By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Sunday’s Bank of American Roval 400 had its fair share of chaos and drama unraveling the Round of 12 into the Round of 8.
Behind race-winner Kyle Larson was a fierce fight for second between Tyler Reddick and William Byron. One driver, Reddick, looking for a first NASCAR Cup Series win while the other, Byron, was fighting for his playoff life.
Reddick was running second in the closing laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway while Byron chased him down. And following a pass on Reddick’s No. 8, contact was made in the infield section between the two. With Byron sliding off track and eventually finishing 11th, a must-win situation remained unfulfilled, bumping the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver from the Round of 8.
Speaking with Reddick on pit road following the race, Byron wanted some answers.
“I know it was a mistake but it doesn’t make it any different,” Byron said. “First off, I just wanted to hear [an apology] from him and not take it for granted that it was a mistake. At that point, what do you do?
“The awareness in that situation of [me] running in the playoffs, the first guy on new tires and probably going to win the race. It was just a lack of awareness there. I feel if the roles were reversed, I would be aware.”
Leading the most laps of the day , Byron was well out front before a lap-88 caution bunched the field together and shook up the strategy. Fresh tires for Byron put him in position to win.
Despite the fresh rubber, however, Byron doesn’t believe he was on track for his second win of 2021.
“At that point when I was up to third, my tires were shot,” he said. “There were only two laps to go so I wasn’t going to win. I made a mistake to not finished third but at that point I was just mad.
“I was just full rage. I didn’t care about finishing third, that wasn’t going to do anything for me in the playoffs. We were in position to win. We were leading on the long run, the caution comes out, we pass all the guys on new tires… that’s all you can do.”
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Reddick was apologetic following the race, as he knew the pressure Byron was under in that fight.
“[Byron] was racing for everything. Second means nothing,” Reddick said. “He just broke through on the best tires and had a chance to go up and pass [Larson] and take the win. And I took that from him.
“He handled it very well, I probably would have been more upset than he was. I appreciate him listening and understanding what I said, but I completely understand his frustration.”
The incident occurred due to light contact. So light that Reddick was shocked that it turned the No. 24.
“If there was contact in the corner, I didn’t even feel that,” he said. “I flat-out made a mistake and ran into the back of him. I was trying to stay as close as I could, we’re all trying to brake at the limit of the car. I wanted to stay close to his bumper and try and put myself back in position to make a pass.
“I got into the back of him ever so slightly and that’s all it took to unhook the rear tires.It was not on purpose. It stinks to see that small amount of contact completely change his trajectory so much. That was shocking to me and it sure was disappointing.”
Still, Reddick kept his car straight and made one last surge at leader Larson before settling for second. The result tied Reddick’s best Cup finish for the third time.
“One spot different would be a totally different story,” he said. “It’s just tough. We overcame an extreme amount today. I’ve been saying all year: If we can just put together a good race without any mistakes or incidents, I think we can win. Today is another notch on that board, getting caught [with] pretty serious contact with Matt DiBenedetto on the backstretch.
“For the car to be as good as it was after having the contact, it’s relieving. But now that it’s said and done… what if our car was a little faster?”