Tyler Reddick wins Cup Series playoff race at Kansas Speedway after late restart

AP photo by Colin E. Braley / From left, Erik Jones, Joey Logano and Tyler Reddick race down the front straightaway at Kansas Speedway on the final lap of Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series playoff race in Kansas City, Kan.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Every time Tyler Reddick walked into a competition meeting at 23XI Racing and talk turned to Kansas Speedway, it seemed just about everyone in the room had a win there but him.

There's team co-owner Denny Hamlin, who has won at the track four times, more than anyone else. Kurt Busch, who recently officially retired as a driver but remains a consultant for the team. And then there's Bubba Wallace, Reddick's teammate, who won at Kansas a year ago.

"We joked about that," admitted Reddick's crew chief, Billy Scott, "that he's the only one that sits in our debriefs without a win."

Not anymore.

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 his win at Kansas Speedway punched his ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Hamlin got a poor jump on the last restart, couldn't chase Reddick down and finished second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Legacy Motor Club's Erik Jones held on for third, and fellow Chevrolet driver Kyle Larson, who won the Southern 500 at South Carolina's Darlington Raceway a week earlier to clinch his playoff spot, marched through the field to finish fourth for Hendrick Motorsports. Team Penske's Joey Logano was fifth, the best finish for a Ford driver.

"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."

Even crazier: It was the third win for the No. 45 car of 23XI in the last four races at Kansas, and all with different drivers after Busch and Wallace won last year. Its owner, meanwhile, nearly pulled off the season sweep at the track; Hamlin won in the spring.

"I think that myself and this team work really close together," Hamlin said. "Typically when we run well, they run well, and we're learning as much from them as they are learning from us. It's a great partnership and really valuable to have talented guys behind the wheel of fast cars."

Hamlin was cruising to the win when Chris Buescher's right rear tire blew with about six laps to go. That forced the leaders into the pits, and just about everyone had a different tire strategy — Reddick took four fresh tires, even though it shuffled him back to seventh on the restart — to set themselves up for the two-lap sprint to the finish.

The win was the second of the season for Reddick and the fifth of his Cup Series career; more importantly, it mean he'll make it beyond the round of 16 in the playoffs for the first time. The cut-off for the top 12 to advance comes after Saturday night's race at Tennessee's Bristol Motor Speedway.

"Now they get to go to Bristol and work a strategy that is best for them to win the race, and they don't really have to worry about finish points," said Hamlin, who is the leader in points among those yet to advance and in good position to join Reddick and Larson.

"Really happy about them putting a whole race together and capitalizing on the late restart," Hamlin said.

It was a tough race for several playoff drivers. Wallace and JGR's Martin Truex Jr. also blew right rear tires, which has been a problem at Kansas with the latest generation of Cup Series cars, and sustained heavy damage. Wallace, who's in the playoffs for the first time, was able to continue after his crew repaired a toe link and finished 32nd, but Truex's day was done after just three laps and he finished last.

There also 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 Larson collided with teammate 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 returned to the track.

Keselowski still doesn't have a win since April 2021 at Talladega, when he was still at Team Penske, and teammate Buescher has been overshadowing him lately with three wins for RFK Racing. But Keselowski, a co-owner of the team, has quietly been running up front, finishing second to his teammate at Daytona International Speedway in the regular-season finale, sixth at Darlington and ninth Sunday.

Logano, who has three playoff wins at Kansas, is also on a roll. He has been in the top 10 in three of the past four races with the No. 22 car, including fifth-place runs at Daytona and again on Sunday.

Truex, the regular-season champion, came into the race 25 points above the playoff cut line but left in peril. His right rear tire went down in the opening laps, sending him into the wall.

"I knew something was up for sure, just didn't realize it was going to blow the tire out," said Truex, who is seven points behind Kevin Harvick, who is retiring after this season, for the last spot in the round of 12. "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."