Tyler Reddick survives a ‘calm’ afternoon at Talladega for first win in 17 races

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 21: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 21, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

A calm afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway turned into utter chaos on the final lap Sunday and saw Tyler Reddick emerge from the mess celebrating his first win of 2024.

Michael McDowell led a race high 36 laps and was in control of the race with 10 to go managing two lanes of cars behind him. He battled with Reddick with less than five to go, as a third line led by Shane van Gisbergen was trying to make a run on the outside.

Kyle Busch jumped up to the third line with 3 to go followed by Ty Gibbs. Gibbs’ momentum slowed the third lane and the two lanes led by McDowell and Reddick were left to settle it.

On the final lap McDowell was leading the bottom line with Brad Keselowski pushing him followed by Noah Gragson. Coming out of Turn 4 Keselowski, winless in 117 races, shot McDowell ahead leaving himself a gap. Keselowski tried to go high, McDowell moved up to block, then down to try and block again as Keselowski moved low. McDowell moved across the front of Keselowski and was sent spinning as Reddick shot by and took the checkered flag.

“It was chaos,” Reddick said. “When you come to Talladega that’s what you expect. That’s for sure. So cool to get my second win here. First in the Cup car. Man, what a day.”

Keselowski was second, and Gragson held on for third.

“The Fords were really working well together,” Keselowski said. “We cleared the Toyotas on the bottom lane, and it was pretty clear it was going to come down to the three of us. I backed up. Noah gave me a great push and I went to make a move on Michael, and he covered it, and I went back the other way and got another push from Noah and there was nowhere to go when Michael came back down. I hate that for him. He’s a good guy. I hope he’s alright. That’s just kind of the way this stuff goes…It’s a solid day, but not the win we wanted.”

The McDowell spin set off a multi-car crash behind that swept up much of the rest of the field and included Corey LaJoie’s Chevrolet sliding along the outside wall drivers’ side, across the finish line.

Much of the race was caution free including the first two Stages as drivers worked to save fuel. However, most of those laps were run with a three wide pack and the field separated by less than two seconds giving an edgy energy to the race.

In Stage 1 ending on lap 60, there were 26 lead changes among 11 drivers with Austin Cindric winning the Stage by inches over Chase Elliott.

Stage 2 that ran until lap 120, also ran caution free and saw 25 lead changes among 7 drivers. Joey Logano won that stage, his first of the season.

The first caution for cause came on lap 133 when Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, and Justin Haley get together coming into turn after Bell spun. Briscoe and Haley were able to continue, as Bell became the first car out of the race.

Reddick had a bit of luck on his side as he nearly saw his race come to an end early.

The second caution for cause flew on lap 152 when a group of 6 Toyota’s including Reddick pitted under green in an effort to undercut the rest of the field on fuel. That move backfired when the group crashed coming into Turn 3 sending three cars: Erik Jones, Bubba Wallace, and Denny Hamlin to the garage.

“Yeah, it was certainly really a crappy day for about 20 minutes, and then it all turned around pretty quickly,” Hamlin who co-owns 23XI Racing said. “I watched it from turn two in the infield. I was trying to be the first one out of here, but gladly I probably will be the last one today.”

The final 27 laps were caution free and controlled by McDowell until that final lap that left his Ford destroyed and in 31st place in the frontstretch grass well short of the finish line.

“It’s hard,” McDowell admitted. “I need to see a replay to tell you everything perfectly, but we did a good job getting out front and controlling the race and putting ourselves in position. Brad is so good at this place and he drug back and I drug back as quick as I could and was able to block that first run that he made, but then when I came down for the second one he was just to my bumper. I mean barely, barely got me so it’s unfortunate. I hate it for him and I hate it for everybody that was behind that.

“ It’s the last lap at Talladega. We’re all going for it, but we really needed to get a Ford Mustang Dark Horse in Victory Lane and we had a shot at doing it there. Unfortunately, I just made a bad move there to put us in that spot.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman were fourth and fifth.

Anthony Alfredo, who led 4 laps and ran in the top 10 much of the race was sixth, William Byron seventh. Todd Gilliland, Daniel Hemric who led 8 laps and Harrison Burton rounded out the top 10.

“We had an awesome Chevy today,” Alfredo said. “We drove to the front and led some laps. At the end there, we were just kind of boxed-in. I couldn’t really do a whole lot, especially when that third lane formed. I wanted to join that party earlier, but I was just trapped on the bottom. I pushed as hard as I could.

“In typical Talladega superspeedway racing fashion, it got a little crazy coming to the line. I just yanked it hard left, flew through the grass and somehow opened my eyes and I crossed the line in sixth.”

Reddick was able to celebrate after the race with his 23XI Racing co-team owner, NBA legend Michael Jordan. A first for both of them.

“I mean, in the past it hasn’t really worked out,” Reddick said. “But, funny enough…I didn’t know Michael was here until after the race was over.

“Maybe that was the trick, us not knowing that he was here, because in the past when we’ve known he’s here… we always push really, really hard, right, but it would make it extra special if we were able to take him to victory lane.

“Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t know he was here until it was all said and done.”

It has now been 10 races into the season without a Ford win.

The series heads to Dover Motor Speedway in Delaware. Martin Truex Jr. is the defending winner at the 1-mile concrete oval.




Photos: NASCAR at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday Apr. 21, 2024

Greg Engle