Tyler Reddick takes advantage of late caution to win at Kansas

Erik Jones (43), Joey Logano (22) and Tyler Reddick (45) head down the front straightaway for the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. Reddick picked up his second win of the season to advance to the playoffs’ Round of 12. (Colin E. Braley / AP Photo)

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

There’s co-owner Denny Hamlin, who has won at the track four times, more than anyone else. Kurt Busch, who retired as a driver but remains a consultant for the team. And 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. 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 to finish fourth ahead of Joey Logano.

“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 sweep after Hamlin won in the spring.

“I think that myself and this team work really close together,” said Hamlin, who has long driven for Joe Gibbs Racing. “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 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 — Reddick took four fresh tires, even though it shuffled him back to seventh on the restart — to set themselves up for the two-lap finishing sprint.

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.

“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 them.

“Really happy about them putting a whole race together and capitalizing on the late restart,” he said.

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 of 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.