NASCAR Barometer: Reddick Conquers Treacherous Texas

NASCAR Barometer: Reddick Conquers Treacherous Texas

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Texas Motor Speedway threw everything at the NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams Sunday. The race was the hottest the series ever experienced at the circuit, plagued by high-speed tire failures, with even a weather delay to add to the obstacles. Drivers and teams struggled to keep their cars underneath them in the hot and slippery conditions, and the Goodyear tires had one of their worst outings all year. Those conditions challenged everyone and bit many hard. Tyler Reddick rose to the occasion and eased away through the final stage to win his third race of the season, just one behind Chase Elliott. Reddick's win also means no playoff driver has won a playoff race yet this season. That aspect makes the playoff race all about points and avoiding bad days, which many failed to do again Sunday.

Two races remain until the championship field is shrunk by another four drivers. After Sunday's minefield, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman all sit in the danger zone. Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte ROVAL await the contenders in the next two races, where anything can still happen, too. Elliott, who had the points lead prior to Sunday, now finds himself in the eighth and in the final transfer position with a scant four-point lead to Briscoe in ninth. None of the playoff competitors should feel comfortable, and anything could still happen.

UPGRADE

Tyler Reddick – Just one week after being bounced out of the playoffs, Reddick

Texas Motor Speedway threw everything at the NASCAR Cup Series drivers and teams Sunday. The race was the hottest the series ever experienced at the circuit, plagued by high-speed tire failures, with even a weather delay to add to the obstacles. Drivers and teams struggled to keep their cars underneath them in the hot and slippery conditions, and the Goodyear tires had one of their worst outings all year. Those conditions challenged everyone and bit many hard. Tyler Reddick rose to the occasion and eased away through the final stage to win his third race of the season, just one behind Chase Elliott. Reddick's win also means no playoff driver has won a playoff race yet this season. That aspect makes the playoff race all about points and avoiding bad days, which many failed to do again Sunday.

Two races remain until the championship field is shrunk by another four drivers. After Sunday's minefield, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman all sit in the danger zone. Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte ROVAL await the contenders in the next two races, where anything can still happen, too. Elliott, who had the points lead prior to Sunday, now finds himself in the eighth and in the final transfer position with a scant four-point lead to Briscoe in ninth. None of the playoff competitors should feel comfortable, and anything could still happen.

UPGRADE

Tyler Reddick – Just one week after being bounced out of the playoffs, Reddick led 70 of the laps in the final segment and won for the third time this season. His car was the fastest throughout the final stage, and he survived multiple restarts, seemingly able to pull away from the competition at will. It was an ideal day for the driver of the No. 8, who qualified fourth and avoided the pitfalls Texas threw at the field. Reddick has two top-10s from five Talladega starts. He exited the spring race early with an engine failure, but fantasy players are aware of how good Richard Childress Racing cars typically are at superspeedways. With Reddick coming alive this year, it's a good idea to keep him in mind when picking lineups this week. 

Kyle Larson – Larson moved to the lead late in the first stage only for a late caution to set up a shootout for the segment win. He outdueled Denny Hamlin in the hectic final miles to capture the stage victory, though. The remainder of his race was fairly quiet, as he didn't have the speed to get back to the lead. He settled for a good points day with 19 laps led and a ninth-place finish to start the second round of the playoffs. He also heads to Talladega this week fourth in the championship standings. Larson's best Talladega finish came this spring when he led 32 laps on his way to a fourth-place finish. It isn't typically a good track for him, but if he can survive with no issues, he will feel very confident that he can use the upcoming road course race to advance to the round of eight.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney began to make his presence felt in the second stage. He battled Elliott for the lead midway through that segment only to assume a commanding lead after Elliott crashed out. Blaney survived multiple restarts to gap the field and win the stage and important playoff point that came with it. His fourth-place finish moved him from eighth to fifth in the playoff standings with two tracks left in this round that could be good for him. Team Penske has typically been fast at superspeedways. Blaney has two Talladega victories and led 23 laps in his 11th-place finish at the track earlier this year. Blaney also won on the Charlotte road course and has had some good road course races this season, too. A win may be all the confidence he needs to really light the afterburner.

Joey Logano – On a day when many of the championship contenders struggled, Logano put together a clean and consistent race to finish second and move to the top of the standings. The Team Penske driver has had a top-five car through the playoffs thus far, but it seems as though every contender has not been able to consistently avoid trouble and deliver top finishes. Logano found that secret sauce Sunday at Texas, however. It was his second top-five of the playoffs and puts him comfortable position with Talladega and the Charlotte road course on the horizon. Logano is also one of the few drivers who may actually be looking forward to Talladega, too. He is a three-time winner at the track and has failed to lead a lap in just one of his last 14 tries at the superspeedway. Logano is shaping up to be a favorite this week, and perhaps for the final four, too.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Busch – Things have not been going the way Busch would typically expect, and Sunday was no different. He spun and hit the outside wall halfway through the first stage and immediately drove the car to the garage and out of the race. He was knocked out of the playoffs the week before and is simply running down the races until leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season. Busch's last top-10 finish was at Daytona to finish the regular season. His best finish in the playoffs so far was a 26th-place at Kansas. Those are not typical Busch statistics, and fantasy players might be wondering if any success can be found before the season ends. It is looking now like that success may not arrive until he joins Richard Childress Racing in 2023.

Chase Elliott – The second round of the playoffs got off to just as bada start as the first did for Elliott. He again saw his points lead virtually vanish just like the first race of the round of 16. This time Elliott got loose coming off of turn 4 at Texas and made heavy contact with the outside wall. He exited with the car on fire, leaving him out of the race and needing better finishes in the next two races. He should still feel comfortable given a road course to close out this round of eliminations, but another poor finish this week at Talladega would only be additional pressure he doesn't need. Elliott has one Talladega victory from 2019, and he finished seventh there earlier this year. While Elliott could get the job done this week, Talladega remains unpredictable. His better chance may be in two weeks at Charlotte.

Christopher Bell – Bell battled a severely loose car and tire failures Sunday. The playoff contender spun multiple times and made heavy contact in one of them in the second stage. He drove the car from that accident to the pits for fresh tires, but as he left it was apparent the car would need significant work to be able to return to action, ending his day prematurely. Bell had a terrible afternoon, which he did not need this early in the second playoff round. Bell has led laps in four of his five Talladega visits, and his best finish of fifth came in the fall race last season. His average finish in that span is just 22.4, though. Like almost every other driver in the playoff field, Bell will be feeling the extra pressure to come away from Talladega's crapshoot with a respectable result and focus on a top finish, or win, on Charlotte's road course.

Cole Custer – After Custer landed his third top-10 of the season the week prior at Bristol, Custer's luck left him at Texas. The high of Bristol did not last long for the No. 41 team that suffered a tire failure late in the first stage, causing him to spin and make significant contact with the wall. With two corners of the car damaged Briscoe's chances for any salvation was gone. With just three top-15 finishes in the last eight races, and only three top-10s so far this season, Custer has some work to do. The current season has been a slog for him and the team with few spots of encouragement. He finished 29th at Talladega earlier this season, and his best superspeedway finish this season was 16th at Daytona to finish the regular season. Fantasy players may not want to seriously consider selecting him again until Charlotte's road course in two weeks time.

Kevin Harvick – Things have not gotten better for Harvick. Multiple fluke failures bit him in the round of 16, which were enough to ensure that he failed to advance. With the pressure of the playoffs off his shoulders it should have been a return to normalcy in Texas. It appeared to be playing out exactly in that manner at Texas as he came to the lead in the final segment. That bad luck hit him hard again with a rear-tire failure, though. Harvick spun and made heavy contact with the outside wall and out of contention for a top finish. His 19th-place finish last week was his fourth outside of the top 15 in the last five races. Speed is not the question for this team, but making it to the race finish is. Talladega isn't one of Harvick's favorite tracks, either. He won there in 2010 and has four top-10s from the last five races there, though.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Justin Haley – Those paying close attention may have noticed signs that Haley is establishing himself in the Cup Series this season. Yes, he won a rain-shortened race a few seasons ago, but he has used this season of full-time competition to hone his craft. Sunday at Texas was just another sign he is moving in the right direction. He showed nothing in qualifying, starting the race 31st, but he used smooth driving and avoided mistakes to grab his second top-five of the year. Early in the season Haley regularly scored top-15 finishes. He has been more inconsistent the second half of the year, but Sunday's performance at Texas should be a confidence booster as he heads to Talladega. That is a track at which he could win. He was 12th there in the spring.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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