Ryan: Untangling a caution flag with many layers at Michigan

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It was completely normal … and yet in another way, it also was wholly unprecedented.

In untangling what happened between the first and second stages Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, it’s best to start here: NASCAR officials believe they applied the letter of the law.

After leader Ryan Blaney took the yellow flag that began on Lap 58, there were two full laps remaining in Stage 1. NASCAR’s policy is that the pits are closed with two laps left in a stage in order to prevent strategy plays in which only half the field might complete a normal pit cycle (this was determined after consultation with teams to build guidelines for stage racing).

So on its face, the yellow flag was administered customarily when Matt Kenseth spun in Turn 4 on Lap 57 with three laps left in the first stage at Michigan.

But there were many layers to what transpired during the laps that bridged the first two stages Sunday, and the cascading events affected several cars with some repercussions that could be felt months later while also underscoring how a race’s rhythm can change in the era of stage racing, which NASCAR introduced last season.

In a Q&A format, here’s what went down at Michigan:

How and why did Kenseth get penalized?

Because he stopped when the pits were closed to change the flat tires on his No. 6 Ford. Kenseth fell two laps down while limping around the 2-mile oval to enter the pits and then exiting again as the stage finished under green.

The penalty for entering a closed pit is to restart at the end of the longest line. But Kenseth also was held a lap for taking the wavearound (getting a lap back under the yellow to start Stage 2) before serving the penalty, which is against the rules.

This, however, wasn’t listed on NASCAR’s official penalty report because it was viewed as a scoring correction. “He ended up getting a lap up on the field artificially, and we had to get that back,” Cup Series director Richard Buck said after the race.

Did NASCAR err during the caution sequence?

Yes, though only briefly.

Teams initially were informed that there would be a “quickie yellow,” i.e. a term that means the pits will be open as the caution period commences (the pits normally are closed for at least a lap after a yellow). Buck said the mistake was realized almost immediately, and the pits were closed before any cars reached the entrance.

Were the pits actually closed earlier than normal?

Technically, no.

As noted, NASCAR usually closes the pits with two laps remaining in a stage. That announcement is usually made on NASCAR’s radio channel when the leader crosses the line to begin the penultimate lap of the stage.

But in this case, the announcement that the pits were closed was made much earlier. Buck explained that this was because of a “dynamic situation” with the imminent end of a stage.

Though the caution didn’t officially begin until Lap 58, the yellow flag had waved (which freezes the field and establishes pace car speed) before the halfway point of Lap 57. Because there were still more than three laps remaining then in the stage, the announcement to close the pits was made nearly a lap earlier than typically.

But it also should be noted there are some crew chiefs who probably would regard NASCAR’s interpretation of “two laps to go” in this case as too liberal.

A stricter interpretation of “two laps to go” would mean when Lap 58 is completed (according to the Rule 10.9.1.1.b: “When the lead vehicle completes this designated lap, two laps prior to completing a Stage, except for the Final Stage, at the start/finish line, pit road will be closed.”).

So NASCAR kept the pits closed for the entirety of the Lap 58-59 caution. Couldn’t the caution have been extended through the beginning of Stage 2?

Yes. Officials waved the green on the final lap of Stage 1 because they wanted to end the stage at speed because points were on the line for the top 10.

“We’ll try every opportunity that we can to allow the top 10 to cross under heated competition at the start-finish line,” Buck said. “ And that’s why a lot of times you won’t see us put the yellow out (ending a stage) until the leader is on the back (straightaway). In the stage racing, there’s a lot of dynamics that go into it, and we feel that our checks and balances came into play, and everything came off the way we had explained and done it before in that type of situation.”

NASCAR has ended stages under caution several times before, though, most recently in the April 8 race at Texas Motor Speedway. With four laps remaining in the first stage, there was a heavy crash involving Martin Truex Jr. The ensuing yellow flag lasted nine laps, bridging the first and second stages.

How unusual is a two-lap caution at Michigan?

Fairly unusual.

This was the first two-lap yellow for an on-track incident at Michigan since 2012. In the past 35 years and 70 races at Michigan, this was the 11th two-lap caution. Such short cautions often result from lazy one-car spins, but Kenseth’s car suffered four blown tires and left a trail of sparks – both evidence that the track could have been cluttered.

It certainly would have been understandable if the caution lasted longer than two laps to ensure a full cleanup. In the June 18, 2017 race at Michigan, there was a controversial debris caution at Michigan that lasted five laps.

How unusual is a one-lap restart to end a stage?

It had happened five times in the previous 50 races since the advent of stage racing last season – but Michigan is the first instance in which the pits weren’t opened during the preceding yellow.

The first one-lap restart was in the June 11, 2017 race at Pocono Raceway after a crash involving Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray with four laps remaining in Stage 2. The yellow lasted three laps.

There also was a one-lap restart Oct. 15, 2017 at Talladega after a caution for a one-car crash with four laps left in Stage 1 (the pits were opened). And a week later at Kansas Speedway after a one-car crash with four laps left in Stage 2 (the pits were opened).

This year, there have been one-lap restarts for the March 11 race at ISM Raceway (a one-car crash with four laps remaining in Stage 1; the pits were opened) and to end Stage 1 in the April race at Bristol Motor Speedway. That one-lap dash was preceded by a six-lap caution (including a red flag) in which the pits were opened.

Similar to Sunday at Michigan, inclement weather also had a major impact on the Bristol race (whose finish eventually was postponed to Monday).

How did the one-lap restart impact the Michigan race?

Significantly, because it’s a line-sensitive track, and the outside is the preferred groove on a restart. The disparity in restart grooves is common for most Cup races (as is well documented by the Motorsports Analytics site).

At Michigan, the outside line was preferred for restarts. When the green fell on Lap 60, Kurt Busch was on the inside in second (because Blaney chose the outside) and fell five spots on the restart lap, which is a loss of five points. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (who fell from seventh to 12th and consequently earned no stage points) also lost positions on the inside.

A few points here and there might not seem like much … until the end of the regular season when they will determine which drivers earn playoff berths and which playoff drivers receive larger playoff point bonuses.

Was Chase Elliott also penalized for pitting too soon at the end of Stage 1?

Yes, as was Bubba Wallace for stopping during the Lap 58-59 caution.

But Elliott’s penalty wasn’t as stiff as it could have been. Though he was sent to the rear (which should have meant starting outside the top 35) before the Lap 66 restart, Elliott restarted in 20th because several cars ahead elected to lay over for the green and give the right of way to the No. 9 Chevrolet (which likely had fresher tires than some of the cars that yielded).

Why is all this important?

Because it underscores the importance of consistent and fair officiating during an increasingly complex era in which governance and rules that are based partly on race strategy can create some highly unique circumstances that might ostensibly seem benign but actually can have a major effect on the results.

And it also raises a fair question: Could some of these parameters be streamlined in a manner that would make race procedures cleaner and easier for crew chiefs, drivers and officials?


Michigan was the second time this season (remember the lack of aggression at Richmond?) when nearly every crew chief played it safe rather than gamble for a checkered flag.

Feel free to blame the reliability of your weather apps as much as you’d like, but the inconvenient truth is that taking two tires – as inexplicably only race winner Clint Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz chose to do – before what turned out to be the final restart wasn’t much of a gamble.

Paul Menard already had shown the way 40 laps earlier when he took the lead by staying on track under caution. With a No. 21 Ford that had average speed in the pack, Menard was able to turn much faster laps near the front and unburdened by turbulence.

Why wouldn’t more crew chiefs in the top 10 – particularly those whose drivers had wins (namely Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch) – take a gamble on two tires under threatening skies?

There’s a temptation to conclude that the rise of engineering principles on the pit box has been accompanied by an overreliance on data consumption that results in overthinking scenarios (though to be fair, Bugarewicz also has an engineering degree).

Perhaps too many crew chiefs are trying to apply physics to strategy instead of just relying on their guts.


There is a valid reason for being gun-shy, though: The playoff standings.

With the fewest number of winners (six) through 15 races since 1996, there figures to be as much sensitivity to points racing during the stretch run of the regular season. If Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. continue to amass victories, the top-15 teams will adjust accordingly with fewer golden-ticket wins available

But if you are a 25th-place team with no hope of cracking the playoff bubble in points by the end of the season, this logic doesn’t apply – particularly when the speed differential from first to 25th seems as large as it’s been in the recent past.

A miracle win is your only shot at a major playoff payday – and let’s remember it worked for Chris Buescher and Front Row Motorsports at Pocono two years ago.

So it’s puzzling again why Sunday’s ominous skies didn’t encourage more backmarker teams to attempt a Hail Mary.

Even by just clogging traffic and increasing the likelihood of a pileup, a quick caution on the restart still could have put an underdog in victory lane.


There were no postrace quotes provided from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth, but there also wasn’t much to say about Roush Fenway Racing’s performance.

Though Stenhouse qualified seventh, he finished 29th after a late crash and ran outside the top 10 much of the race. In the fourth race since his return, Kenseth started 19th and finished 33rd and wasn’t a factor before or after the spin.

In a test at Darlington Raceway last week, Kenseth told reporters Roush was making “baby steps” but was lagging behind the team’s pace of improvement. With an off week to regroup, and with Kenseth out of the car for Trevor Bayne at Sonoma Raceway and Daytona International Speedway, this could be a critical spot for Roush’s turnaround.

The most vexing question might be why the team has struggled so mightily while the Ford teams of Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske have excelled this season, crediting a change in NASCAR’s inspection process with optimizing their Fusions.


The success of the aero/horsepower combination in the Xfinity Series last weekend at Michigan makes it likely the rules package (which was a smash hit in the All-Star Race) will find its way into the Cup Series when the circuit returns Aug. 12 to Michigan.

But the momentum for using the package (which has stirred much debate) in the July 14 race at Kentucky Speedway seems to have stalled out after a decision appeared to be looming last week.

The playoffs are off the table for the package. So barring a sharp change in direction, it might be used only at Michigan and the Sept. 9 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, both tracks where drivers could remain in the throttle for a full lap and increase the efficacy of the aero/horsepower package on enhancing passing opportunities.

What drivers said at Texas Motor Speedway

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What drivers said during and after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Tyler Reddick scored his third win of the season, outrunning Joey Logano by 1.19 seconds:

Tyler Reddick — Finished first: “I was extremely worried, I’m not going to lie. Unfortunately, just about every time we’ve had fast cars, we’ve had some tire problems. Yeah, that last run the right sides were vibrating really, really hard there. I was just trying to maximize and use the gap that I built over Joey (Logano) just in case. I mean, every time we’ve had a strong car, we’ve been bit by something. This will make that, the pain of not making it through (the first round), a little bit easier. Even though, yes, it would have locked us into the Round of 8. We’re winning races. That’s what we’ll keep trying to do.”

Joey Logano — Finished second: “Yeah, the tires, if they aren’t blowing out then they are square. They were shaking like crazy. That is what happened there the last run. The last couple of runs really, just shaking the car. We got tight a couple runs and last time I got one that was off in the rear and we got loose. I think (Tyler) Reddick was fighting the same thing from what I heard there. You get that close to the win and you just know that if you just had that it might have been good enough to win the race. At the same time we should be happy that we scored a bunch of points today. It is bittersweet, I guess. It was a successful day for points scored. We got stage points in both stages and we were able to get a bunch by finishing second there. Yeah, it was a sloppy race for everyone on the track. We were just able to position ourselves really good at the end. Paul (Wolfe) did a good job calling the race and putting four tires on when we needed to and putting two tires on when we needed to cycle forward.”

Justin Haley — Finished third: “This was a long, challenging race. We finished third at Darlington earlier in the season and started pretty much last there, as well, so it’s pretty cool to have another really great run for this Kaulig Racing team. Our No. 31 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Camaro ZL1 definitely wasn’t what I liked, but we kept working on it and actually when it turned dark, we got some good track position and made a heck of a run out of it. I’m really proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. At the end, I was just worried that the right rear is going to go down, so I was just trying to make it to the end. P3 is everything we could want right now.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished fourth: “It was a long night, for sure. It didn’t start out very good at all. We got better and better through the night and throughout the day we were able to win a stage and claw our way back from pretty far back in the pack there that last run to get to fourth. I thought our Mustang was probably the best car at the end. We just couldn’t pass anybody. Overall, not a bad night. A pretty wild night. Luckily, we were able to put together a solid race.”

Chase Briscoe — Finished fifth: “The first 90 percent of the race we were struggling. We couldn’t get the balance of the car right. We would be too loose or too tight and could never find where we needed to be. After that red flag, I think the nighttime coming in kind of helped us a bit. With 80 to go we were hoping to catch more cautions and make it on fuel, and we were able to get our track position that way and it ended up working out. We did what we needed to do for our Rush Truck Centers Ford. We were not a fifth-place car. We weren’t even a 15th-place car. To steal some points like that is huge. Going to Talladega, we are not in a massive hole, and that is the most important thing. We will go there and hopefully have a little luck go our way and see what happens.”

Erik Jones — Finished sixth: “It ended up being a solid day for our FOCUSfactor Chevy team. The day started out a little rough. We were just struggling with the balance and got it better late in the race. We ended up taking tires with about 30 laps to go and were able to come back through the field for a sixth-place finish. I’m proud of that. We struggled at Texas in the All-Star race, and we got a lot better from then to today. It’s good to have a good week. We needed one after the last few weeks. Hopefully, we can carry some  momentum to Talladega next weekend and try to close one out there.”

William Byron — Finished seventh: “Yeah, he (Denny Hamlin) ran me out of room. The toe link. We’re lucky we finished. It was really, really hard contact. It wasn’t like just a light contact or anything like that. Yeah, I didn’t mean to obviously spin him out over there. Obviously, I’m pissed off — just not going to get run like that. We’ve always raced so well together. I don’t know what it was all about. The 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) took his air away, he ran out of racetrack, so he chose to run me out of racetrack completely. Again, look, it’s not like it was just contact. I thought we were going to be done. I went to go show my displeasure. I didn’t mean to hit him and spin him out. There’s a ton of guys that do this and go do something like that. I see it all the time. I’m just not going to get run like that. Yeah, there’s really no reason. We’re running second and third I think. Had a shot to win. Killed our car, for sure. That was a bummer. We’ll probably talk. Look, we’ve never had issues, so I didn’t really get it. … Yeah, it was uncalled for. Feel like we handled it.”

MORE: Texas Cup results

MORE: Texas Cup driver points

Kyle Larson — Finished ninth: “You try to shake it off the best that you can and go out there and put together some good runs. We were able to overcome all the spots that we would lose on pit road. I felt like I drove from the back to the top five or six — almost every run. Really, really good car. Proud of the effort there at the shop, the piece that we brought here to Texas. It’s good we were above the cut, but yeah, we’re plus 16. I feel like we could have been plus 34 or something at least. Bummer there. Potentially could have won the race, I think. We had the best car. The weather delay really hurt, too. I think we were by far the best when the track was hot. When it got cooler out, I got loose, everybody seemed to get faster. It was just harder to pass. I mean, hopefully I would love to get some stage points (next week at Talladega), pat ourselves a little bit, cross our fingers and pray to God that we see a checkered flag.”

Denny Hamlin — Finished 10th: “I guess we can just wreck each other under caution. I tried to wreck him (William Byron) back. I don’t think we touched. I got to look. I don’t think we touched. Obviously, he sent us into the infield under caution. I keep hearing these guys. I’ll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance. They’re going to get it. It all just works itself out. We’ll be racing each other at some point. He’ll lose a lot of spots because he’s racing me. This is hard racing, obviously. I’m fine with hard racing. But wrecking me under caution is obviously not what we were bargaining for.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 12th: “It was a tough day. We got decent points, but the car wasn’t what we were hoping for. The entire weekend, we were kind of off. The car had good speed, but the balance of the car wasn’t good. We just have to continue to work. I think we had a decent points day. We just have to continue to work and get better.”

Ross Chastain — Finished 13th: “There were just a lot of ups and downs today. We cycled up to get stage points. The balance was neutral all day, but we got loose when we wanted it to be our last pit stop. We pitted and then we were back there in the very back for the second-to-last restart and got involved with the No. 10 (Aric Almirola) there. We just struggled with the balance the last 80 laps or so, but other than that, it was a good day for our No. 1 Renu Camaro ZL1 team.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 15th: “I felt like we had a really fast Discount Tire Ford Mustang. We made the right changes throughout the day. I would say we didn’t execute very well at the beginning of the race but passed a lot of cars throughout the day and then got caught up in somebody else’s mistake that took us out of a top five or top three or even a shot at the win. I am very upset about it. Getting stage points has been our weakness as a race team. We were able to get that in both stages today and really grind one out and show a lot of poise but have nothing to show for it so I am pretty upset about it. We are still on offense. We will put our heart and soul into it just like everyone else does. I have a great team behind me and I believe in myself and believe we can make the Round of 8, whether that is with a race win or on points. But it was a missed opportunity tonight, for sure.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 16th: “Today was a back-and-forth day with strategy. Our Black Rifle Camaro had good speed. We brought a good piece, and I thought it raced well, just the strategy was kind of back and forth. I think we made the perfect call there at the end of when to pit, and it was looking like we were going to get a top 10. I just caught a little bit of the slime in turn one and had a big moment and lost spots, unfortunately. I’m proud of our effort, proud of the speed in our Camaro. It’s been a lot of fun to drive these fast cars the last couple of weeks.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 17th: “We had a really fast True Velocity Chevrolet tonight at Texas Motor Speedway, so thanks to everyone at RCR and ECR for working hard to give us great equipment. We led the field in practice on Saturday, had a decent starting spot and were strong for a lot of the race. It was nice to lead some laps and earn some stage points. Strategy just didn’t play our way. We lost some track position at the end of the race, and it was really hard to make it up.”

Noah Gragson — Finished 21st: “Solid run by our No. 16 Freedom by Ed Morse team. We had a lot of fun out there and ran up in the top 10 for a lot of the race. I’m really thankful and grateful for the opportunity with Kaulig Racing, Freedom by Ed Morse, and the entire Morse family. I had a lot of fun out there. It was a long, long race. We had some strong runs there throughout the race and got sent by the 11 late in the race when we were running like 10th or 11th. That’s part of it. You’ll have that, but we’ll keep working hard and try and be better in the future.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 31st: “I blew a tire. Simple as that. I guess the same thing as everybody else has been having. Man, I’m ready for this year to be over. Strong Bass Pro Shops Camry. Really strong car. Went to the back and passed a lot of cars today. Spun out in the first stage and I was like, okay, what was that all about. Good car — couldn’t do too much with it. Just kept going to the back and as soon as we got track position the unthinkable happens. It’s a shame. It’s a crazy day for sure – a lot of blown tires.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 32nd: “I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault. Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear. Something came apart. I could hear it flapping in the right rear fenderwell. I don’t know, but if it wasn’t down, it was certainly coming apart. One of the two. It’s not a great position to be in for sure, but it is what it is now. … We were actually decent here for once, so that was nice while it lasted. We’ll go to Talladega and try to get a win and go on down the road.”

Cody Ware — Finished 33rd: Team manager Robby Benton said Ware had discomfort in his ankle and would be checked again by medical personnel in Charlotte. “He has been treated and released. We are thankful to the track crew here. We had a bit of a delay going through the normal protocol of x-rays and reviews and making sure there were no fractures. All of that came back clear. He will be on the team plane with us to return to Charlotte tonight and we are happy he is okay. No broken bones. I feel like we will probably follow up just as a precaution. He will see a specialist with Ortho Carolina once we get home. For as hard of a hit as that was, we are thankful it is as clean as it is and he will be okay to go home tonight.”

Christopher Bell — Finished 34th: “Just the second right rear blown of the day – that was disappointing. I’m in a pretty bad spot now. Talladega – I guess we are going to go roll the dice. Roval, I think we will be all right. Road courses haven’t been our strength, but we have been good at a couple of them. I don’t know if we are going to be able to get out of this points hole, but we will give it our best. To have two right rears go in the first half of the race is very strange. I don’t know. It’s a very disappointing day. We are probably going to be in a deep hole now.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 36th: “I was just getting closer to the 11 (Denny Hamlin), and I knew if I tracked him, followed him in the lower groove, I would lose ground, so I went to the high groove where I was making time in the spray and the sticky stuff, but it is not so sticky, apparently, I crashed. I’m trying to go, trying to race. Banana peels out there for me. Too many conditions that you’ve got to be around or go around or figure out or be smarter about. I guess I wasn’t very smart. I didn’t know as a race car driver you could push too hard, but certainly it was a resin issue. I guess you would think being a hundred-and-something degree track temp it would be activated and ready to go, but I tried to get in it earlier than everybody else. Once these cars snap, they are gone. They are not like the old one where you have a little bit of time to react and catch it, but yeah, just trying hard trying to go and conditions are not ready. Banana peels out there it seems. When that stuff is not activated, it is just ice.”

Texas Cup results: Tyler Reddick wins

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Tyler Reddick won Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Several playoff drivers, including point leader Chase Elliott, ran into trouble during the race as numerous teams experienced tire problems.

MORE: Texas Cup results

MORE: Texas Cup driver points

The race was pockmarked by cautions and extended by a red flag for rain.

Following Reddick, who won for the third time this season, were Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. both led the race in the late going but were victims of blown tires.

Tyler Reddick wins Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway

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There was fire. There was rain. There was pain. There was lightning. And heat. There were tires that didn’t want to stay together. And, by the way, there was a race.

A very long race.

At its end, more than five hours after it started, Tyler Reddick was the king of the road, winning Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff chase around Texas Motor Speedway. Following in the top five were Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe.

The win was Reddick’s third of the year but his first on an oval track. He did not qualify for the second round of the playoffs.

The race, the first in the second round of the playoffs, could most easily be described in one word: chaos.

The tire issue was confusing. After it became evident that more than a few tires — particularly right rears — were collapsing before the end of a typical tire run, crew chiefs faced decisions about how long to keep their drivers on track in uncertain conditions.

Reddick said he was worried he might have a tire problem racing toward the checkered flag.

“I was extremely worried; I’m not going to lie,” he said. “Unfortunately, just about every time we’ve had fast cars, we’ve had some tire problems. That last run, the right sides were vibrating really, really hard there.”

MORE: Texas Cup results

MORE: Texas Cup driver points

Several of the playoff drivers who began the day with hopes of a smooth start to the Round of 12 watched the race finish from outside their cars. Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman failed to finish, Bell having hit the wall twice on his way to a 34th-place finish.

Every few minutes, it seemed, cars were slamming into the wall and-or each other, causing a record wave of cautions and jumbling the playoff grid. Drivers were dancing along the ragged edge between stability and sliding, making passing difficult.

MORE: RFK Racing on the rise

The race length was extended by a rain shower and a 55-minute red flag in the final stage, although forecasters had predicted only a 15% chance of rain for the day.

Logano finished second and jumped to the playoff point lead. Ross Chastain is second. Below the cutline after one race in the round are Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman.

Chase Elliott, who held the point lead entering the race, hit the Turn 4 wall hard on lap 187, and the resulting damage caused a fire in the right front of the car. Elliott guided the car onto the apron grass and climbed out as the fire grew larger. Elliott said his right rear tire either blew apart or lost air, causing the crash.

Playoff drivers Denny Hamlin and William Byron were involved in some close encounters with each other in the second half of the race. They eventually bumped while running under caution.

One of the season’s hardest crashes occurred in the second half of the race when Cody Ware lost control of his car, slammed into the Turn 4 wall and then shot onto pit road, where crew members scattered as his car hit the pit wall. Ware was helped from the car and struggled as he crossed pit wall.

The front end of Ware’s car was demolished. He was checked and released from the infield medical center. A team official said Ware had some ankle discomfort and would be checked by medical personnel upon returning home.

MORE: What drivers said at TMS

Former champion Kevin Harvick, a frequent critic concerning safety issues this season, lost a tire while leading the race with 81 laps to go and slid into the wall.

A few laps later, Martin Truex Jr., who inherited the lead after Harvick’s tire issue, experienced the same problem, losing a right rear tire and hitting the wall. Harvick stayed in the race; Truex parked.

Harrison Burton, one of the race leaders, had a fire incident on pit road as his team changed tires. Burton moved out of his pit so safety workers could extinguish the fire, which started under the rear end of his Ford. Burton recovered to race in the top five.

Kyle Busch‘s troubles continued into another week as his car slipped in track resin and into the wall in Turn 4. He parked for the day.

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Winner Tyler Reddick continues to shine despite racing under difficult circumstances. He led 70 laps in his third win of the season. … Justin Haley had one of his best runs of the year, finishing third. … Erik Jones was a strong sixth. … William Byron and Denny Hamlin finished in the top 10 despite tussling with each other on track.

Who had a bad race: Almost too many to name. Point leader Chase Elliott left the race in a blaze as his car erupted in flames after hitting the Turn 4 wall. … It was a dark day for playoff hopeful Christopher Bell. He hit the wall – twice – and eventually parked before the halfway point. … Kyle Busch slipped in resin that had been placed on the track and whacked the wall, ending his day. … A hard crash in the fourth turn took playoff driver Alex Bowman out of the race. … Rookie Harrison Burton led the race briefly but dropped back after a fire on pit road.

Next: The Round of 12 continues at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Tire issues end race for Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Chase Elliott, who entered Sunday’s second-round playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway leading the points, crashed and finished 32nd.

A right rear tire issue caused Elliott to lose control while leading on Lap 184 of the 334-lap race. 

He was the second playoff driver to be eliminated after tire issues. Christopher Bell finished 34th after having two right rear tires go down. After his second tire went down, Bell hit the wall. Cole Custer and Alex Bowman also had incidents after tire issues. 

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault. Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car,” Elliott said. “I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Elliott did not score stage points in the first stage and was eliminated before the end of the second stage, leaving him with no stage points.

“It’s not a great position to be in for sure, but it is what it is now,” Elliott said. “I hate it for our No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team. We were actually decent here for once, so that was nice while it lasted. We’ll go to Talladega (Superspeedway) try to get a win and go on down the road.”

Bell also scored no stage points. Bell entered the race in a three-way tie for the final three transfer spots to the next round. 

“To have two right rears go in the first half of the race is very strange,” Bell said. “I don’t know. It’s a very disappointing day. We are probably going to be in a deep hole now.”

The second round continues next Sunday at Talladega and concludes Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Roval.