LAS VEGAS – Tyler Reddick couldn’t win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on speed, so he did it on fuel mileage instead.
Reddick ran the final 70 laps of the race on one tank of fuel, allowing him to outlast Christopher Bell in a nail-biting finish to the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 for his fifth victory of the season to wrap up the regular season for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Bell had the field in the palm of his hand throughout most of the race, forcing Reddick and his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team to gamble on strategy. When the caution flag waved on lap 128 for a crash in turn four involving C.J. McLaughlin, they got their chance.
Reddick and a handful of other drivers hit pit road for fuel and tires on lap 130 while Bell and most of the leaders opted not to pit. Reddick and his team had aspirations to run the final 70 laps of the race without stopping again while Bell would be forced to make at least one more stop.
Racing resumed on lap 134 and Bell shot out away from the field. Behind him Reddick was taking his time and watching his lap times, trying to save as much fuel as possible for the stretch run.
The final round of pit stops began with 33 laps left and Bell made his final pit stop with 31 laps to go. As expected Reddick opted not to pit, remaining on the track as Bell and rest of the leaders hit the pits. Bell emerged from the pits nearly 20 seconds behind Reddick, but quickly began to cut into that lead.
By lap 181 Bell was back up to second, but he was still at least half the track behind Reddick. Bell continued to click off fast laps while Reddick continued to manage his pace, at times losing a second a lap to the fast closing Bell.
With four laps left Bell got to within three seconds of Reddick and continued to close the gap. Knowing Bell was coming in a hurry, Reddick changed his line and began running against the wall at the top of the track in an effort to find some speed and hold off Bell.
The gamble ended up paying off for Reddick as he got to the finish line first, .738 seconds ahead of Bell.
“That was nerve wracking to say the least. The last three laps I started losing fuel pressure and it was stumbling,” Reddick said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it running the fence. Christopher Bell had a really unreal fast race car today, but we were just able to come get fuel and tires and just save a lot. That allowed us to run really, really fast laps there for what we had on tires at the end to keep us in front of him.”
The victory served as an added bonus for Reddick, who clinched the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship by the time the second stage was over. Once that was in the bag, Reddick said it was time for him to go figure out how to win the race.
“What I wanted to do was get that locked up in our Tame the Beast Chevrolet and make sure that we had that taken care of first before we tried to go win this race,” Reddick said. “Not going to lie to you, I didn’t think it was going to go that way. I didn’t think we were going to win it that way.”
Bell was left dejected after the race, lamenting that it was the second time this season that he had the field covered yet failed to win the race.
“This is the second time this year we got beat by circumstances,” Bell said. “At Iowa we put on our tires when we needed to and some guys gambled on a yellow coming out later and they beat us. Today they just kind of did the opposite of us and it won them the race.
“Very disappointing, but obviously very happy with how our Rheem Supra was. It was really fast, so that’s a good sign.”
Despite finishing second, Bell still leaves Las Vegas as the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader after the points reset for the first round of the playoffs. He’ll start the playoffs with 2,055 points, 11 points more than Reddick and Cole Custer, who are tied for second.
Other drivers who will race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship include Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and John Hunter Nemechek.
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