Reddick steals the win at Talladega

PAUL NEWBERRY Associated Press

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Tyler Reddick stole a NASCAR Cup victory at Talladega Superspeedway when front-runner Michael McDowell, who was weaving up and down the track trying to block Brad Keselowski, crashed Sunday with the finish in sight.

It was another wild finish at Talladega – and the start of a raucous party on pit road with one of Reddick’s team owners, Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.

“This is like a playoff game in the NBA,” Jordan said in Victory Lane. “I’m so ecstatic.”

McDowell, the pole sitter, dominated the closing laps and was in position to give Ford its much-needed first win of the year. But his chaotic attempts to block Keselowski, another Ford driver, cost them both.

McDowell spun, Keselowski had to check and Reddick sped past to claim his sixth career Cup win by 0.208 seconds.

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A pile of cars behind them was also knocked out. Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 machine slid across the finish line on its side, pinned to the wall in front of the massive grandstands.

Reddick got out of car No. 45 and sped over the fence like Spider-Man.

“That was crazy, fans,” he shouted. “Chaos. Typical Talladega.”

Keselowski settled for second and again fell short of his first victory since 2021 during this 4.26-mile trioval in eastern Alabama.

“We were going to make a move and Michael covered it,” Keselowski said. “We went the other way and had nowhere to go when Michael came back. That’s just how it goes.’

Reddick’s win made up for a failed strategy that eliminated a number of Toyota contenders, including his team co-owner Denny Hamlin.

All three Toyota teams pitted together with 37 laps to go, with a strategy that would have allowed them to push the pace on the rest of the fuel-efficient field – with the idea of ​​driving all the way to the front for the checkered flag.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep their cars straight.

Just four laps later, as the Toyota train moved single file at a blistering pace, chasing the lead group, John Hunter Nemechek appeared to get into the bumper of Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 machine, which knocked off Erik Jones and crushed him. hard in the outer wall.

Nemechek then slid down the track and also eliminated Hamlin.

“We had a plan,” Wallace said. “We just didn’t execute as well as we should have. I hate it. It doesn’t make us look good at all.”

Jones took the brunt of the impact, a crash that would have been much worse without the sturdy cars and foam barriers.

“I’m a little sore, but I’m fine,” Jones said after leaving the field care center. “If you want to be stupid, you have to be tough.”

Reddick was at the front of the pack and avoided the crash.

In the end he was able to celebrate an unlikely victory.

Clean racing

In contrast to the crazy finish, the first two stages were caution-free – the first time this has happened at Talladega since the stage system was introduced in 2017. Many drivers were focused on saving fuel and there weren’t many bold moves.

Finally, on lap 132, with the cars stacked three wide and tightly together in the center of a huge train, first took place.

Justin Haley was hit from behind and crashed into Christopher Bell, whose car suffered heavy damage that left him in last place.

Impressive kiwi

Shane Van Gisbergen put together a strong run in the first oval race of his budding NASCAR Cup career.

Van Gisbergen, the stunning winner of the Chicago street race in his Cup debut last summer, showed the depth of his talent by leading laps and staying out of trouble to the end during the harrowing 4.26-mile trioval.

Unfortunately for the 34-year-old from New Zealand, he got caught up in the final battle and failed to cross the line. He finished 27th.

Starting at the back

Season points leader Kyle Larson started the race at a major disadvantage after his team was penalized for changing the roof rails on his No. 5 car on the way to the qualifying line Saturday.

Larson, who had won three poles in a row, was excluded from qualifying, had to start from the back of the field and was ordered to take a drive-through penalty on the opening lap. By the time he got up to speed he was at least half a lap behind the field and, with no one to draw with, was caught by the leaders on lap twelfth.

NASCAR also ejected Larson’s car chief, Jesse Saunders.

Larson managed to work his way back into the mix, but ultimately was not a contender. He finished 20th.

Next one

The Cup Series heads to Dover Motor Speedway next Sunday, where Martin Truex Jr. won the race a year ago.