“Three” was the magic number in Saturday’s LTI Printing 250 at Michigan International Speedway, and that was just fine with Tyler Reddick.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series leader — one of the so-called “Big Three” in the series this year — saved enough fuel over the closing 44-lap green-flag run to win for the third time this season, matching fellow Big Three members Christopher Bell and Cole Custer for most so far this year.
After Custer and Bell pitted for fuel from the top two positions with 10 and 11 laps left, respectively, Reddick inherited the lead on Lap 115 of 125 with a lead of just over three seconds over Michael Annett. Ultimately, Reddick finished 1.515 seconds ahead of Noah Gragson, who passed Annett for the runner-up spot on the final lap.
Annett held third, followed by pole winner Paul Menard and Justin Allgaier.
The victory was Reddick’s first at Michigan and the sixth of his career, accomplished with three different organizations (Chip Ganassi Racing, JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing, his current ride. Reddick overcame a Lap 33 snafu on pit road where he slid through his pit stall and dropped to 10th for a restart on Lap 38.
Reddick came to pit road for the final time on lap 78 and got 47 laps out of his last tank of fuel.
“I just didn’t want to burn a lot of fuel there,” the driver of the No. 2 RCR Chevrolet said of the closing run. “Our Chevrolet was really good, but I made some mistakes on pit road, and we didn’t get the track position until the end there.
“A great team effort. I didn’t do the thing I needed to do on the race track but, man, that was a great car and we put ourselves in position to win.”
The victory was Reddick’s third in the last five races.
“All the guys at Richard Childress Racing just make an outstanding effort throughout the week,” Reddick said. “Their efforts back at the shop and their hours spent from morning to afternoon every single day is what’s paying off in getting us back to Victory Lane so often this year.”
Miscommunication between crew chief and driver cost both Bell and Custer chances to win the race. Under caution on Lap 78, after Chase Briscoe’s spin a lap earlier, Bell misunderstood instructions to pit and stayed on the track. Custer was told on his team radio to do whatever Bell did and also missed a chance to refuel his car.
“That was our first time using code words, and we got the code mixed up,” said Bell, who had just picked up his sixth stage win of the season on Lap 60.
Custer finished 12th and Bell 13th.
“We had a really fast Mustang,” Custer said ruefully. “I really wanted to win here for Ford in their backyard and everything. We got the track position and got up front, and I think we had the best car here.
“I don’t know how much the 2 (Reddick) was saving there, but the strategy just didn’t work out for us. That one kind of stings, but I definitely feel like we had a fast car.”
Brandon Jones finished sixth, followed by Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeb Burton and Justin Haley completed the top 10. Reddick increased his series lead to 89 points over Bell in second.