After a race-long duel with William Byron, Tyler Reddick withstood three overtime restarts and Turn 1 calamity to win the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. Reddick's win is the fourth of his Cup career, his third on a road course and his first driving for 23XI Racing.
Reddick had one of the two fastest cars all race, swapping the lead with Byron throughout the day both on-track and on pit strategy. Reddick appeared to have gotten the upper hand on Byron and was set to drive off into the sunset, but a caution with four laps to go for debris from Austin Dillon's car set up three different attempts at an overtime restart.
Reddick had to drive defensively to keep from getting passed or divebombed in Turn 1, but on the third and final attempt at overtime, he was finally able to pull away for his first win of the 2023 season.
EchoPark Texas Grand Prix unofficial results
- #45 - Tyler Reddick
- #8 - Kyle Busch
- #48 - Alex Bowman
- #1 - Ross Chastain
- #24 - William Byron
- #2 - Austin Cindric
- #47 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- #17 - Chris Buescher
- #54 - Ty Gibbs (R)
- #38 - Todd Gilliland
"This whole 23XI team has been working so hard all winter long to make the road course program better. I was extremely motivated to come in here and improve that performance too," Reddick told Fox Sports. "Just so proud of this Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, this whole team, Toyota, everybody. All the resources, everything they've been putting into this to help turn around the road course program, it means a lot."
Reddick's victory was significant for his entire 23XI team, including Kurt Busch. Busch, who drove Reddick's car last year before concussion issues forced him to step out of the No. 45, was a member of Fox's broadcast booth and became emotional watching Reddick drive to victory on the final lap.
"It brings me a little bit to be choked up. I was hoping to be back in that car," the 2004 Cup champion said. "But it's in good hands. And it's a great team and I love racing with those guys."
After taking the first two starting spots in qualifying, Tyler Reddick and William Byron quickly made it known that they were the class of the field, and they would end up combining to lead 69 of what turned into 75 laps. But approaching 10 laps to go, it looked as though Sunday's race was going to be decided by fuel mileage, as Reddick and Byron both tried to pace themselves while the Trackhouse Racing cars of Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez tried to push them faster than they wanted to go.
All concerns about fuel were made null and void when Brad Keselowski broke an axle in Turn 8 and stopped to bring the caution out with 12 to go. That set up a match race between the two that appeared to go to Reddick, but then a major mechanical problem and debris from Austin Dillon's car brought out another yellow with four laps to go, sending the race to overtime.
For stock cars, the sharp angle of Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas lends itself to a lot of divebombs, a lot of contact and a lot of wrecks based off of that. Predictably, that's just what happened. Over and over again, crashes in Turn 1 ended up leading to cautions for debris from damaged cars, leading to three attempts at overtime before Reddick finally took the white flag to ensure the race would have a conclusion.
The abundance of contact jumbled up the final running order considerably, ruined several drivers' days and left a number of them fuming afterwards. Ryan Preece seethed on his Twitter account after getting taken out in overtime, calling his competitors a "bunch of hacks." Daniel Suarez was left seeing red at Alex Bowman, ramming Bowman's bumper on pit road after the race and raising the ire of teammate Ross Chastain, who Suarez ran into on his way to Bowman.
"He just thought I drove in and tried to drive through him," Bowman told Fox Sports. "I had the corner made. Only reason I was inside of the 99 was to protect from the 1. Then the 1 just hammered me in the corner, dumped me, then I ran into the 99, kind of cleaned him out.
"Daniel and I, we've been teammates in the past, raced together a long time. I respect the hell out of him. I'm sure he's still not super happy. Just tried to explain that I wouldn't race him like that, that I was shoved in there."
Sunday's race featured a large amount of crossover appeal across motorsports, as three interlopers from other major racing series were in the field as road ringers. IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, filling in for the injured Chase Elliott, impressed everyone with a fourth-place qualifying effort before contending for a top-10 finish late. 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen was also in the field, and he would also contend for a top-10 finish after a strategy play put him up to fourth on a restart with nine laps to go.
Both, however, would end up getting knocked back to 24th and 29th, respectively, at the checkered flag. Instead, the best of the road ringers would be 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button. Driving the No. 15 for Rick Ware Racing, the British racing great would keep his nose clean all day, driving a smart race and relishing in his NASCAR debut on his way to an 18th-place run.
"I love trying new things. I don't classify myself as just an F1 driver -- I'm a racing driver," Button told Fox Sports in pre-race. "I want to go and try new things. This is such a challenge for me, and a massive opportunity ... It's just great being out with the best in the world when it comes to stock car racing. These guys are super talented when it comes to road courses, people don't realize."
COTA was the first of three Cup races that Button will run in 2023. His next appearances will be at the Chicago Street Course in July and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August.
Race Results Rundown
- Sunday marked a career milestone for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., as the Daytona 500 champion took advantage of the late-race carnage to earn a seventh-place finish. In a decade as a Cup driver, that finish marks Stenhouse's first top 10 ever on a road course.
- Ty Gibbs finished ninth for the second week in a row, making him the highest-finishing rookie and tying his career-best finish. Fellow rookie Noah Gragson also contended for a top-10 finish, but he was collected in an overtime accident and finished 20th.
- Despite being involved in one of the overtime crashes, Todd Gilliland would recover to finish 10th, his first top 10 of the season and the third of his young Cup career. Of those three top 10s, two have now come on road courses.
- Corey LaJoie looked as though he was headed for an awful day in the first half of Sunday's race, as he was penalized for everything from cutting the course to speeding on pit road to the rear diffuser of his car dragging on the racetrack. But LaJoie would not only stay in the game and get back on the lead lap, but he would also persevere and score an 11th-place finish. It comes one week after LaJoie's best career finish of fourth at Atlanta, and it now gives him four finishes of 16th or better to start the 2023 season.
- Speaking of drivers who had to battle back from trouble, Kyle Larson had just about everything go wrong for him, starting when he got drilled in Turn 12 by Bubba Wallace after Wallace's car lost its brakes on corner entry. Multiple spins and major toe link damage later, Larson would somehow manage to get a top-15 finish in 14th.
- IndyCar driver Conor Daly was also among the skilled road racers in the field, but he would not get to test his mettle against the likes of Button and Raikkonen. Daly was only able to make 16 laps before his car suffered a transmission failure, leaving him with a 36th-place finish.
- Jimmie Johnson got to check off a bucket list item with his first race at Circuit of the Americas, but it was very short lived. Exiting Turn 19 on the very first lap, Johnson got drilled in the right rear by a spinning Ty Dillon, bringing an immediate end to his day. The seven-time Cup champion has now failed to finish both of his starts this season due to crashes.
The NASCAR Cup Series goes from its first road course race of the season to its first short track for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway next Sunday. Coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on FS1 with streaming on fuboTV (try for free).