By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service
AUSTIN, Texas – Tyler Reddick prevailed in three overtime re-starts to claim his first trophy of the year – and first with his new team, 23XI Racing, with a 1.411-second victory over two-time series champion Kyle Busch in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix – the NASCAR Cup Series’ first road course race of the season.
It was a field of international champions and NASCAR’s very best at the famed Circuit of The Americas course but for most of the race the outcome looked to be decided in a good ole Texas duel between the two fastest cars all weekend driven by Reddick and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron. The pair exchanged the lead, lap after exciting lap for most of the afternoon.
And on the final two-lap restart Reddick was able to put his No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota out front exiting Turn 1 – a tight left-hander – and power forward to the lead; while Busch and third-place finisher Alex Bowman, fourth-place finisher – and defending race winner – Ross Chastain and fifth-place Byron fought door-to-door bumper-to-bumper as they chased after him.
“I’ve been wanting to win here in a Cup car for a long time,” the 27-year-old Californian Reddick said, who now has four NASCAR Cup Series wins, but noted this was his first as a Toyota driver and with his 23XI Racing Team – co-owned by fellow competitor Denny Hamlin and NBA superstar Michael Jordan.
“It means the world,” said Reddick, who sat down on the track and leaned against his car with a bag of ice after winning to cool down on the typically Texas-hot afternoon. “This whole 23XI team has been working hard all winter long to make the road course program better and was extremely motivated to come in here and improve performance. Just so proud of this Monster Energy team and TRD (Toyota Racing Development). All the resources they’ve put in to turn around the road course program means a lot.”
As often happens late in a road course race, patience lags and urgency increases. That was certainly the case Sunday with three different overtime restarts deciding the outcome. Reddick and Byron’s No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet combined to lead 69 of the race’s 75 laps with Reddick out front a race best 41 of those, most of them after hard-fought challenges and back-and-forth corner after corner with the race polesitter Byron.
“It feels good to get a top five, but we had a top-two race car really with the 45, he was really better than everybody, but I thought we were a close second,” said Byron, a two-race winner already in 2023, whose fifth-place finish at COTA was his career best on a road course. “We’ll keep building on it.”
Busch’s runner-up effort was an impressive comeback. He had been mid-pack for most of the afternoon but gambled on fuel strategy to move forward during some late race cautions in regulation.
“Even if we were on equal tires, they were lights out,” said Busch, driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
“Overall, for as much effort as we put into coming here and focusing on this place and all the testing we did in the offseason, we’re coming out of here with a good finish. Tyler’s obviously a really good road course racer.”
In addition to the NASCAR stars, the field that raced Sunday included four big names from other racing genres including IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drove the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for injured former COTA winner Chase Elliott; a pair of former Formula One champions in Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen and popular IndyCar Series regular Conor Daly.
Among these four, the Englishman Button – the 2009 Formula One champion – claimed the top finishing position, 18th in the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford. Taylor, a two-time winner at COTA in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series finished 24th but made a huge impression in his debut after qualifying fourth.
Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 World Champion from Finland, finished 29th but ran as high as fourth place late in the race. Daly only got 16 laps into the race before his team had to take his No. 50 The Money Team Racing Chevrolet behind the wall for extended repairs. He finished 36th.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson didn’t even get a full lap of green flag racing in only his second start of the 2023 season. The owner-driver of the No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car accident that eliminated his Chevrolet and left him 38th in the standings.
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, 2023 DAYTONA 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs and Front Row Motorsports’ Todd Gilliland rounded out the top-10.
Chastain takes over the championship lead by 19 points over Busch. Ty Gibbs, who finished ninth, continues to lead the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points standings.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to competition next Sunday in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Categories: NASCAR Cup Series, Race Recap
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