Last-Lap Pass Lifts Reddick In First Daytona Duel

Reddick

Tyler Reddick in victory lane Thursday night at Daytona Int'l Speedway. (Lesley Ann Miller for Toyota Racing photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tyler Reddick only led a third of a lap during the first of two Bluegreen Vacations Duel qualifying races Thursday night at Daytona Int’l Speedway, but that was all he needed to do.

Reddick shoved Kyle Larson clear down the backstretch, then sliced to the inside of the Hendrick Motorsports driver and drafted past en route to the first Daytona Duel victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

With a push from Chase Elliott coming off turn four, Reddick was able to hold off the pack behind him en route to a .056-second margin of victory in the No. 45 Nasty Beast Hard Tea Toyota Camry XSE for 23XI Racing.

It marked the first Duel win for the team co-owned by three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin and basketball legend Michael Jordan, as well as the first Duel win for Reddick in six attempts.

“This new Toyota Camry is truly a beast. It was a lot of fun to drive,” said Reddick, whose previous best in a Daytona 500 qualifying race was eighth in 2022. “It’s great to get this Nasty Beast Toyota in victory lane, that’s for sure. As for me, I’m still making a lot of mistakes, but I had a good restart. It was a lot of fun tonight.

“I just kept pushing. Everyone at Toyota and TRD put in great work on this brand-new Camry. It really did help, because I could push that much harder,” Reddick added. “This was a good first outing for us on the speedway. Certainly, I’ve got to clean up some mistakes. I can’t seem to still hit pit road without hitting something, but hey, we still won.”

Officially, Reddick led only the final of 60 laps. Larson led four times for a race-high 20 laps, but ended up ninth after being shuffled three-wide to the top in turns three and four coming to the finish line.

Elliott crossed the line second ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman, with Carson Hocevar finishing fourth in an impressive showing for the Spire Motorsports rookie.

Erik Jones was fifth in the highest-finishing Toyota, followed by Daniel Suarez, polesitter Joey Logano, Larson, and Chris Buescher.

The first Duel was relatively calm for the majority of the distance, despite 15 lead changes among nine different drivers. Defending Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. controlled 15 of the first 26 laps, but the moment that began to change the course of the race came after the cycle of green-flag pit stops.

Ford’s four drivers – Logano, Ryan Preece, Todd Gilliland, and Chris Buescher – ended the cycle with 15 laps to go but were eaten up in the draft by Larson and a line of Chevrolets, who pitted a lap earlier than the Blue Ovals.

That allowed Larson to grab control of the lead draft, but disaster struck coming to 10 to go when a four-wide stack-up gone wrong ended with Stenhouse making contact with the back of Daniel Hemric’s Chevrolet, sending Hemric spinning down the turn-three banking and collecting three other cars.

One of those was the non-chartered No. 84 Toyota of seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who narrowly escaped damage and was able to continue in his quest to make the Daytona 500.

The final restart came with six laps left, putting the leaders in a side-by-side deadlock for the first few laps as the pack got up to speed, while Johnson and J.J. Yeley scrapped for the race-in position to the Daytona 500 further back.

Suarez edged out laps 55 and 56 before Larson retook control of the top spot, with the 2021 Daytona 500 winner leading until the white flag and Reddick’s race-winning move in the final half-lap.

Coming to the checkered flag, Yeley had to flare out to the high side as Ross Chastain’s Chevrolet lost momentum in front of him, allowing Johnson to shoot a narrow gap to the middle lane that allowed him to make the pass for position and ultimately lock into the Daytona 500.

Johnson crossed the line 12th in the first Duel, .150 seconds ahead of Yeley, who ended up 16th.

By virtue of his Duel win, Reddick will start third behind Logano in Sunday’s Great American Race.

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.