 3 career wins, all coming since July 3.

Yes, Richard Childress said that he’s going to own his end of the bargain by keeping Reddick in a car for him in 2023. However, not many people buy that scenario. Childress just paid big money to bring Kyle Busch over which begins in 2023 too. Busch is taking over the 8 car that Reddick is driving now.

It leads you to believe that on a day Busch and Reddick bookended the finishing order, Busch in 1st and Reddick in last, that Busch has to be counting down the days until he takes over this ride.

“2023,” Busch said when asked what he can do to turn these misfortunes around.

However, why would RCR keep Reddick in a 3rd chartered car that they don’t yet own? It’s going to cost 8 figures to get that off the ground. Does RCR have that kind of money to pay for a charter, pay for cars, pieces, team members, etc?

Some suggest that it would be cheaper for RCR to negotiate a buyout for Reddick to let him go early. Reddick has to hear that and has to wonder what 2023 will hold?

If this truly is a 3rd car, how competitive will it be or will this just be a stash away ride? Does 23XI Racing have room for him for 2023? They keep maintaining that they don’t want to force him over early because they announced the signing 18 months early for a reason.

So here we are, entering October, and Reddick’s 2023 plans are in flux. All the while, he’s still winning races and if he wasn’t eliminated in the Round of 16, this win on Sunday would put him in the Round of 8…

Of Note

Denny Hamlin was screwed by NASCAR twice at Texas this year. For the All-Star race, Ryan Blaney should have been black flagged for lowering his window net after he thought he took the white flag in May’s annual race. He was going to celebrate his $1-million win.

However, NASCAR threw the caution before he took the white in a trigger that was too quick. It was controversial in a sense but a yellow is a yellow and now Blaney was dealing with a safety issue. He couldn’t get his window net secured back up. He had to hold onto it.

NASCAR didn’t black flag win. He’d win. Hamlin was 2nd.

On Sunday, NASCAR admitted that they missed the call for Hamlin to get his spot back after William Byron spun him while him under caution while he was running in 2nd.

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