By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A “Rumble in the Sunflower State” went down in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway as second-place finisher Tyler Reddick was confronted by a heated Cole Custer.
Custer, who finished 11th, said to Reddick that “he can be a dumb fuck” and laid his right hand on Reddick’s left shoulder, the latter didn’t appreciate the action resulting in a throw down between them.
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) October 19, 2019
Crew members were also involved in the madness before both angry drivers were pulled out of the brawl. Neither drivers were hurt in the fight.
What instigated Custer’s temper flaring was the way Reddick raced him in the closing laps. Notably, when they both restarted on the front row with 10 to go.
“I was frustrated that he can’t keep his car on the bottom. Then he runs us into the wall,” Custer said. “If he wants to wreck cars and put them into the wall from time to time, that’s fine. When it affects me, I’m not going to be very happy.
“I went over to talk to him and say that. I put my hand on him and he just went berserk. I guess I don’t want to do that with Tyler.”
Once Reddick cooled down, he understood Custer’s frustrations but he wasn’t going to back down after the physical altercation commenced.
“I understand Cole’s frustration 100%. We’re trying to lock ourselves into Homestead,” Reddick said. “He came up to talk after the race. As soon as he put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back. That’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way.”
Prior to the brawl, to pit or not to pit was lingering in the mind of Reddick’s No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team as he was one of the fastest cars in the field and running in third, not far behind his championship rivals Custer and Christopher Bell.
However, being in third proved to be difficult for the season’s five-time winner as he dealt with a loose Tame the Beast Chevrolet Camaro. Not only he had that setback, debris stuck on his grill which resulted his engine getting warm.
Crew chief Randall Burnett told Reddick to pit on Lap 145. That’s when his afternoon drastically changed. Well before getting into the pit commitment line, the caution came out for Michael Annett, who hit the Turn 1 wall.
The caution lights were on but Reddick went into pit lane anyways but decided not to pit and waited for the okay signal to pit.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) October 19, 2019
It proved to be a blessing in disguise because had Reddick pitted, he would’ve faced a major pit violation. Instead, he was able to get his wishes by adjusting his car and get rid of the debris.
When the race resumed, Reddick was sixth and quickly gained three spots and was back into the thick of things. At the same time, unable to match Bell’s pace and Custer’s teammate Chase Briscoe, who was now the race leader.
Then on Lap 163, defending Kansas winner John Hunter Nemechek spun heading into the backstretch, putting several drivers in a box as to whether or not pitting would pan out.
The reigning champion pitted with the leaders for four fresh tires and had a blistering pit stop time of 12.7 seconds, gaining one spot.
However, Annett stayed out which put Reddick third in line on the restart with 32 to go. It didn’t last as Briscoe regained the lead with ease.
Reddick would stay in third after a strong restart by Bell, even making bumper contact shortly thereafter. Bell proved to be too much and cleared Reddick for second.
A few laps later, Brandon Jones and Custer made the battle for third compelling as they battled hard for position. In the end, both Jones and Custer got by Reddick as his Camaro once again struggled with a loose handling car.
Reddick was saved by another caution on Lap 184 when a battle between Bell and Briscoe ended in disastrous proportions after the lapped car of Garrett Smithley poorly blended with the leaders in Turn 4, involving all three cars.
Their demise improved Reddick back to third-place once again. After second-place Annett pitted, he was now restarting alongside race leader Custer.
Chaos ensued on the restart as Reddick slid up into Custer going into Turn 2. Consequently, both lost momentum and were now sweating bullets, trying to hold a hungry pack of wolves. This battle is what led to their confrontation after the race.
A lap after their incident, another caution came out for separate incidents involving Noah Gragson and Joey Gase in Turn 1.
Reddick came out of the chaos in second while Custer was now in ninth. Through the thick of the madness, Jones was now the race leader when the race restarted with five to go.
Jones had the restart of his life as he manhandled Reddick, who would drop to fifth in a lap. Reddick would get his rhythm back and stormed by Annett, Justin Allgaier and Briscoe to finish a hard fought second. Jones went on to score his maiden NXS victory.
Out of breath after a grueling 200-laps and confrontation with Custer, Reddick said battling with the leaders all day was a little bit of fun.
“I’m frankly out of breath. Not the end of the race I was looking for but I think a lot of Cole and his driving ability, and a lot of that team,” Reddick said. “It’s the heat of the moment. We’re pissed off. I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon. Maybe today or tomorrow. Who knows, maybe have a beer over it.”
Saturday’s madness was Reddick’s 22nd top-five of the season and will now focus on the next race at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday November 2.
With two races left before the finale at Homestead and comfortably inside the top-four, Kansas was a reminder that he and even Custer can’t afford facing the consequences.
“We’ll try to move forward,” Reddick said. “All of us have a lot to loose in this deal. If we take each other out, neither one of us get to Homestead and I feel like we deserve it.”