Finishes at Talladega Superspeedway often come down to a matter of inches. A little luck in the draft can make all the difference in who gets pushed to the finish line first.

Maybe a little luck of Michael Jordan in the pits is all Tyler Reddick needed to make it happen.

"To have him here to experience victory lane for the first time," Reddick said, "Is really special."

Reddick benefitted from a bad block on track from Michael McDowell to sneak ahead and win the first pack race of his Cup career, Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega. As McDowell's Ford crashed heavily behind him, launching a multi-car incident, Reddick left his six-time NBA champion owner launching into a long-awaited celebration.

"I don't know if I crossed the line first or if the caution came out before I got there, but obviously we won the race," Reddick said of the wild ending. "Man, it was nuts."

This victory was the sixth for Jordan's team, 23XI Racing, but the first with Jordan atop the pit box. The best man in history carrying a basketball in his hand happily handled life's new chapter by carrying Reddick's son Beau in his arms and into victory lane.

What a big surprise for all involved: it's Bubba Wallace, not Reddick, who's known for his superspeedway prowess at 23XI. But when the No. 23 Toyota got wiped out in an earlier incident, that left Jordan's branded No. 45 to launch a last-ditch effort to the front with fellow Toyota drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Ty Gibbs in tow.

It all worked like a charm, Jordan revealing his presence to the driver only after the checkered flag waved. Being there to watch his handiwork in action was the latest achievement for a basketball star who's ever-present as a NASCAR owner.

"He is a study of the sport," Reddick's crew chief Billy Scott said. "I was talking to him before the race, and he watches every Truck race, every Xfinity race, every Cup race just trying to learn and understand what we're going through and figure out how he can help from the owner's side. It's impressive. Just to see the excitement on his face, that's what I enjoyed."

Jordan also enjoys rising toward the top level of NASCAR competition. Reddick is just the sixth driver to win this year amidst the dominance of two other programs: Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. Fifth in points, he's got seven top-10 finishes (tied for the most with William Byron) and has arguably been the most consistent driver throughout the course of the year.

The only major blemishes? Crashes at the Daytona 500 and Atlanta Motor Speedway, fellow pack races where the No. 45 team couldn't find their way forward. Checking this win off the bucket list is a big step considering this year's playoff schedule features two of these tracks.

"This, to me, is like an NBA Playoff game," Jordan said after the race. "I am so ecstatic, obviously, for the fans who support the sport itself. We've been working hard trying to get ourselves to compete with the top guys in the sport. We've done a heck of a job just to be where we are. For us to win and to win a big race like this, it means so much to me and for the effort the team has done."

Traffic Report

Green: Noah Gragson. What a difference a year makes. Last spring at Talladega, Gragson crashed hard as part of a disastrous rookie season that ended in his unceremonious release from Legacy Motor Club. This time around? Ford's newest team player had the right bumps at the right times, pushing his manufacturer to near victory and escaping to third when chaos sparked around him.

It was Gragson's career best in Cup, now possessing more top-5 finishes (one) this season than the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing's four-car organization combined.

Yellow: Brad Keselowski. Most drivers would have loved Keselowski's runner-up Talladega finish, the best of the season for a No. 6 Ford team climbing back into the postseason chase. Problem is, Talladega is this Cup champion's most successful track, a place where he won his first Cup race in 2009 and where expectations were he'd break a now 108-race winless drought.

"Good finishes are important," Keselowski said, "But we want wins. I could really taste it today, but it just didn't happen."

Red: Christopher Bell. It's been a weird year for Bell, an innocent victim in the race's first major caution for cause on lap 157. Bell now has as many finishes of sixth or better this season (four) as ones of 33rd or worse, lucky to have a Phoenix win in his back pocket that all-but-clinches a playoff spot despite the rollercoaster.

Speeding Ticket: Toyota. Toyota salvaged a win from what was a weird strategy executed midway through the final stage. The entire Toyota pack of seven drivers pitted earlier than the rest, hoping to draft single file by themselves in an effort to outrace the rest of the pack down the stretch.

But a bad bump draft changed everything, slamming Erik Jones' No. 43 into the wall in a violent wreck that left him at the hospital Sunday night for further observation.

The Toyota crowd was tight-lipped about what happened and quick not to blame each other. Reddick refused to comment on the strategy while Wallace said, "We had a plan and just didn't execute it as well as we should."

Still, the mistake was costly: it eliminated four drivers from contention and ruined what could have been a valiant march to settling the race among themselves.


The focus remains on McDowell's moves to block off turn 4 that ultimately caused the day's biggest wreck. The driver of the No. 34 Ford was swerving all over the track, diving low a little too late before losing control and ultimately spinning out in front of the field.

The wreck left Corey LaJoie on his roof, a flip that he "10 out of 10 would not recommend" after getting checked and released at the care center.

The last-lap wreckage ultimately caused hundreds of thousands in damage and left at least a dozen cars totaled feet from the finish line.

"[Brad Keselowski] was just to my bumper," McDowell said about the final turn. "I mean barely, barely got me so it's unfortunate. I hate it for him and I hate it for everybody that was behind that. It's the last lap at Talladega. We're all going for it, but we really needed to get a Ford Mustang Dark Horse in Victory Lane and we had a shot at doing it there.

"Unfortunately, I just made a bad move there to put us in that spot."