BROOKLYN, Mich. — Tyler Reddick led only 11 laps on the way to his sixth career Xfinity Series victory Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, but they were the 11 laps that lead to the big check, as Reddick inherited the lead after Christopher Bell and Cole Custer had to pit because they were low on fuel.
Reddick was strong throughout the early stages of the race, however able to make moves when others couldn’t.
“It seems like our car would work the bottom a lot better earlier in the run than most people could,” Reddick said. “Toward the end of the second stage, whenever we were running down the 12, the 20 and the 00, we were able to run them down pretty fast. But once we got there, it was a little difficult to really do a lot when you have three cars in a row like that.”
Reddick said they still needed a little work on the car, but he was able to make moves early in a run if he was able to get to cars quick enough.
“Our car would really take off,” he said. “I feel like we could make more moves than most people could early in the run on people, and our car would drive really good at the beginning of the run.”
“So it just ended up being kind of a race where whoever made the best call at the end and took advantage of whatever fell their way won the race,” Reddick said. “That falls on (Crew Chief Randall Burnett). He saw the way the race was going to go. He saw the leaders stay out there, and he wanted to get us ahead of the rest of the guys who pitted, so we took fuel only and we were able to get up in front of those guys, get around people that did stay out, and just be the one on that strategy.”
During a late caution, most of the leaders came to pit road for fuel to make a charge to the end. But a misunderstanding on the radio caused leader Bell to stay out. Custer stayed out as well, which left the two hoping for a caution late in the race that never came. Both pitted late for fuel, handing the lead to Reddick.
“It was just a miscommunication,” Bell said after the race. “My definition was a little different than what (Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff) had planned. Ultimately, that was a big hiccup on our day.”
Ratcliff explained more what the miscommunication was.
“This is a track where you can actually play some strategy,” he said. “We don’t go to many tracks that you can do that. I felt like last week was one, and I feel like Michigan is one where you can mix it up a little bit. Everywhere else we go is kind of straightforward.”
“We talked about, ‘If I tell you this, then it means to pit now,’” Ratcliff continued. “Just some code words and it’s really simple actually. It’s first-grade stuff and somehow we mixed it up. He did exactly what his wristband said on it. Unfortunately, it was poor execution on my part in communicating what to put on the wristband. I think we had a good performance today after a little bit of a struggle last week in Pocono. I felt like our car had speed, so we’ll just build on that and go onto Iowa.”
Had a caution flown, both Bell and Custer likely would have been able to pit for tires, which would have given them the advantage. But that didn’t happen.
“The strategy didn’t work out for us,” Custer said. “That is Michigan. Half the time it is just pit strategies. Our Jacob Companies Ford Mustang was awesome. I think we brought the fastest car here, it just didn’t work out in the end. We will go on to the next one. It is good we have fast cars.”
Custer led 20 of the 125 laps. He passed Bell after the pit stop to finish 12th. Bell said Custer was just faster at the end.
“The 00 blew our doors off, so we just have to get faster,” Bell said. “That’s our biggest thing, and for whatever reason on the bigger tracks right now, I don’t have the speed that the 00 has. We just have to keep working hard and get our Rheem Supra to be a little bit faster and it will be easy to clean up the miscommunication there.”
Early on it looked like Paul Menard would be the driver to beat. Menard led 56 laps on the day, all in the first half of the race.
“It’s kind of interesting how the lines kind of moved around,” Menard said after the race. “I could make tie on the bottom and you normally can’t here. The car was really fast up front. A little on the loose side. Then you get behind and it’s like you have to adjust for it more when you hit traffic. I was just a little tight at the end.”
There were six cautions for 29 laps, four for accidents and two for the stage breaks. There were five leaders.