There was fire. It was raining. There was pain. There was lightning. And warm. There were tires that didn’t want to stay together. And, by the way, the race was.
A very long race.
At the end, more than five hours after the start, Tyler Reddick was king of the road, winning Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 500-mile playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. Next in the top five were Joey Logano, Justin Hailey, Ryan Blaney as well as Chase Briscoe.
This victory was for Reddick the third of the year, but the first on the oval track. He did not qualify for the second round of the playoffs.
Race, the first in the second round of the playoffs, it would be easiest to describe in one word: chaos.
The tire issue was confusing. After it became apparent that many tires, especially the right rear ones, were failing before the end of a typical tire run, crew leaders were faced with the challenge of deciding how long their drivers should stay on the track in unstable conditions.
Reddick said he was worried he might get tire problems as he races towards the checkered flag.
“I was very worried; I’m not going to lie,” he said. “Unfortunately, almost every time we had fast cars, we had tire problems. In the last run, the right sides vibrated very, very much.”
MORE: Texas Cup Results
MORE: Texas Cup Drivers’ Points
Several playoff drivers, who started the day with hopes of a smooth start to the Round of 16, watched the race finish from outside their cars. Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott as well as Alex Bowman unable to finish, Bell hit the wall twice en route to 34th.
It seemed that every few minutes the cars crashed into the wall and/or into each other, causing a record wave of warnings and mixing up the playoff bracket. Drivers danced on the jagged edge between stability and slip, making overtaking difficult.
MORE: RFK Racing on the Rise
The duration of the race was extended due to heavy rain and a 55-minute red flag in the finals, although weather forecasters predicted only a 15% chance of rain during the day.
Chase Elliott, who was leading the race in points, hit the turn 4 wall hard on lap 187, starting a fire in the right front of the car. Elliot steered the car onto the grass of the platform and got out as the fire flared up. Elliot said his right rear wheel either blew or lost air, causing the crash.
One of the worst crashes of the season occurred in the second half of the race when Cody Ware lost control of his car, crashed into the turn 4 wall and then ran into pit road where crew members fled as his car crashed into the pit wall. Ware was helped out of the car and barely crossed the pit wall.
The front of Ware’s car was demolished. He was checked and released from the infirmary. A team official said Ware had some discomfort in his ankle and would be examined by medical staff upon his return home.
MORE: What Drivers Said at TMS
Former champion Kevin Harvickoften critical of safety this season, lost a tire while leading the race with 81 laps to go and crashed into a wall.
A few laps later Martin Truex Jr., who inherited the lead after Harvick’s tire problem, ran into the same problem, losing his right rear wheel and hitting a wall. Harvick remained in the race; Truex parked.
Harrison Burton, one of the leaders of the race had a fire on the pit road when his team changed tires. Burton climbed out of his hole so that security personnel could put out the fire that had started under the back of his Ford. Burton recovered to race in the top five.
Kyle BushThe problems continued for another week when his car slid into the tar of the track and crashed into the wall at turn four. He parked for the day.
Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson
Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney
Who had a good race: Winner Tyler Reddick continues to shine despite racing in difficult conditions. He led 70 laps in his third win of the season. … Justin Hailey had one of the best runs of the year, finishing third. … Eric Jones was a strong sixth. … William Byron and Denny Hamlin finished in the top ten despite fighting each other on the track.
Who had a bad race: Almost too many to name. Points leader Chase Elliott left the race on fire as his car burst into flames after hitting the wall at turn four. … It was a black day for playoff contender Christopher Bell. He crashed into the wall twice and eventually parked halfway. … Kyle Busch slipped on the tar put on the track and hit the wall, ending his day. … A brutal crash at Turn 4 took playoff driver Alex Bowman out of the race. … Rookie Harrison Burton briefly led the race but fell back after a pit road fire.
Next: Round 12 will continue at Talladega Superspeedway on October 2 (2:00 pm ET, NBC).
NASCAR’s admission that it didn’t see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin with care during Sunday’s Cup playoff race is alarming.
With video evidence of the rule violation and Hamlin’s team’s spirited easing up, series officials had reason enough to be more careful about putting Hamlin back in second place before the race returned to green flag conditions. Or some other remedy even after the race is restarted.
Add to that the series officials’ lack of access to Byron’s vehicular camera… something that fans could easily see on NASCAR.com and on the NASCAR mobile app. — and changes need to be made ahead of this weekend’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.
While NASCAR should make every effort to resolve issues between drivers regardless of their playoff status, the fact that two playoff drivers were involved in the incident requires more attention. With three races per round, one wrong move could mean the difference between promotion or elimination.
Just as more is expected of riders and teams in the playoffs, the same is to be expected of officials.
“If we saw this (contact) well enough to respond to it in real time, which we should have done, like no excuses, we would probably have two options,” said Scott Miller, senior vice President of NASCAR Competitions. Sunday evening. “First, you had to get Hamlin back in place, and second, you had to get William to stand in the back.”
Here’s how the incident played out:
The warning was lifted on lap 269 Martin Truex Jr.crash at 8:19 pm ET.
As Hamlin slowed down, Byron moved in and hit him from behind.
Byron admitted after the race that the contact was deliberate, although he didn’t want to beat Hamlin. Byron was upset by how Hamlin overtook him on lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin push him into the wall as they exited turn two side by side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the warning.
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) September 26, 2022
Approximately 90 seconds after the warning lights came on, a US broadcast showed a replay of Byron from a low angle right behind Hamlin’s car and obvious contact.
Contact can take place in several ways. This can happen because the lead car slammed on the brakes and forced the car behind to hit them, or because the trailing car hit the car in front. The first video replay did not clarify what caused the contact, making it difficult for any official to make a decision based solely on it.
This is also the time when NASCAR officials have been monitoring safety vehicles on the track, checking lineups, and making sure pit road is ready for reopening. This is what NASCAR does effortlessly most of the time. Just not this time.
Another replay was shown in the US 11 minutes and 16 seconds after the warning, showing Byron and Hamlin’s car together. This replay aired about a minute before the green flag went up at 8:31 pm ET. Throughout the warning, Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Geibhart, argued that Hamlin should have restarted second.
But once the race resumed, it was all over for NASCAR. Or so it seemed.
Three minutes after waving the green flag, a video from the car was posted to NASCAR’s Twitter account showing Byron crashing into the back of Hamlin’s car when the warning was lifted. Such an action is usually a punishment – often parking the driver until the end of the race. Instead, Byron was allowed to continue and nothing was done for the remainder of the event.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR)