Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Tyler Reddick Sneaks Through Last Lap Crash to Win at Talladega

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

TALLADEGA, Ala. – Like a Michael Jordan drive to the basket, Tyler Reddick channeled his 23XI Racing co-owner on the final lap at Talladega, weaving his way through the chaos to get to the finish line first and score the win in Sunday’s GEICO 500.

Heading into the final lap, it was shaping up to be a battle of the Fords and Toyotas, with pole-sitter Michael McDowell and six-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski leading the Blue Ovals on the bottom lane, with Reddick leading what was left of the Toyotas on the high line.

As they powered off Turn 4 for the final time, Reddick was running fourth, with McDowell and Keselowski looking to settle it amongst themselves. Blocking for all it was worth, one final block by McDowell in which he wasn’t quite clear sent McDowell around in front of the field and opened the door for Reddick to sneak his way through.

With Keselowski slowed just enough by McDowell spinning across his nose, Reddick was home free, powering around the outside of the six-time Talladega winner and Noah Gragson to beat them both back to the line, banking his first win of the season and sixth of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

“Man, it’s incredible,” Reddick said. “Everybody on this 45 Jordan brand Toyota Camry worked really hard today. It didn’t really work out in that third stage for us, but we were able to fight and defend our track position. Was that crazy, fans? Chaos. That’s Talladega for you.

“Got to give a lot of credit to Ty Gibbs and Martin Truex [Jr.]. It was just us Toyotas left and they pushed me with everything they had. Huge credit to Martin and Ty. Without those pushes, we don’t win this race.”

The win was also the first with Jordan in attendance, who was ecstatic on pit road afterwards, thrusting his fist in the air as the team celebrated around him. The NBA Hall of Famer was all smiles, joking about turning around his streak of bad luck with his team with him at the track.

“Denny [Hamlin] keeps saying I was bad luck when I come to the track and today, we proved him wrong,” Jordan said with a grin.

“This is like an NBA playoff game for me. Obviously for the fans that support the sport itself. We’ve been working hard trying to get ourselves where we can compete against all of the top guys in this sport. We’ve done a heck of a job just to be where we are and for us to win a big race like this, it means so much to me for the effort that the team has done.

“Look, I’m all in. I love it. It replaces a lot of the competitiveness that I had in basketball, but this is even worse because I have no control. If I was playing basketball, I’d have total control, but I have no control, so I live vicariously through the drivers and the crew chiefs and everybody. I’m very happy for 23XI. 110%”

Hamlin added to Jordan’s comments, noting that him being here in attendance for the win and being able to celebrate with the team in Victory Lane makes the accomplishment even sweeter.

“Every little thing adds to how special it is for sure,” Hamlin said. “I was very envious when I saw kind of the scheme design for this weekend, that 45, and I saw it in the shop. Very envious of that 45 car for sure.

“Those are moments that the crew guys get to talk about with their kids for many, many years as well, right? We got to celebrate with Michael here winning in his car. These are certainly important memories that these men and women are going to experience for a very long time. [Reddick’s son Beau] has no idea the significance of this moment.

“It’s great to see. When we got the first win with the 45 with Kurt at Kansas in the Jumpman car, I mean, we have pictures of that all over because it was such a big and special moment. Certainly, this one will be no different.”

Gragson finished the day in third-place to score his best finish of the 2024 season, followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Alex Bowman, Anthony Alfredo, William Byron, Todd Gilliland, Daniel Hemric, and Harrison Burton rounding out the top-10.

Third Stage Toyota Turmoil

The first two stages went caution-free, with just two incidents for cause prior to the multi-car crash on the final lap.

The first of which saw Christopher Bell’s day end early with a five-car incident in Turn 3 on Lap 134. That was followed by a four-car pileup again in Turn 3 that ended the race for the Toyotas of Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek, Bubba Wallace and Hamlin, which allowed Reddick and the other Toyotas to cycle up to the front and battle for the win over the closing laps.

Jones was originally checked and released from the Infield Care Center after the crash, but returned to the Care Center later in the day before being transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

“I’m a little sore but I’ll be alright,” Jones said after the crash. “I don’t know – the 23 (Bubba Wallace) was pushing us there. Obviously, we were pushing and shoving and trying to make time with our strategy and I got pretty sideways getting into (turn) 3 and tried to gather it up and then ended up really hard into the wall.

“It’s unfortunate. I hate it for my team and my guys. Obviously, we wanted to have a good run but I’m alright. It’s a good thing. It was a hard hit and at the end of the day I guess if you’re going to be dumb you’ve got to be tough, so we’ll keep rolling.”

Fords Fumble

With just three Toyotas and a heap of Fords at the front, it only seemed logical that one of the Blue Ovals would be celebrating in victory lane, but after the scramble amongst themselves that saw McDowell in the wall and Keselowski left to watch Reddick power past him to the finish, it was an ending they wish they could do over.

McDowell, who led a race-high 36 laps from the pole, took the blame for the incident on himself, explaining it was his block that set off the chain reaction of events that followed. While disappointed for the outcome, he added that he and his team will just use it as motivation for the future

“It’s the last lap at Talladega,” McDowell said. “We’re all going for it, but we really needed to get a Ford Mustang Dark Horse in Victory Lane and we had a shot at doing it there. Unfortunately, I just made a bad move there to put us in that spot.

“I’m frustrated right now. I’m motivated by our ability to run up there and manage the lanes and do all the things that we did. Our car drove really well and took a push well and had a lot of speed, so those are good things, but it’s wadded up in a pile of rubble right now. It’s just unfortunate. It’s been a tough stretch here, but we’ve had speed and we’ve run up front and if we keep doing that, we’ll win a race.

Meanwhile, Keselowski was so close to breaking his triple-digit winless streak that he could taste it, but will have to wait another day to score his first win for the team that bears his name.

“We just ran a really solid race, really good execution, strategy, put ourselves in position and ran up front at the end when it mattered. I just wish we could have got the win,” Keselowski said. 

“It was kind of a wild finish there. I got a great push from Noah Gragson and had a chance to make a move on Michael and in all the swerves back and forth all three of us ran into each other and Michael got the worst end of it. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the win, but still a really solid day and something to be proud of.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.