As the laps wound down, and his lead in Saturday’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 continued to grow, Tyler Reddick kept waiting for something to slow him down.
“It just didn’t happen tonight,” he said. “We had good fortune and we put ourselves in great position.”
The 21-year-old, who is driving a part-time schedule in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season, crashed its playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway by scoring his first career victory.
It’s not only that Reddick won but by how much that will be remembered. He beat Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Brennan Poole to the finish line by 14.540 seconds. It was the largest margin of victory in the 23 times the series has visited Kentucky Speedway and the second largest in track history. Mike Bliss won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race by 18.197 seconds in 2002.
“It was all about being smart, executing, not making mistakes,” said Reddick, who led two times for 66 laps in the No. 42 Chevrolet. “We had plenty of opportunities throughout this race to throw it away, whether it was being too aggressive, passing lapped cars, trying to pass for the lead, trying to pass for position on the racetrack, or even coming to pit road or on pit road. Plenty of opportunities to give the race away. We had a pretty sizeable lead.
“It was our race to throw away. We played it smart. We were conservative. We were safe and we got to victory lane.”
Reddick had not led a lap in his previous 14 series races this season but passed Ryan Preece for the lead on Lap 126 and cycled back to the front with 39 laps remaining after green flag pit stops.
The lead grew from there as the race stayed caution-free to the end.
Poole’s runner-up finish was his best showing in 77 career XFINITY Series starts and it made him the top finishing driver among the 12 who made the playoffs.
“I felt like we had a really good car all weekend,” Poole said. “We made good adjustments throughout the race. One round I was a little bit too loose and lost a bunch of track position on my teammate. I really think that was the difference between us getting to victory lane and him winning. I’m really happy for Ganassi to finish one-two and for Tyler to go to victory lane.”
Justin Allgaier overcame a potentially devastating setback to his title hopes. The No. 2 playoff seed rallied for a third place finish after going two laps down because of a flat tire early in the race.
“We talked about not beating yourself coming into this first playoff race,” Allgaier said. “The flat tire was out of my control. We did what we had to do. We persevered through it.”
By finishing fourth, Preece tallied his third top-five finish in as many starts with Joe Gibbs Racing this season. Cole Custer swept the first two stages and finished fifth. He led 49 laps and is second to Allgaier in the points standings.
A loose wheel sent William Byron, the No. 1 playoff seed entering the race, to pit road early in the final stage. He lost a lap and finished 18th.
Defending race winner and playoff contender Elliott Sadler utilized pit strategy to get to the front Saturday. He led 11 laps and finished sixth.
Joe Gibbs Racing swept the front row for the series’ July race at Kentucky Speedway and did it again Saturday.
Kyle Benjamin earned his second pole in five starts this season when the 19-year-old posted a lap of 182.229 mph with less than one minute remaining in qualifying. Moments later, Preece completed a 182.186 mph lap to bump playoff contender Custer from a front row starting spot.
Benjamin led 52 laps and finished 12th.
Kentucky Speedway PR/Photo Getty Images for NASCAR