NASCAR Barometer:  Tyler Reddick Survives to Win at COTA

NASCAR Barometer: Tyler Reddick Survives to Win at COTA

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Tyler Reddick survived three late-race restarts to with Sunday's EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. He led 41 of the 75 laps but put in most of the work in the final miles when three cautions for debris erased the gap he built over second place each time. His restarts kept him in position to win and his pace kept him ahead of the competition each time, building a gap to second place and ultimately crossing the finish line first. A victory appeared imminent given his pace in recent weeks, and with Sunday's triumph he puts one foot into the championship playoffs. Reddick was one of the best on road courses last season and Sunday's victory puts him firmly among the best on those types of circuits. However, his pace on ovals has been impressive as well. Sunday's win looks like it could be just the first of many to come for the No. 45. 

With six races complete in the 2023 season the NASCAR Cup Series now turns its attention to the first short-track of the year. There have been five different winners from those first six races, and Reddick's win for Toyota Sunday means each manufacturer has visited Victory Lane at least once. Last year's Richmond wins were split by Toyota and Ford with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick taking the two checkered flags. For the third week in a row the drivers and teams will face a completely different style of racing, giving fantasy

Tyler Reddick survived three late-race restarts to with Sunday's EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. He led 41 of the 75 laps but put in most of the work in the final miles when three cautions for debris erased the gap he built over second place each time. His restarts kept him in position to win and his pace kept him ahead of the competition each time, building a gap to second place and ultimately crossing the finish line first. A victory appeared imminent given his pace in recent weeks, and with Sunday's triumph he puts one foot into the championship playoffs. Reddick was one of the best on road courses last season and Sunday's victory puts him firmly among the best on those types of circuits. However, his pace on ovals has been impressive as well. Sunday's win looks like it could be just the first of many to come for the No. 45. 

With six races complete in the 2023 season the NASCAR Cup Series now turns its attention to the first short-track of the year. There have been five different winners from those first six races, and Reddick's win for Toyota Sunday means each manufacturer has visited Victory Lane at least once. Last year's Richmond wins were split by Toyota and Ford with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick taking the two checkered flags. For the third week in a row the drivers and teams will face a completely different style of racing, giving fantasy players another twist to unpack in the seventh race of the 2023 season.

UPGRADE

Tyler Reddick – One of the strongest cars all weekend at Circuit of the Americas was Tyler Reddick. The 23XI Racing driver challenged for the lead from the start, ultimately forcing his way to the front to claim the second stage victory of the day. He went on to consolidate his spot at the front of the field, ultimately surviving multiple late-race restarts to win his first race of the season and first since joining 23XI. His prowess throughout the weekend, coupled with his road course results last season, should have convinced any remaining skeptics that he is one of the best in the series on road courses. That is something fantasy players will keep in mind this season. First is Richmond, though. Reddick has never finished in the top 10 there, and is best result was the fall of 2020 when he finished 12th.

William Byron - Byron delivered a very competitive weekend, running very well in the Xfinity Series race to finish second and qualifying on pole for the Cup race. The Hendrick Motorsports driver, who is the only driver to have won multiple times this season, went on to win the opening stage in Sunday's Cup race, too. He was one of the top contenders for the win throughout Sunday's race distance and led 28 laps on his way to a fifth-place finish. Byron arguably should have finished a few positions higher, but the many rowdy restarts that ended the afternoon demoted him. Sunday's finish was Byron's third top-five of the season and demonstrates that the penalties assessed to the team by NASCAR and last week's slower pace at Atlanta were not long-term contagions. His best finish at Richmond came last spring when he led 122 laps and finished third.

Kyle Busch – Sunday's race was one of survival and opportunism for Busch. He wasn't one of the fastest cars in qualifying, starting ninth, but he went on to score stage points in the first segment and then put himself in position to capitalize on the chaos of the final laps. Tyler Reddick drove the No. 8 to two road course victories last season, and Busch admitted after the race that he was attempting to replicate what Reddick did last season. It wasn't enough to beat Sunday's winner, but Busch should be encouraged by another top race with his new machinery. His runner-up finish was his second top-five of the year and puts him atop the points heading to Richmond. Busch is a six-time winner at that track and has finished in the top 10 there in every Cup race since the fall of 2017. Fantasy players looking for reliability this coming week should look no further.

Alex Bowman - Bowman backed up his runner-up COTA finish from 2022 with a third-place finish Sunday. He qualified sixth Saturday and finished fourth in the race's opening stage before using the many late race cautions to pick up positions and put himself amongst the group fighting for the race win. The afternoon was a return to form for him and the team after his lowest finish of the season to date (14th) the week prior at Atlanta. Despite the hefty penalties levied by NASCAR against the Hendrick cars Bowman continues to be one of the most consistent runners at the front of the field. He has five top-10 finishes from the first six races and now heads to Richmond where he won in 2021. He finished eighth in the spring race there last season and is on the cusp of the playoff positions despite NASCAR deducting 100 points from his total.

Austin Cindric – Three finishes of 11th or better from the last four races has Cindric sitting in 10th position in the standings. Sunday's road course visit was always expected to be a place he could outperform typical weekly expectations and his sixth-place finish was a just result. That was his second top-10 of the season as he seeks to find some consistent top-15 results. The team seems to be finding their footing, and has even showed that they could be among the dominant organizations at certain tracks like Atlanta. Finding that consistency every week and then taking advantage of their chances at certain tracks will put Cindric in position to land more top-10s and perhaps even a victory. Richmond will be a venue for fantasy players to truly assess his progress. Cindric's best finish from three series starts at the track was 12th last fall.

DOWNGRADE

AJ Allmendinger – Allmendinger missed an opportunity for a top finish Sunday. The weekend started brightly with a win in Saturday's Xfinity Series race, and he had been hoping that high would carry forward to Sunday as well. He is consistently one of the best NASCAR drivers on road courses, but a crash late in Sunday's race ended his chances early. He and the team will have other road course opportunities this season, but the competition in this series is so tight that every opportunity must be seized. Allmendinger is now 23rd in the championship standings with just one top-10 finish from Daytona. Richmond won't be the place fantasy players should look for a turnaround either. Allmendinger's last series top-10 at the short track came in 2014 and he has just one top-15 there since.

Daniel Suarez– It appeared as though Suarez was going to make the most of Sunday's road course visit, potentially even racing for the win. He scored stage points in the opening segment and then worked his way into the top-five battle in the final miles. That came with a cost, though. On his way forward he opted to bump teammate Ross Chastain out of his way under braking and later collided with Alex Bowman. The move on a teammate raised some eyebrows and even caused the pair to exchange views on pit road after the race. In the end upsetting an ally wasn't worth the rub. Suarez was one of many casualties in the final restarts and tumbled down the order to finish 27th. Chastain is no stranger to aggressive racing, but the intramural contact is something neither driver should have to navigate. Fantasy players will be anxious to see how well Trackhouse Racing Team manages the situation.

Kyle Larson – A heavy hit early in Sunday's race eventually punished Larson with a broken toe link with just 20 laps remaining. He was able to make it to pit road, but the broken component came so late in the race that he had little opportunity to recover. However, multiple late-race restarts cycled Larson forward in the field, pushing him to the 14th-place finishing position when the dust settled. In the search for some good luck this season Larson hasn't found much. He has had a fast car on multiple occasions but hasn't been able to close the deal for a victory. That quest will continue another week as he and the team attempt to regroup and improve their fortune. Larson won at Richmond in 2017 and finished fifth in the spring race last season. He also started from pole and led 11 laps before finishing 14th in the fall.

Jimmie Johnson - It was an unceremonious end to Johnson's return to Cup Series road course racing Sunday. The seven-time champion took the opportunity at COTA following his foray to IndyCar to gain some seat time before representing NASCAR at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this summer in a one-off entry in the famed race. However, Johnson didn't get the seat time he was hoping for after a wreck on the very first lap left him with heavy rear damage that the team couldn't repair. His afternoon was over just as quickly as it started. This won't be the last race Johnson attempts this season, though. He'll attempt the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte as well as the inaugural street race at Chicago.  It continues to be difficult for part-time drivers to make an impact in the Cup Series, though, even for seven-time champions.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse isn't a driver that rises to the top of the list at road course races. However, he rewarded those players that chose him this past week at COTA with a top-10 finish. He qualified 18th and would have typically been expected to finish roughly in that position as well. Instead, he grabbed stage points in the second segment and kept his nose clean through the final miles to finish seventh in an impressive afternoon. The finish was his second top-10 finish of the season and first since winning the Daytona 500. Stenhouse has only failed to finish in the top 20 once so far this season. Working to find consistency and then refining those finishes to grab more top-10s will be the goal for the team as they prepare for the championship playoffs. Richmond could be another good week for him, too. He led six laps there last fall and has two career top-10s.

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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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