Tyler Reddick: ‘Good learning experience’ competing up front in Phoenix

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Tyler Reddick caught many off guard with his performance Sunday in the Cup Series’ race at Phoenix Raceway, including himself.

At one point in the second stage, the rookie driver was in the top five and being told by his crew chief the only other car keeping pace with him was Brad Keselowski.

“I’m honestly concerned how I’m the fastest car on the race track,” Reddick recalled thinking. “We’re at Phoenix, this just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The Richard Childress Racing driver appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radios’ “On Track” Monday to discuss a surprising, but disappointing outing in the fourth Cup race of the year.

The two-time defending Xfinity Series champion started the day 29th and ran as high as second before a tire on his No. 8 Chevy went down on Lap 265, sending him into the wall and to a 33rd-place finish, his worst of the year.

Reddick said it was a “mystery” what caused the tire to go down, but added it was “odd” the same problem occurred to his teammate, Austin Dillon, on Lap 131.

“We had some positives and it’s nice to know a place I had a lot of questions marks going into, especially starting 29th on the day, how is it going to stack up and how could I improve and improve a lot going back for it in November,” Reddick said. “It seems like we’re not as bad as we thought. We’ve definitely got something to work off of.”

After qualifying 29th Saturday, Reddick said he was “very concerned” about how hard it would be to pass cars after watching the Xfinity Series race.

But on Sunday, he was ninth by the end of the first stage, having discovered he could “kind of sling (the car) in there, dive bomb people to get around them. So it actually worked out OK.”

However, he learned early on not to be too aggressive.

“I made a few mistakes early racing a little too hard at times with guys like (Ricky) Stenhouse (Jr.),” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “He didn’t appreciate it, I got it. No issues going forward. I’m just trying to get to the front and figured out early in the race, ‘OK, I don’t want to get too aggressive with these guys and send the wrong message.'”

Reddick said it’s important to him when he gets opportunities to race near the front that “you’re not just knocking guys out of the way, you want to make sure that you pass them right.”

That was what was on his mind on Lap 208 when he was in second and suddenly got out of shape and dropped back to 10th.

“It was fun racing with (Martin) Truex (Jr.), it was fun racing with Kyle Busch,” Reddick said. “Didn’t get to race against Kevin (Harvick) a whole lot. But at one time I was at the top of three wide, I really didn’t want to give him room, but I didn’t want to be the guy who squeezed two champions down going into Turn 3 and causes a big wreck. I slid up and lost a lot of track position, unfortunately. It was a good learning experience racing with those guys, knowing I can do it.”

Despite earning nine stage points, Reddick’s 33rd-place finish dropped him from 23rd to 25th in the point standings. He has a five-point advantage over fellowing rookie John Hunter Nemechek. He takes that to the race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

At 325 laps/500 miles around the 1.5-mile track, it will be the longest race of his career (he’s crashed out of both of his Daytona 500 appearances).

“Normally it takes me about 400 laps for me to figure out what I’m doing out there,” Reddick told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Places like Atlanta, I love. The longer the races goes, the more comfortable I get there. Places like Darlington, Homestead.

“As aggressive as I seem as a driver, I actually do ease into at those kind of places, whether it looks like it or not. I think the longer race will help me. I’m curious how this car will drive. I know how I want to get around this race track in a Xfinity car, with more power and less downforce. Now with this car I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do the same things to go fast around there. We’ve got to figure that out in practice. We’re back to that game of drivers that are trimmed out are going to look good for 15 laps. The ones that have downforce built into their cars won’t.”

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eNASCAR Pro Invitational Qualifier to be streamed online

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The qualifying race for Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway will be streamed on enascar.com/live, NASCAR announced.

The qualifier features Xfinity, Truck and regional series drivers looking to advance to the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race that will be at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox, FS1 and the Fox Sports App. At this time, four drivers from the qualifier will advance. That number could change depending on any late additions or drops to the race featuring Cup drivers.

MORE: Roush, Greg Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

MORE: North Wilkesboro to make its comeback on iRacing 

MORE: eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series reminds Clint Bowyer of being a rookie

The qualifier is scheduled to take place at 11:02 a.m. ET and have 34 drivers battling for those four transfer spots.

The qualifier will be 30 laps at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The race will have no cautions.

Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. ET. Qualifying begins at 10:55 a.m., lasting five minutes, followed by the race.

Last week, six drivers advanced from the qualifier to the main event. They were: Anthony Alfredo, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ty Majeski and Ryan Truex.

Drivers scheduled to compete in Sunday’s qualifier at a virtual Texas Motor Speedway are (with car number):

02 – Spencer Boyd

7 – Justin Allgaier

08 – Jeb Burton

15 – Brennan Poole

16 – Justin Haley

22 – Austin Cindric

23 – Sam Mayer

26 – Tyler Ankrum

27 – Ruben Garcia

29  – Kaz Grala

29a – Trevor Bayne

33 – Anthony Alfredo

35 – Todd Gilliland

36 – Jesse Iwuji

40 – Ryan Truex

45 – Ty Majeski

46 – Chandler Smith

50 – Jeffrey Earnhardt

52 – Stewart Friesen

53 – Joey Gase

54 – Kyle Weatherman

63 – Scott Stenzel

68 – Brandon Brown

74 – Sheldon Creed

78 – Ryan Ellis

80 – Joe Graf Jr.

81 – Christian Eckes

90 – Alex Labbe

93 – Myatt Snider

98 – Chase Briscoe

99 – Harrison Burton

TBD – Derek Kraus

TBD – Drew Dollar

TBD – JJ Yeley

March 28 in NASCAR history: Texas Terry Labonte gets a home win

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Terry Labonte’s last two Cup Series wins were anything but forgettable.

The last one, in 2003, came in the Southern 500. That was the same race he earned his first Cup win in way back in 1980.

But four years earlier, the two-time champion got a home win.

A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, the driver nicknamed “Texas Terry” claimed a victory in the 1999 race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was just the third Cup race held at the facility after it opened in 1997.

Labonte started fourth and would lead 124 of 334 laps around the 1.5-mile track, including the final 12 after he passed Dale Jarrett on the outside going into Turn 1 for the lead.

Jarrett wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the lead again. With four laps to go, Jimmy Spencer crashed on the frontstretch to bring out the caution. Labonte took the checkered and yellow flags together for his 21st Cup win.

“We picked places to go test this year and I said ‘I want to go here cause this is a race I want to win,” Labonte told CBS. “Besides Daytona, coming here to Texas is awesome.”

Making the day even better for the Labonte family was Terry’s younger brother, Bobby, placing third.

Also on this day:

1954: The premier series held two races on different sides of the country. Dick Rathmann won a 125-mile race at Oakland Speedway in California after starting last. In Georgia, Al Keller won his first career race at Savannah’s Oglethorpe Speedway.

1982: Sam Ard claimed his first career Xfinity Series win in a race at Martinsville Speedway. Ard would go on to win 22 Xfinity races and the championships in 1983 and 1984.

1992: Robert Pressley passed Harry Gant on the last lap to win the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway.

1993: Dale Earnhardt came back from a lap down to win at Darlington Raceway. It was his first win since the Coca-Cola 600 10 months earlier. Alan Kulwicki finished sixth in what would be his last race before his death in a plane crash on April 1.

2004: Kurt Busch won at Bristol for his third consecutive victory on the half-mile track.

Roush, Biffle reunite for eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race

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After four years, Roush Fenway Racing and Greg Biffle are getting the band back together … digitally.

Roush Fenway Racing announced its former driver will compete in Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event on a digital Texas Motor Speedway.

Like he did in the Cup Series from 2003-2016, Biffle will pilot a No. 16 Ford in the race (1 p.m. ET on Fox and FS1).

“How exciting is it to get back behind the wheel of the No. 16,” Biffle said in a press release. “I watched the iRace last week on TV and I was really impressed with the overall quality of the broadcast and the racing. It was just a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to being a part of the show this weekend.

“We are running a really cool Castrol scheme on the car. I think it’s going to show up really well. My plan is to log a ton of practice time leading up to the race, so hopefully we can have a strong showing and you’ll see a lot of the Castrol green and red on the broadcast.”

This will be Biffle’s iRacing event debut.

After parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the 2016 season, Biffle returned to NASCAR last year for a one-off Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch Motorsports, which he won.

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP
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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.