Sunday, April 24, 2022

CUP: Hard luck Tyler Reddick snaps timing belt in Talladega's early laps

PHOTO: @RCRracing

Tyler Reddick
picked up the 1st last-place finish of his Cup Series career in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway when his #8 Bet MGM Chevrolet lost the engine after 31 of 188 laps.

The finish came in Reddick’s 84th series start. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 31st for the #8, the 708th from an engine issue, and the 824th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 50th for the #8, the 1,116th from an engine, and the 1,835th for Chevrolet.

Just last week in the Bristol Dirt Race, Reddick was just seconds away from scoring his first Cup Series victory. In just his third full-time season, the two-time XFINITY Series champion had already been there many times before. At Texas in 2020, he crossed the stripe an instant behind teammate Austin Dillon in a one-two finish for Richard Childress Racing. At Homestead in 2021, he mounted a spirited late-race charge come up just short to William Byron. This year alone, he’s led the opening stages of this year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum before breaking the transaxle, led nearly half the race at Fontana until a flat left-rear tire and contact from Byron knocked him out of contention, and nearly bested Chase Briscoe in multiple late-race restarts at Phoenix. Briscoe, who held him off that day for his own first win, would make a desperate bid for the lead at Bristol. The two spun, handing the checkered flag to Kyle Busch.

Talladega came next and with it, the opportunity to deliver the game ball to Saturday's USFL game between the Birmingham Stallions and Houston Gamblers. With no practice scheduled for the weekend, Reddick earned the 10th starting spot in qualifying with a lap of 179.329mph (53.399 seconds). 

Securing the 39th and final spot was Landon Cassill, whose #77 FOX Nation Chevrolet was the only car to not take time. Cassill’s car had failed inspection three times, preventing them from qualifying and ejecting car chief J.R. Norris. Cassill would also have to serve a pass-through penalty after taking the green flag. Also dropping to the rear was Noah Gragson, winner of Saturday’s XFINITY race, whose #62 Wendy’s Big Bag Chevrolet was docked for unapproved adjustments.

When the command to engines was given, Cassill’s team also discovered a radio issue, and was instructed by NASCAR to pull next to the pit wall to complete the repair. This ended up taking so long that the crew became anxious - so anxious that someone on the crew insisted they lift the window net and send Cassill onto the track. The thinking was they would fix the issue on their first stop, but the radio wasn’t working at all – a serious issue when navigating traffic on a superspeedway. As Cassill left pit road, the team had just started to discuss hand signals when Cassill’s voice was finally heard on the channel, though with static. NASCAR then stepped in to confirm the radio was indeed working, and the crew prepared to serve their pass-through.

As the race started, Cassill took the green flag in 38th, two carlengths ahead of the penalized Gragson, then let the #62 by as the pair entered the backstretch. Warned not to speed, Cassill slowed and made his pass-through penalty, crossing the line 20.527 seconds back of the lead and 18.484 back of Gragson. By Lap 3, Cassill was back on track, 29.716 back of the lead and 27.775 back of Gragson. Running by himself, Cassill was promptly caught by the leaders as he entered Turn 1 on Lap 9, pulling to the high lane to let traffic by. With the remaining 38 starters all in one pack, Cassill was fortunate to find his way into the draft on the inside lane, around the cars running in 32nd.

On Lap 31, Cassill’s crew said they’d be pitting in the next five to six laps, at which point the field started to sort themselves out by manufacturer. By that point, Cassill had linked up with J.J. Yeley, whose #55 Hex.com Ford was staying in his tire tracks. But the next time by, Tyler Reddick came down pit road by himself, where the crew lifted the hood. He took over last place from Cassill on Lap 34, showing two laps down, and the crew discovered the issue. “We broke a timing belt, Tyler,” he was told. “We’re done.” Richard Childress came on the radio, saying he thought it was an ignition issue. But when the crew told him it was a timing belt, he said “Oh shit, that ain’t good.” NASCAR declared Reddick out with “engine” issues on Lap 47.

On Lap 57, another Richard Childress engine let go under the hood of Daniel Hemric’s #16 Majestic Steel Chevrolet as he ran the inside lane through Turns 3 and 4. Contact from Austin Dillon sent Hemric onto the apron, then back up the track – directly into the path of Chase Briscoe’s #14 Mahindra Tractor Ford and Chris Buescher’s #17 Fastenal Ford. All three slammed the outside wall, ending their day. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Greg Biffle, who brought out the next caution when his #44 Morehouse College Chevrolet stalled on track and had to be pushed to the garage. The team’s persistent issues with the fuel pump continue - according to the driver, the result of "sandlike debris getting into the fuel cell" which clogs the pump. With the Bottom Five, Biffle now takes the 2022 LASTCAR Cup Series lead over Corey LaJoie, who finished a solid 14th.

Landon Cassill finally got back on the lead lap under a Lap 91 caution triggered by Joey Logano’s wreck in Turn 1. He ran as high as 10th in the final stages and crossed the line in 19th. Erik Jones nearly scored Petty-GMS Motorsports its first win since the merger with GMS Racing, leading off Turn 4 before a shuffle for position opened the door for race winner Ross Chastain. Jones’ #43 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet finished 6th – his second-best run of the season behind his breakout 3rd-place performance in Fontana. Also impressive was Justin Haley, whose #31 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet ran in the Top Five late. Haley finished 12th – his second-best finish of the season behind an 11th in Atlanta.

LASTCAR STATISTICS
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #8 in a Cup race since July 21, 2019, when Daniel Hemric’s #8 Okuma Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 110 laps of the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire.
*The #8 hadn’t finished last in a Cup race at Talladega since July 26, 1987, when Bobby Hillin, Jr.’s #8 Miller American Buick, fielded by the Stavola Brothers, lost the engine after 2 laps of the Talladega 500.

THE BOTTOM FIVE
39) #8-Tyler Reddick / 31 laps / engine
38) #17-Chris Buescher / 56 laps / crash
37) #14-Chase Briscoe / 56 laps / crash
36) #16-Daniel Hemric / 56 laps / engine
35) #44-Greg Biffle / 79 laps / fuel pump

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Live Fast Motorsports, Spire Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing (2)
2nd) Joe Gibbs Racing, Kaulig Racing, NY Racing Team, Richard Childress Racing (1)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford (2)
3rd) Toyota (1)

2022 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP


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