Michael Jordan’s Prodigy Steals Boss Denny Hamlin’s Kansas Show as “Sleeping” JGR Superstar Falters to Kyle Larson’s Pressure

Published 09/10/2023, 8:04 PM EDT

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The occasion of playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series provides the community with some incredible storylines. Drivers against former owners, or more often, drivers against drivers, are possible highlights at this time of the season. However, one unexpected development this season has seen is that of a driver being pitted against his current team owner. Be it in qualifying or in races, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin have often been found locking horns.

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Similar circumstances initiated yet again in the 23XI Racing camp. Tyler Reddick was arguably the best driver in Darlington, barring the eventual winner, Kyle Larson. A P2 finish meant that the expectations from him were going only to rise as the tourney moved forward. As we arrive after the second race of playoffs in Kansas, Reddick might have had everyone beaten, especially team owner Hamlin.

Tyler Reddick edges team owner Hamlin to win at Kansas

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Denny Hamlin was one of the strongest performers at Kansas. Having led the race for a prolonged duration, Hamlin was on course to ensure a place in the round of 12. But his driver, Tyler Reddick, was hot on his heels, aiming to gain an advantage over the #11 car to snatch the lead. Hamlin had to work hard enough to become the race leader, fending off competition from Brad Keselowski, who also had a great outing.

Being the winningest driver at Kansas, Hamlin indeed rose to the occasion but fell just short in his attempt. The man to beat him to the checkered line was Reddick, who has been in hotrod form, making sure a repeat of Darlington didn’t happen. With less than 30 laps to complete the final stage, Reddick upped his game, getting as close as possible in the #45 car.

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A separation of 1.5 seconds was good enough to grab the win for Hamlin. With only 20 laps remaining, Hamlin increased his lead to 2.1 seconds and was certain to win at his favorite track. But in a deja vu moment, Hamlin lost pace on the restart after Chris Buescher triggered a late caution.

Reddick didn’t have it easy either, going toe-to-toe with Joey Logano and Erik Jones with 2 laps to go. However, in a daring but brilliant move at the end of the penultimate lap, Reddick left the banking for the inside and managed to take the lead from Logano and Jones. However, during this time, Hamlin was trying to get as far away as possible from Kyle Larson, who showed some resurgence.

Watch This Story: NASCAR’s Only Undefeated Driver Gears Up for Denny Hamlin’s Ultimate Test

Losing out on P1 after being pretty dominant in successive weeks will be an ambiguous feeling for Hamlin. While on one hand this implies that the car has the potential to be the best on the track, the execution of their strategy to finish the race is what has been missing.

Denny Hamlin believes he was “sleeping on the restart”

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Following Buescher’s wreck, the restart was an equal chance for the contenders to recover. Denny Hamlin on the other hand was too focused on Larson, who was trying to make his way into the top 5 places. Speaking to NBC Sports in a post-race interview, Denny reflected on what went wrong for him.

Following the bad blood between them this season, it seems that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was being too attentive toward Larson instead of improvizing on his position. He said, “The #5 was laying back so much I was trying to back up to him. So, I should’ve just kind of focused forward probably. You know, give the #45 an opportunity to get up there in front of us. So just you know, sleeping on the restart looking in the rear view mirror instead of looking in the front.”

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As for Reddick, he was touted to be a roadblock for Hamlin in Kansas, which is one of his strongest tracks. His performance in Darlington only went on to underline his extraordinary abilities behind the wheel. A sublime driver who is considered one of the best talents in the industry, Reddick is a dream addition to any team.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As an engineering graduate, he has a strong affinity for cars, and it didn't take long for him to translate that into his love for the sport. He is a big fan of Kyle Busch and believes that the Richard Childress Driver still has his best years ahead of him.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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