RPM or elsewhere: Where will Bubba Wallace be better off in 2021?

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As Bubba Wallace weighs offers from Richard Petty Motorsports and at least Chip Ganassi Racing, the key issue is where will Wallace be better off in 2021.

Asked Wednesday what’s important to him, Wallace noted the family atmosphere at Richard Petty Motorsports but also said: “Obviously you want to be competitive. I came into this sport wanting to win races and be a household hame on the track, so we have a lot of work to do as a team and together to get there.”

While COVID-19 has made this season unlike any other in NASCAR’s history and Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 team had a driver change in April and a crew chief change in August, statistically, the No. 42 car and Wallace’s No. 43 car are even over the past three months.

The No. 42 with Matt Kenseth has a 20.11 average finish since the season resumed in May. Wallace has a 20.16 average finish in the same time. The difference is one position over an 18-race span. Although Kenseth has the best finish in that stretch with his runner-up result at Indianapolis, Wallace has three top 10s compared to Kenseth’s two in that time. Kenseth has scored 316 points since May; Wallace has scored 313 points for RPM.

Bubba Wallace Matt Kenseth
Bubba Wallace leads Matt Kenseth earlier this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Eighteen races is only half a Cup season and doesn’t always provide the clearest picture as teams cycle through ups and downs. Kenseth, who did not compete last season, took over the No. 42 ride after the team fired Kyle Larson in April for uttering a racial slur during an online race.

Asked about talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year, Kenseth told NBC Sports last weekend that “we really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you. I think that when things are going as bad as they’re going I don’t think either side is probably super anxious about talking about what’s happening six or eight months for now.

“I think we’re more worried about trying to get this ship righted as soon as possible and start getting some finishes and start running up front. … We really believe that the cars and the team and everything, if we have a really good day, is capable of winning. I think that’s probably what is at the forefront of our mind right now, trying to get running good first of all then hopefully executing and possibly get in a position where we could sneak one out.”

Wallace, 26, is among a number of free agents after this season. The list narrowed with Ryan Blarney signing a contract extension with Team Penske earlier this year, and Brad Keselowski recently signing an extension with Team Penske. Erik Jones is among those looking for a ride next season with rookie Christopher Bell taking Jones’ ride in the No. 20 next season at Joe Gibbs Racing.

As for what he’ll do next season, Wallace said Wednesday: “Nothing set in stone yet, still all being worked out, ironed out. Hopefully we’ll have that announcement coming soon.”

Among the benefits at Ganassi is it is a two-car team with former champion Kurt Busch. Richard Petty Motorsports is a single-car team but is aligned with Richard Childress Racing and Germain Racing, providing alliance teammates in Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Ty Dillon.

An important factor will be sponsorship. Wednesday’s announcement of a multi-year personal services deal between Columbia Sportswear and Wallace includes sponsorship for at least one race. This is the second sponsorship deal for Wallace in a month. On July 14, RPM revealed a multi-year sponsorship deal with Cash App. The deal included primary sponsorship in five races this season.

“I was always told win and they’ll come,” Wallace said of sponsorship. “And we won a couple, we won a few in the Truck Series and still fighting sponsorship issues. I haven’t won much since then. But we’ve been doing things. We’ve been winning off the racetrack. I think that’s helped being much bigger than an athlete, standing up for human beings. It’s something that we often don’t get to do just because we’re put on a pedestal.

Bubba Wallace’s most recent top-10 finish came last weekend at Michigan. He placed ninth in the first of the two Cup races there. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“With the spotlight that I put myself into, being vocal about what’s going on the world, has created opportunities for new partners. Look at Columbia here. A brand new partner, a part of the sport, a part of RPM, a part of the Bubba Wallace brand. We’re doing good things off the racetrack that helps our on-track performance. So, we will just continue those ways.

“This doesn’t even compare to the little bit of sponsor momentum we’ve had in years past. This is an incredible opportunity for me; one the best years in my racing career from that standpoint. We’re building up on a great future here, getting these partnerships and deals in place; to set the team, the partner, and myself up for great success and we’ll continue to do that.”

Finding sponsorship, deciding on where to race next year and the role Wallace has elevated to in social activism can be draining. Wallace said in late June he was “wore the hell out.” Wallace said Wednesday that he’s feeling better.

“I definitely feel a lot more upbeat,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum on our side. Big things being worked on behind the scenes like this (Columbia Sportswear) that we’re excited to share with people. It’s part of it. You go through the wringer. It makes you a better person at the end of the day. Maybe it’s a new outlet for you to explore, like I said about being outspoken about things that are going on in the country and in the world, and you want to be a part of it. And that’s how I’ve felt. I didn’t know what to expect.

“You know me, I’m always just the ‘do it and figure out everything after’ and so that’s just a part of Bubba Wallace in everyday life and we’ll continue to go on. I’m always ready for whatever is thrown at me. I try to handle it in the best way I can.

“I’ll get beat-up and worn down about it and you’ll hear about it because I wear my heart on my sleeve. But all in all, we’re refreshed.”

Giving him a chance to focus on the final four regular-season races to make the playoffs and where he will race next season.

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Blown tires end race early for several Texas contenders

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A Goodyear official said that air pressures that teams were using contributed to some drivers blowing tires in Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. all crashed while leading after blowing a tire. Among the others who had tire issues were Alex Bowman, Chris Buescher Cole Custer and Christopher Bell twice. 

“We’re gaining as much information as we can from the teams, trying to understand where they are with regard to their settings, air pressures, cambers, suspicions,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing Sunday. “For sure I can say without a doubt air pressure is playing into it. We know where a lot of the guys are. Some were more aggressive than others. We know that plays a part.

MORE: NASCAR says it missed William Byron spinning Denny Hamlin under caution 

“I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but it’s certainly a factor, so we’re just trying to understand everything else that is going on with regard to specific teams. We know a lot of guys have not had issues. We’ve had guys put full fuel runs on tires, but, obviously, other guys have had issues. We’ll be working with them to try to sort through that is.”

Eight of the 16 cautions were related to tire failures that caused drivers to spin or crash.

“It’s not a good look, that’s for sure,” Ryan Blaney said of the tire issues others had. “How many leaders blew tires tonight? Three or four?

“You just don’t understand what is making these things do that. From last week to this week, it’s really unfortunate. It’s just luck now.

“You never know if you’re going to blow one. You go into (Turn) 3 almost every lap with 40 laps on your stuff and I don’t know if one is going to blow out or not. That’s not safe. That’s for sure. Running (180) into (Turn) 3 and the thing blows out and you have no time to react to it. It’s unfortunate. I hope we can figure that out.”

Blaney said he was confused that the tires were blowing partly into a run instead of much earlier.

“It was weird because those tires didn’t blow right away,” he said. “Like the pressures were low. They blew like after a cycle or two on them, which is the weird thing.”

Asked how he handles that uncertainty, Blaney said: “Nothing I can do about it. Just hope and pray.”

After his crash, Elliott was diplomatic toward Goodyear’s situation:

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” he said. “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.”

Tyler Reddick, who won Sunday’s race at Texas, said his team made adjustments to the air pressure settings after Saturday’s practice.

“We ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire,” he said. “So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”

This same time was used at Kansas and will be used again at Las Vegas next month in the playoffs. 

Reddick is hopeful of a change but also knows it might take time.

“I just think to a degree, potentially, as these cars have gotten faster and we’re getting more speed out of them, maybe, hypothetically speaking, we’re putting the cars through more load and more stress on the tire than they ever really thought we would be,” he said. 

“I know Goodyear will fix it. That’s what they do. It’s going to be a process. I know they’re going to be on top of it. Hey, they don’t want to see those failures. We don’t want to see them either. They’re going to be working on looking through and trying to find out exactly what is going on. We’ll all learn from it.

“It’s a brand-new car. It’s the first time in the history of our sport we’ve gone to an 18-inch wheel and independent rear suspension. All these things are way different, diffuser. All these things, way different. We’re all learning together. Unfortunately, just the nature of it, we’re having tire failures.”

NASCAR says it missed William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A senior NASCAR executive admitted that series officials did not see William Byron spin Denny Hamlin under caution on the frontstretch of Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. 

The missed call could have major implications in the playoffs — even if series officials decide to penalize Byron later this week, as was hinted Sunday night. 

The issue occurred after Martin Truex Jr. blew a tire while leading and crashed in Turn 3 on Lap 269 of the 334-lap race.  

With the caution lights illuminated, Hamlin slowed. Byron hit him in retaliation for forcing him into the wall earlier. Hamlin spun across the infield grass. NASCAR did not put Hamlin back in his original spot before the contact and did not penalize Byron.

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition said after the race. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green. I’m not sure that that issue is completely resolved as of yet. We’ll be looking at that when we get back to work.”

Miller did not elaborate on what NASCAR could do this week.

Hamlin expressed his shock on social media at Miller’s comments:

Miller explained how officials missed the Byron-Hamlin incident: “The cameras and the monitors that we’ve got, we dedicate them mostly to officiating and seeing our safety vehicles and how to dispatch them. By the time we put all those cameras up (on the monitor in the control tower), we don’t have room for all of the in-car cameras to be monitored.

“If we would have had immediate access to (Byron)’s in-car camera, that would have helped us a lot, being able to find that quickly. That’s definitely one of the things we’re looking at.”

Race winner Tyler Reddick said NASCAR needs to address the situation to avoid other contact under caution in the future.

“In William’s situation, whether he ran him over on accident or on purpose, there should be some sort of penalty for him on that side because he’s completely screwed someone’s race up, whether it was on purpose or not,” Reddick said. “I feel like there should be something done there.

I’m sure (NASCAR will) make some sort of a decision. I’m sure there will be something they’ll address this week, updates, on NASCAR’s side. I’ll be curious to see what that is. We can’t really have this where you dump someone under caution, they go to the back and you don’t. That could potentially be an interesting situation in the future.”

Byron said he hit Hamlin to show his dissatisfaction for being forced into the wall. 

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin didn’t see it that way.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon. “I tried to wreck him back. I don’t think we touched. I’ve got to look. I don’t think we touched. Obviously he sent us through the infield under caution.”

Asked about having a conversation with Byron, Hamlin said: “I keep hearing these guys, but I’ll just add it to the list of guys when I get a chance they’re going to get it.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart both were frustrated with NASCAR not putting Hamlin back to second after the contact. Instead, NASCAR put him outside the top 15. After pitting, Hamlin restarted 19th. Byron, after pitting, restarted 10th. 

“The man wrecks you under caution and he gets no penalty?” Gabehart said on the team’s radio. “What are they doing?”

Said Hamlin after the race: “I can’t argue the rules with them inside the car and the team did everything they could to try to make a case but ultimately we went spinning through the infield under caution.”

The result is that Byron finished seventh. That puts him third in the playoff standings. He’s 17 points above the cutline going into next weekend’s race at Talladega.

Hamlin finished 10th and is sixth in the playoff standings. He’s eight points above the cutline. 

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.