Tyler Reddick Will Fight For Playoffs Life From the Pole at the Charlotte ROVAL
Tyler Reddick, who comes into the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 below the cutline, will look to work his way inside the cut line from the pole in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400.
Tyler Reddick, and 23XI Racing as a whole, made an emphatic statement as both of the team's cars head into the final race of the Round of 12 behind the cutline. Reddick, the driver of the team's No. 45 Toyota Camry scored the pole for Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400.
"It's what we needed to do," Reddick stated in his post-qualifying press conference. "We had hoped and we put a lot of effort into this race."
The fast lap for Reddick in qualifying was an 81.214 sec. (102.839 mph) circuit around the 2.28-mile makeshift road course inside the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Reddick was 0.114 sec. quicker than Christopher Bell, who will start alongside from the second position in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry.
For Reddick, this is the second pole of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and it marks the sixth pole of Reddick's career.
The 27-year-old will begin Sunday's race two points below the Playoffs cutline, but the pole, and his past performance on road courses would lead you to believe that Reddick will more than likely exit Sunday's race at the ROVAL in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Road course events are unique though, as a lot of times drivers and teams will throw away Stage Points throughout the race through pit strategy to better position themselves for the overall race win. Will Reddick, and his No. 45 team, which currently sits just two points outside of the cutline try to load up on Stage Points or go all-in for the race win instead?
Reddick says it's not his call.
"I mean, that is a scenario, right? Like I said, I'll leave that up to [crew chief] Billy [Scott] and the team, but certainly we've seen it, right? Last year's race was going to end a lot differently on points before that caution came out, and it really changed a lot of things for a lot of drivers and teams," Reddick explained. "I'm going to leave that up to them. I'm staying in my lane and figuring out what I can do as a driver."
Bell sits rather comfortably in the Playoff grid, currently, as he has a 22-point advantage on the cutline heading into the final race of the Round of 12. Bell won this race a season ago, but this time around, it is nowhere near a must-win situation for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Daniel Suarez was the highest qualifier among non-Playoff drivers as he will roll from the third starting spot in his No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Right beside Suarez on the starting grid will be Reddick's 23XI Racing teammate Bubba Wallace in fourth.
Wallace, who many predicted to be bounced from the Playoffs in the Round of 16, has clawed his way into the Round of 12, but he comes into Sunday's race nine points below the cutline. While Wallace isn't known as a road racing expert, he has shown great speed in both practice and qualifying, and he looks to have a car capable of competing this weekend.
It'll be interesting to see if he can continue to prove his detractors wrong by advancing to the Round of 8.
Kyle Busch, who enters this weekend in basically a must-win situation, will start the race from the fifth starting spot. Busch sits last on the 12-driver Playoff Grid, and he is 26 points behind the cutline entering the weekend. He'll look to take a bow on Sunday.
A.J. Allmendinger, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Ty Gibbs will round out the top-10 starters for Sunday's race.
Hamlin and Gibbs were unable to complete a lap in the second round of the qualifying session, as Hamlin lost control of his No. 11 Toyota Camry near the end of the session, which brought out the caution and ended the session early.
Gibbs, who hadn't completed a lap prior to Hamlin's spin, was also trapped without being able to complete a lap.
Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion, will start the race from the rear of the field on Sunday after a crash in practice, which relegated his team to prepare its backup car for the race.
Larson is very much in the hunt in the Playoffs, as he comes into the weekend with a 15-point advantage over the cutline.
While 15 points seems like a solid advantage, it can evaporate quickly if Larson's competitors in the Playoffs score Stage points while he is working his way through the field on Sunday.
Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, Racing America