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    Tuesday, May 28, 2024

    Reddick survives late restarts to earn NASCAR victory COTA

    Tyler Reddick celebrates after winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Circuit of the Americas, Sunday, March 26, 2023, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)

    Austin, Texas — Tyler Reddick scored his first victory with new team 23XI Racing by holding on over multiple late restarts to win in triple overtime Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, the first road course race on this year's NASCAR schedule.

    Reddick's victory was the first of the year for Toyota and his first since joining the team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan. It was Reddick's third career Cup Series, all on road courses; Reddick won a year ago at Road America and on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his final season with Richard Childress Racing.

    This one might have been the most nerve wracking.

    Reddick had to hold the front through the elevated, switchback left hand turn that saw the field bunch up and smash each other time after time on the restarts. The race had eight cautions for 17 laps and went to three overtimes and seven laps past the scheduled distance.

    "This whole 23XI team has been working so hard all winter long to make the road course program better," Reddick said. "Was extremely motivated to come in here and prove that performance, too."

    Kyle Busch, who pushed Reddick through the final three restarts, finished second in the Chevrolet for RCR that became available to the two-time Cup champion when Reddick jumped to 23XI.

    "When we tested here, they were lights out," Busch said of 23XI. "Tyler obviously is a really good road racer. He proved it driving this car here last year. I was able to get in it and run right back to him. I've been trying to emulate the things he did in order to make this car fast last year, but not quite all the way there."

    Alex Bowman, who had a chance to win on the final lap at COTA last season, was third in a Chevrolet from Hendrick Motorsports.

    Ross Chastain, the defending race winner, finished fourth and was confronted post-race inside his car by Trackhouse Racing teammate Daniel Suarez over the aggressive nature of the race. Suarez also exchanged words with Bowman.

    "He just thought I drove in and tried to drive through him," Bowman said. "Daniel and I, we've been teammates in the past, raced together a long time. I respect the hell out of him. I'm sure he's still not super happy. Just tried to explain that I wouldn't race him like that, that I was shoved in there."

    William Byron finished fifth for Hendrick and Austin Cindric was the highest-finishing Ford driver in sixth for Team Penske.

    There were no stage breaks for the first time this season under a rule change introduced for the six road course races in 2023. That left teams to manage different pit stop strategies.

    Reddick appeared to have managed the perfect strategy before the rash of late collisions, caution flags and restarts left him with a harder path to win.

    The race included former Formula One champions Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button. Raikkonen drove Trackhouse Racing's Project91 entry that is designed to give a seat in NASCAR to drivers from others disciplines. He finished 27th. Button drove the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing as part of a three-race deal for road courses this season. He was 18th.

    Raikkonen, was running as high as fourth on a late late restart but was quickly shuffled into the pack.

    Another "road course ringer" on the track Sunday was sports car driver four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor driving the No. 9 for injured Chase Elliott, who is still recovering from a fractured leg in a snowboarding accident. Taylor struggled early in the traffic of the early laps and finished 24th.

    Crossover appeal

    Trackhouse team owner Justin Marks expects Project91 to run several times this season. Project91 ran only Watkins Glen with Raikkonen last season.

    "It's resonating with people so we've got some great sponsors on the car this weekend," Marks said. "We're going to definitely race this car multiple times this year. We're not ready to make any of those announcements yet, but people are taking notice."

    Cota’s NASCAR future

    After three years racing at the track built for Formula One, signs point to a possible return for the stock cars in 2024.

    Speedway Motorsports, which runs the event and rents the track for a week, has an option to return next season, and ticket holders are being allowed a chance to reserve spots for Austin.

    "Of course I want to see NASCAR return," track President Bobby Epstein said. "The fans want them at COTA, the drivers tell us they love the track and the city ... And it pairs the leading U.S. race series with America's premier road course."

    Odds and ends

    Race officials strictly enforced track limits on the circuit's esss curves. Joey Logano was the first of several drivers to get hit with a drive-thru penalty. Ty Gibbs had to do it twice ... Ty Dillon and seven-time former Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson were knocked out halfway through the first lap when Brad Keselowski spun to trigger the first caution before the field had cleared the first turn.

    Up next

    The series moves to short track racing next Sunday at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia. Denny Hamlin is the defending race winner.

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