NASCAR returned to its roots last Sunday when the Cup Series hosted the 2023 running of the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, which hadn't hosted a NASCAR event since 1996. Kyle Larson took home the win in dominant fashion, while 23XI Racing had a solid outing as a whole, with Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick finishing second and third, respectively.
With $1 million on the line, there isn't much to be happy about if you aren't the winner, and Reddick gave an honest assessment of his performance to media members after the race.
"I should've been more aggressive," Reddick admitted.
Reddick thought he blew his opportunity early, as he was ahead Larson early in the 200-lap event. According to Reddick, it was hard to find a rhythm on the over 30-year-old asphalt. It took Reddick at least 50 laps to get into his groove, which turned out to be 50 laps too long. Both Reddick and Larson started pretty deep in the field, and Tyler had a chance to make something happen because he was ahead of the No. 5 car in the early going. An early mistake on the track by Reddick allowed Larson to pass him.
Larson eventually ended up well ahead of Reddick, as the drivers implemented two different pit strategies. Even when Larson got busted for speeding on pit road, the Hendrick Motorsports driver was able to rally from the end of the field all the way to the front and dominate the race.
Reddick said he regrets not having some other game plan on the pit stops. Like many of the other drivers in the 24-car field, he was hoping for more cautions, but the event only saw two — one being for cause and the other being a competition caution at the halfway point of the race.
— Peter Stratta (@peterstratta) May 22, 2023
Even with those regrets, Reddick had an overall positive outlook about NASCAR's return to North Wilkesboro.
"We were hunting the bottom. If you were better, you could still kind of get in there and move the guy out of the way. You put drivers in a position where, OK, if this guy gets me and moves me in the wrong spot, I could lose four or five spots," Reddick said. "It made the race a lot more about strategy and how hard you push."
Reddick isn't wrong, and the event hearkened back to the old days of NASCAR — especially at North Wilkesboro, where it was notorious for the leader to lap the whole field at times. Larson sure had a good opportunity to do that, as he maintained a 13-second lead early on and ended up winning by 4.5 seconds.
As for Reddick, the driver of the No. 45 Toyota said this year's All-Star race was the ultimate throwback event.
"Very much like what NASCAR racing, I feel like, used to be," Reddick said.
The lack of passing didn't surprise the four-time Cup race winner, as that has been par for the course at short tracks in the Next Gen car. One thing the race did show was that North Wilkesboro is back, and this won't be the last time NASCAR visits.
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