Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: A Texas NASCAR Race Was Finally Interesting for All the Wrong Reasons

What happened?

Tyler Reddick‘s tires held on where so many others didn’t while en route to his third NASCAR Cup Series win of his career on Sunday evening (Sept. 25) at Texas Motor Speedway. Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe finished behind him to round out the top five.

Since Reddick’s win came one week after his elimination from the playoffs, it continued the trend of non-playoff drivers winning each race during the 2022 postseason.

How did it happen?

At one point during the early stages of Sunday’s 500-miler, Reddick was a lap down after making an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration.

But as one tire fell flat after another throughout the day and into the night, the attrition rate at Texas skyrocketed. Soon enough, Reddick found himself back in contention and even took the lead on lap 227 before losing it 17 laps later.

Unfortunately, the end of the race saw leader after leader falling victim to sudden tire failures ending their rule over the field at Texas. Two of them occurred in the final stage of the event, one right after the other.

The shuffle at the end saw Reddick inherit the lead on lap 281 after deciding not to pit for track position. Suddenly, the racing world held its breath as everyone awaited the inevitable high-pitched shriek of NBC broadcast analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. announcing Reddick’s demise.

But no such call occurred. Through two more yellow flags, Reddick kept the lead and stayed ahead of Logano to capture the third win of his career and third of 2022.

Who stood out?

There weren’t many heroes on Sunday, only those who survived.

However, we did see the birth of a new rivalry between William Byron and Denny Hamlin.

It began shortly after one of the many restarts on lap 258. While contending for the second-place spot, Byron held the high line as Hamlin attempted to clear the Hendrick Motorsports driver while the duo raced through the exit of turn 2.

Hamlin, however, went slightly wide and side-bumped Byron, sending the No. 24 into the outside wall and costing the two their momentum. Austin Dillon snuck by and took the spot.

Or at least, it kind of looked like Hamlin hit him.

It mattered not to Byron, who stayed behind Hamlin until the caution waved again for another flat tire coming from race leader Martin Truex Jr. Yet, while all the cameras were on the No. 19, nobody saw as Byron drove back up to Hamlin’s rear bumper and sent him into the infield grass.

Hamlin, who was livid on his radio, was sent to the rear near 20th position because of the incident. Byron was not penalized for bumping into the Joe Gibbs Racing driver while under caution.

Surprisingly, despite Hamlin’s vow for revenge, the two did not clash again even after restarting nose-to-tail with one another. Both drivers finished in the top 10 and scored some decent points results.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they had cooled down. Byron and Hamlin both voiced their displeasure with one another.

Byron admitted it as an act of retaliation; however, he claims he had not intended to spin the No. 11 Toyota.

That’s likely true, but still means he’s not entirely absolvable of the blame.

Meanwhile, Hamlin claims his list of drivers to pay back has now grown.

With six races left and both drivers still in the postseason, it appears this duo may be this year’s version of the Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick rivalry we saw one year ago.

With wild card, chaotic races at both Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL left in the Round of 12, Byron will likely be wary of the No. 11 car from now on.

While Byron was not penalized initially, there still may be some wags of the finger coming his way.

Who fell flat?

Everybody’s right rear tire.

The story of the night was not about which playoff drivers had suffered bad results or which ones had mechanical failures that have put them in a hole for the next two weeks of the playoffs.

It was about which ones saw their Goodyears deflate at the wrong time.

Texas saw newest playoff darling Christopher Bell go from the hero to zero in one week.

Bell, who was the first driver to lock himself into the Round of 12 after having a couple of strong races, saw his efforts crumple early on lap 79 with a tire failure.

It wasn’t odd, considering both his JGR teammates Truex and Kyle Busch, who are not in the playoffs, had already earned their dosage blowouts for the day. Or, at least, for the moment.

However, Bell’s struggles weren’t over. He suffered another flat on lap 138 that took him out of the race. The driver that was leading the points one week ago before the round reset is now 11th in the standings, a whopping 29 points below the cut line.

But that was before Alex Bowman also had his own struggles that put him on the damaged vehicle policy clock. A hard hit to the outside wall caused him to limp around the track for the rest of the event and put him 30 points below the cut line.

However, the biggest hit for a playoff driver during the day, both literally and figuratively, was Elliott.

The regular season points champion was on a 42 laps led streak and appeared to be emerging as a Fort Worth favorite to win. However, trends are trends for a reason, and Elliott’s right rear joined the flat tire club at the most inopportune time.

Elliott, who was leading the standings before Sunday, is now on the bubble of the playoff Round of 8 with only a four-point cushion to protect him from elimination.

The Dawsonville, Ga. native was the first of many leaders that saw themselves hitting the wall after a cut tire sent them there.

What did this race prove?

Well, be careful what you wish for.

It’s not a well-kept secret Texas Motor Speedway is arguably the most infamous track on the NASCAR circuit. It has mostly claimed that title since its repave altered the corner banking and practically eliminated any chance of multi-lane competition.

The touch-up made the racing product dull, as passing became scarce and fights for the lead were only performed after restarts.

On Sunday, however, Texas was anything but dull.

That doesn’t make it a good thing.

There may be a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico right now, but the 1.5-mile oval was already the site of the perfect storm for chaos and controversy. With all of the talk of the Next Gen car possibly being unsafe for drivers and its ‘crappy parts’ that constantly seem to be malfunctioning, the added ingredient of a faulty tire made the race nail-biting for all the wrong reasons.

Leaders dropped like flies and crew chiefs prepared their pit crews for caution-flag stops as it seemed inevitable that a tire pop would send a driver into the wall and bring out the next yellow.

But if that wasn’t bad enough, the NASCAR world stopped turning when Cody Ware hit the wall in turn 3.

The incident saw the No. 51 hit the turn 3 outside wall before Ware’s No. 51 Ford drove through the infield grass and hard into the pit wall half a straightaway down with little deceleration.

Ware climbed out of the car but appeared to struggle to stand up and was carried into the ambulance on a stretcher.

Not much is known about Ware’s condition, other than he was treated and released from the infield care center. As others looked on with dismay, the backlash skyrocketed in an outcry to make the Next Gen cars safer.

For once, dull racing took a back seat to larger, far more important issues in the world of NASCAR. Unlike the racing product at Texas, however, they are issues that will likely, hopefully, be addressed by the industry’s leaders.

Better than last time?

With a record-breaking 36 lead changes, it was the best Texas Motor Speedway race in NASCAR history from a competition standpoint. It even had 19 different leaders, a wild improvement over last year’s five.

In terms of everything else, it was probably the worst. But hey, at least there was passing.

In a way, you have to feel bad for the folks at TMS. Aside from a very expensive repave that likely won’t happen, there’s nothing they can do to help the racing product except try their best to market it to be more exciting.

But race fans have already developed this stigma to dislike Texas. Even if Sunday’s race was a barnburner, which it wasn’t, it likely wouldn’t have changed many people’s opinions of the Lone Star State’s venue.

Unfortunately, there’s not much in anyone’s power that can change their opinion.

Paint scheme of the race

On what was a scorching day in Texas, there were surely plenty of drivers that could’ve used a cool, refreshing beverage.

Daniel Suarez had some very bright and vibrant recommendations.

Suarez had won Paint Scheme of the Race almost as soon as the No. 99 Chevrolet was revealed.

Coca-Cola’s paint schemes seem to always be eye-catching, but in the case of Suarez this weekend, it was practically eye-demanding.

The Coca-Cola brand Minute Maid sponsor gave plenty of colors to work with while Suarez’s Mexican heritage gave way for the Trackhouse Racing Team driver to display some unique cultural artwork in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

On top of all of that, it has a panther wearing sunglasses. It’s going to take a lot to top this scheme the rest of the year…

What’s next?

The biggest wild card race in the playoffs lies dead ahead. The Cup Series travels to Talladega Superspeedway for the last superspeedway race of 2022, the YellaWood 500. Cup qualifying begins on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 10:30 a.m. ET with the race televised live on NBC on Sunday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. ET.

Follow @PitLaneLT

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021 after a staff writing position with IMSA. A race fan since he was three years old, he began freelance writing in 2018 and graduated with a B.S. in Communications from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

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Sally Baker

Pathetic. This isn’t a race of a playoff, it’s just a matter of survival. What a joke.

janice

“who fell flat”………….goodyear tires.

what a mess this race was. then they had rain and lightening too. i kept waiting for a plague of locusts to rain down over the track. it kind of reminded me of indy all those years ago when the tire issues spoiled the race.

i cringed when i saw the cody ware wreck. he’s lucky, if his ankle has stopped bothering him, to walk away without any serious injuries. i’m sure heat exhaustion was one of the reasons why he collapsed after he got out of the car. nascar better put safety first. fire in the pits for the 21 and then chase elliott had fire. i don’t want to think of what might happen at dega with a typical “big one”.

hopefully hurricane ian will stay to the east and avoid alabama.

Kevin in SoCal

The 21’s pit fire was a fluke as a random spark ignited some spilled gasoline on the ground.

I laughed at the karma for the Elliott fan’s laughing at Kyle Busch’s wreck only for their own driver to wreck later in the race. They’re way too vocal on Facebook.

Bill B

Once again we see NASCAR’s version of parity. Everyone has an equal chance of a tire randomly failing or a part randomly breaking. Parity. Ain’t it great.

What a mess the playoffs are this year. Every week is Talladega.

What Hamlin did to Byron looked a lot like what Chastain did to Hamlin that started their whole feud. However Byron was not right to do something so blatant under a caution. If he gets penalized it’s his own fault.

Echo

I think everyone should get a free shot at Hamlin.

Kevin in SoCal

Does Denny have a problem with everyone, or does everyone have a problem with Denny?

Bill B

What’s the difference?

Kevin in SoCal

The difference is whether it is Denny’s fault, or if he thinks he’s being picked on.

Bill B

My point was it doesn’t matter which way it is because he is the common denominator and therefore, he is the problem.

Carl D.

Yes…

Dale EarnHog

It’s a shame the tires decided to completely ruin this thing- we actually had decent racing, especially under the lights. HOWEVER
-Whoever decided to put a race in Texas at 2:30 in the afternoon needs to be fired. From what I heard, there were a good amount of fans suffering from heat exhaustion.
-Goodyear can’t make a tire for Texas because Texas is the worst racetrack design possible.

janice

here in ga race didn’t start until almost 4 pm, eventhough it said 3:30 pm.

Frank

When are the rocket scientists at nascar going to figure out that the wheel and tire combo they are using is NO GOOD. Can they be that stupid.

Jeremy

Yes. And they can also be that stubborn. They can not admit they were/are wrong. Ever.

Bill B

They thought they were wrong once, but they were mistaken.

DoninAjax

I don’t think it is just the tire and wheel combination although mow profile tires on a 18 inch wheel on a stock car is insane, like most of the decisions by the NA$CAR brain trust. I think it is the independent rear suspension that allow the teams to adjust camber and toe to extremes and really can’t take a hit like the old suspension. If the problem was the tire why didn’t right front tires fail too? If a car is tight the right FRONT tire blows. If a car is loose the right REAR tire blows. During the event, which drivers were complaining about a loose car?

When Elliott was standing looking at his burning car it almost looked like he was thinking “Burn baby burn!”

Isn’t it great how NA$CAR’s new car is saving the teams so much money?

janice

yes and they appear to be ostriches with their respective heads in the sand.

Kurt Smith

I am really glad I have missed the last few races. Or more correctly not missed them.

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