Denny Hamlin had a broom in hand, but Tyler Reddick denied his team owner the chance for a Kansas sweep Sunday.
Hamlin, who won the race at Kansas Speedway in the spring seemed to have the race well in hand in the second half and had a comfortable lead with less than 10 laps to go. But with 7 laps to go the races 9th caution came out when Chris Buescher lost a tire and hit the wall.
The yellow sent the leaders to the pits or a mad dash with the top 3 led by Erik Jones taking just 2 tires, with the rest led by Hamlin and Reddick taking 4.
On the restart Logano and Jones fought at the front for the lead, while Hamlin seemed to lay back. Coming to the white flag, Reddick charged to the bottom underneath the pair and stretched his lead out, holding off Hamlin who had gotten by Jones for second to win by .327 of a second.
“Just an outstanding job by this whole 23XI team,” Reddick said. “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.”
It was the 4th win in the last five Kansas races for the No. 45 of 23XI Racing and the third different driver. The win also comes in the 100th race for the team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
For his part Hamlin said he was trying to get momentum on the final restart.
“Well, the 5 (Larson) 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 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.”
For Jones the final drama of the overtime came after drama before the race. Prior to the start the team had to change a broken transaxle and barely got the car to the grid.
“Yeah, I just needed to clear the 22 in 3 and 4, which I tried to do all I could,” Jones said. “It’s just when a guy gets loose under you and kind of runs you up, you get tight, too, so I had to lift, and then the 45 obviously had a big run there.”
Behind Jones Kyle Larson was fourth. Larson led the most laps on the day, 99 and won Stage 1, but a decision by his team to stay out during a caution on lap 127 cost him and he fell deep in the field. While not in contention for the win he was able to rally for the top 5 finish.
“It’s a bummer, but sometimes it goes that way,” Larson, who won the opening round race at Darlington said. “All-in-all, we were able to recover. I only got into the wall once today. We had two great cars to start the playoffs. You have to look at the positives. We got stage points, so that’s good, as well.”
Joey Logano’s call for 2 tires meanwhile netted the driver who wasn’t competitive all race long the fifth spot.
The Kansas Speedway reputation of chewing up Playoff drivers continued Sunday and it didn’t take long. Martin Truex Jr. had a right rear tire blow on lap 4 and was out of the race. As a result, NASCAR’s regular season Cup series champion in the Cup series is in serious danger of not advancing to the next round of the Playoffs.
“I knew something was up for sure, just didn’t realize it was going to blow the tire out,” Truex said. “I felt like the right rear was soft. I was hoping it was going to go down on the straightaway, not going into turn three. Really unfortunate. In hindsight, I guess I should have just pitted, but at that point in time, you just don’t know if the car is just really tight or what’s going on. It’s a real shame.”
Then on lap 53, William Byron spun coming out of Turn 2 seconds after Austin Dillon smacked the wall coming out of the same turn. Byron’s Chevy seemed to suffer no damage, but he struggled the rest of the race finishing 15th.
Last year’s race winner and Reddick’s teammate at Kansas Bubba Wallace finished second in Stage 1 on lap 80. He was in second on lap 108 when his Toyota lost a right rear tire. The car was able to continue but needed to have the toe link repaired, fell 6 laps down and finished the day 32nd 4 laps down.
Chase Elliott led 47 laps and appeared to be enroute to his first win of the season but had to settle for sixth. Kyle Busch started from the rear of the field and finished seventh.
Polesitter Christopher Bell had a pit crew swap this week, but that didn’t seem to help as he had several slow pit stops that saw him lose spots. He was able to rally, however, and finished 8th.
Brad Keselowski won Stage 2 and led 23 laps and was 9th. Alex Bowman came home a quiet 10th place.
Other Playoff drivers: Kevin Harvick was 11th, Ryan Blaney 12th, and Ross Chastain saw his team’s first pit penalty of the season, a crewmember over the wall too soon, leave him in 13th.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 23rd, Michael McDowell 26th and with his late race tire failure Buescher was scored 27th.
Truex is below the Playoff cutoff line by 7 points, Wallace -19, Stenhouse -22 and McDowell -40.
The final race of the first round will be this Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway where Buescher is the defending winner.
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