Tyler Reddick takes checkered in wild Talladega finish for Michael Jordan’s first win while in attendance

Tyler Reddick prevailed in a typically-frantic Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway run to the checkered flag Sunday in the GEICO 500 NASCAR Cup Series race, narrowly avoiding a multi-car crash in the closing 400 yards – coming from third place out of Turn 4, to earn the win by a slight 0.208-second when race leader Michael McDowell crashed trying to block competitors approaching the finish line; McDowell’s move slowing the bottom line and allowing Reddick in the high lane to motor through to his first victory of the year and sixth of his career.

So pumped to claim this win, the 28-year old Californian climbed the grandstand fence, pumping his fist to the screaming, adoring crowd while one of his 23XI Racing team owners, NBA legend Michael Jordan celebrated on pit lane, taking Reddick’s young son Beau in his arms and grinning from ear-to-ear. This was the first time Jordan had been at track when his team won a race.

“Man, it’s incredible,’’ said Reddick, who led 13 laps on the afternoon. “Everyone on this 45 Toyota Camry worked really hard today. Didn’t really work out in that third stage for us, but we were able to fight and defend our track position.

“Was that crazy guys?’’ he yelled toward the cheering grandstands. “A lot of chaos. That’s Talladega for you.’’

“I just have to give a lot of credit to Ty Gibbs and Martin Truex, it was just us Toyotas left and they pushed me with everything they had. Without Martin and Ty and those pushes we don’t win this race.’’

The final few laps pitted a low line of Fords – the manufacturer trying to earn its first win of 2024 – and a high line led by the Toyotas. McDowell, the 2021 Daytona 500 winner anticipated a huge run from the cars behind, but conceded later that he was just a little late making the block.

The contact when he pulled down to Roush Fenway Keselowski driver Brad Keselowski sent McDowell’s car off track. Keselowski was still able to recover and finish second – his second straight runner-up finish this season. Afterward, McDowell apologized to Keselowski for essentially costing the former series champion a win with the move.

“We did a good job keeping those Mustang Dark Horses up front,’’ said McDowell, who led a race best 36 laps. “He [Keselowski] did everything right. He pushed me. I was able to get in front of him the first time but when I came back down I barely wasn’t clear. I’ll have to watch the replay. I hate it. I hate it we didn’t make it to the finish line. We had such a fast mustang today. … just came up short and took a lot of guys out and I apologize.’’

The race ending was in stark contrast to the early portion of the event. For the first time since NASCAR instituted “stage racing” in 2017 there were no caution periods through the opening two stages (other than the scheduled stage breaks).

McDowell won the pole position and as promised all weekend, was set to race strategically not forcing his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford to the front all day but instead when it needed to be there. There was a lot of hope that Ford would secure its first win of the year Sunday and two of the Mustangs – driven by Austin Cindric (Stage 1) and Joey Logano (Stage 2) – swept the stage victories early in the race.

But as is so often the case, a late race restart – with 27 laps remaining – set the tone for the finish with McDowell leading the bottom line and Fords stacked up behind him. Reddick led the high line with Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. behind him. McDowell and Reddick exchanged the lead 10 times in that final 27-lap stretch to the trophy – indicative of a day when there were 23 race leaders and 73 lead changes, including New Zealander Shane Van Gisbergen’s first NASCAR Cup Series laps out front on an oval (three laps).

It was an exhaustive and exhilarating afternoon depending on what side of the finishing order you came out on. All the drivers – including several collected in the multi-car race ending crash – confirmed they were okay.

“Well, [team co-owner] Denny [Hamlin] keeps saying I’m bad luck,’’ Jordan said, ”And today we proved him wrong.

“The whole team did a good job,’’ he continued. “I’m very happy to be here to see it. Everybody always tells me when we win we have a good celebration but this is the first time I’ve been here [for a win].

“As you know this is NBA playoffs right now and to me, this is like an NBA playoff game, I am so ecstatic for the fans who support the sport itself. You know we’ve been working hard trying to get ourselves to compete against all the top guys in this sport. And we’ve done a heckuva job just to be where we are and for us to win and win a big race like this it means so much to me and effort the team has put in.

“I’m all in. It replaces a lot of competitiveness I had in basketball, but this is even worse because I have no control. If I was playing basketball, I’d have total control, but I have no control and live vicariously through the drivers and crew chiefs. I’m very happy for 23 eleven – 110 percent.’’

Hamlin, who finished 37th after being collected in a crash, smiled upon hearing Jordan’s elation and Beau Reddicks’ cool celebration with the legend.

“Beau has no idea of the significance of that moment,” Hamlin said.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Noah Gragson finished a career best third, followed by JTG Daugherty’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman.

Anthony Alfredo, who led four laps, finished a career best sixth place for Beard Motorsports. Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron was seventh, followed by Front Row Motorsports’ Todd Gilliland, Spire Motorsports’ Justin Haley and the Wood Brothers’ Harrison Burton.

Despite a 20th place finish Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson leads the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings by 16 points over Truex, who was 11th Sunday.

The NASCAR Cup Series moves to Dover (Del.) Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Wurth 400 (2 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Truex is the defending race winner.