KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Tyler Reddick took advantage of a late caution and fresh tires to rocket past six others in a two-lap sprint to the finish Sunday, and he punched his ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with his win at Kansas Speedway.
Denny Hamlin, who co-owns Reddick’s car along with Michael Jordan, got a poor jump when the green flag dropped, was unable to chase Reddick down and finished second. Erik Jones held on for third and Kyle Larson, who won at Darlington to clinch his playoff spot a week ago, marched through the field in the closing laps to finish fourth.
“Just an outstanding job by this whole 23XI team,” Reddick said. “We had really good pace, we just couldn’t get ahead of Denny there, but chaos ensued. Then the bottom lane opened up there and it was crazy.”
It was the third win for the No. 45 car of 23XI in the last four races at Kansas Speedway, and all with different drivers after Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace won last year. Its owner, meanwhile, nearly pulled off the sweep after Hamlin won in the spring.
“I should have just focused forward probably — gave the 45 a chance to get up there in front us,” said Hamlin, who was trying to keep track of Larson behind him on the final restart. “Just gave too much room to the cars in front of me to kind of get up and get out there. Just a bad move. Need to get a little better.”
The win was the second of the season for Reddick and the fifth of his career but, more importantly, sends him out of the round of 16 in the playoffs for the first time. The cut-off for the top 12 to advance comes next weekend at Bristol.
Hamlin was cruising to the win when Chris Buescher blew his right rear tire with about six laps to go. That forced the leaders into the pits, and just about everyone had a different tire strategy to set themselves up for the two-lap finishing sprint.
Reddick, who was second at Darlington, led 23 laps at Kansas in the spring. With his fresh tires under him, and taking advantage of Hamlin’s miscue, he led the one that mattered most on Sunday.
It was a tough race for several playoff drivers. Wallace and Martin Truex Jr. also blew right rear tires, which has been a problem with the latest generation car at Kansas, and sustained heavy damage. Wallace was able to continue after repairing a toe link and finished 32nd, but Truex’s day was done after just three laps and he finished last.
There was more drama at Kansas for Larson, who was bumped by Hamlin for the lead on the last lap in the spring.
On the final stop before the finish, the No. 5 car had to quickly jerk to the right to avoid Brad Keselowski coming out of his stall, and that sent him door-to-door with Chase Elliott, who is not in the playoffs but was aiming for his first win of the year.
The minor contact didn’t sit well with Elliott, who bumped Larson back when the cars got back on the track.
Keselowski still doesn’t have a win since April 2021 at Talladega, when he as still at Team Penske, and Buescher has been overshadowing him lately with three wins for RFK Racing. But the No. 6 car has quietly been running up front, finishing second to his teammate at Daytona, sixth at Darlington and ninth on Sunday.
Truex, the regular-season champion, came into the race 25 points above the playoff cut line and left in peril. Truex had his right rear tire go down in the opening laps, sending him into the wall with heavy damage and ending his day.
“I knew something was up for sure, just didn’t realize it was going to blow the tire out,” said Truex, who swept both races at Kansas in 2017 and had been in the top 10 all but one race since then. “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. I hate it for my team.”
The series heads to Bristol next week for the final race before the cutoff. Playoff contender Christopher Bell, who sat on the pole at Kansas and finished eighth, won the spring race at “The Last Great Colosseum.”