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FORT WORTH, Texas — Tyler Reddick opened the round of 12 in NASCAR’s playoffs with a victory at Texas on Sunday, winning a week after being one of the first four Cup drivers knocked out of title contention.

After none of the contenders won the first three races of the playoffs — a first in any round in this postseason format — the trend continued with the eliminated Reddick leading 53 of the final 54 laps on a long race day that went into the night.

Reddick finished 1.19 seconds ahead of Joey Logano at the end of an extended race that had a track-record 16 cautions, a record 36 lead changes, a 56-minute red flag for lightning and multiple tire issues leading to crashes — including those involving playoff contenders Chase Elliott, the points leader going into the second round, and Christopher Bell.

“I was extremely worried, I’m not going to lie,” Reddick said. “Unfortunately, just about every time we’ve had fast cars, we’ve had some tire problems. That last run, the right sides were vibrating really, really hard there. … I was just trying to maximize and use the gap that I built over [Logano] just in case.”

Logano took over the points lead by 12 over Ross Chastain.

Elliott, who entered the round of 12 as the points leader, had a fiery finish after contact with the outside wall in Turn 4 when leading just past the halfway mark of the race.

Flames were already visible from under the right side of the No. 9 Chevrolet when he got onto the frontstretch, then turned across and came to a stop in the middle of the infield, where he climbed out uninjured as the car was being engulfed by flames. He finished 32nd.

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault,” Elliott said. “Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car. I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Goodyear and NASCAR officials said there were several teams that didn’t have tire issues, and the reports from those teams indicated that they were conservative with the air pressure they used in their tires.

Non-playoff drivers Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. also had tire issues when leading the race at the 1½-mile track.

Bell, the Oklahoma native who considers Texas his home track, couldn’t recover from a second tire issue that led to his race-ending crash after finishing only 136 laps. He was the only driver to finish in the top five in all three races in the first round of this postseason but was 34th at Texas.

Contenders Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe finished fourth and fifth. The other finishers still eligible for the title were William Byron (seventh), Kyle Larson (ninth), Denny Hamlin (10th), Daniel Suarez (12th), Chastain (13th), rookie Austin Cindric (15th) and Alex Bowman (29th).

Soon after the caution came out for Truex’s spinout from the lead on Lap 268, Hamlin was sliding through the infield after Byron made contact with him from behind. When pressed after the race, Byron acknowledged that he intentionally did it, upset about being pushed up against the wall by Hamlin during green-flag laps just before that.

Hamlin stayed side-by-side and nose-to-tail with Byron during the caution period, livid because of the position he was losing on the track. Since he couldn’t keep pace after going into the grass, Hamlin had to restart 22nd instead of near the front.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution. I tried to wreck him back,” Hamlin said. “Yeah, I don’t think we touched. I got to look. I don’t think we touched. Obviously, he sent us into the infield under caution.”

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president for competition, said officials didn’t see the incident in real time while focused on what caused the caution. He said the incident will be reviewed to determine whether there will be any penalties.

The race was about to resume following the caution period for the end of the second stage when NASCAR ran some extra laps under caution because there was light rain falling on some parts of the 1½-mile track. But when there was lightning in the vicinity, the cars were brought to park on pit road with 220 of 334 laps completed.

Drivers got a chance to get out of the cars for a break on a day with record heat. Temperatures in the upper 90s made for the hottest Cup race ever at the track that opened in 1997.

ANOTHER EARLY BUSCH EXIT

Kyle Busch completed only 48 laps and was last in the 36-car field, marking the first time in his 32 Cup starts at Texas that he didn’t finish the race.

Busch got loose when going higher up the track as he was getting close to teammate Hamlin.

“I went to the high groove where I was making time in the spray and the sticky stuff, but it is not so sticky apparently. I crashed,” Busch said. “I’m trying to go, trying to race. Banana peels out there for me.”

The race came a week after the two-time champion was eliminated from title contention in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing before going to Richard Childress Racing. Busch finished 34th at Bristol after an engine failure just past the halfway mark of the race.

MULTIPLE IMPACTS

Cody Ware‘s car went nearly nose-first into the safety barrier on the outside wall in Turn 4, then shot down the track and onto pit road. There was then an even bigger hit when the car slammed hard just past a cutout in the pit wall.

Ware escaped serious injury, though he was put on a stretcher and into an ambulance after first being tended to for several minutes after getting out of the car. He was taken to the infield care center, where he was treated and released.

His team said he had some discomfort in an ankle but no broken bones.

UP NEXT

The middle race of the second round of the playoffs is Sunday at Talladega, where Chastain got his second win of the season in April. He hasn’t won since but has finished seventh or better in the past three playoff races.

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Georgia’s Bennett arrested for public intoxication

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Georgia's Bennett arrested for public intoxication

Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who led the Bulldogs to their second straight CFP National Championship earlier this month, was arrested on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday morning.

In a statement to ESPN, a Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers responded to a report of a man banging on doors in the 1600 block of Tribeca Way at 7:10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

“The preliminary investigation found when officers arrived, they located the man, Stetson Bennett, 25, and determined he was intoxicated,” the police statement read. “Bennett was taken into custody, transported to the City Detention Center and charged with public intoxication.”

Bennett left the detention center Sunday morning, but he could not be reached for comment.

Bennett, who started his college career as a walk-on, was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season, after leading the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record and SEC championship. He passed for 4,127 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for another 10 scores.

Bennett was named the offensive MVP in both of Georgia’s victories in the CFP, a 42-41 comeback win against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and a 65-7 rout of TCU in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.

Bennett, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is considered a potential selection in April’s NFL draft. He recently won the Manning Award, which is given to the top quarterback in the FBS by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

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Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.

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Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.

Former Tennessee and Colorado quarterback J.T. Shrout is transferring to Arkansas State, sources told ESPN.

Shrout visited Arkansas State over the weekend and his commitment looms as a significant win for Butch Jones, who is entering his third season as Arkansas State’s head coach.

Shrout will graduate from Colorado this spring and plans to enroll at Arkansas State in May, according to sources. He has one year of eligibility remaining and potentially a second if he gets a medical redshirt after missing the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL.

Shrout most recently played at Colorado in 2022, where he threw for 1,220 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions and delivered the game-winning touchdown pass against Cal in overtime in Colorado’s lone victory of the season. He started seven games at Colorado and had one start during his three seasons at Tennessee (2018-2020).

Shrout is one of three Buffaloes quarterbacks who have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the school hired Deion Sanders as head coach. Sanders has made it clear that his son, Shedeur, will be the starter next season. He introduced him at his opening news conference by saying, “This is your quarterback.”

According to sources, Shrout was attracted to the potential opportunity at Arkansas State, including playing in offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf’s West Coast-style offense. Shrout also had some teammates at Tennessee who played for Jones, and sources said the former teammates endorsed Jones both as a person and a coach.

Arkansas State (3-9) ranked No. 118 in total offense last season and No. 85 in scoring offense. The Red Wolves open the 2023 season at Oklahoma on Sept. 2.

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Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal

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Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal

Broncos owner Greg Penner and University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh met last week in Ann Arbor to discuss Denver’s head-coaching position without any deal materializing, league sources told ESPN.

Although Harbaugh two weeks ago announced he was staying at Michigan, Penner did his due diligence and still traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with the coach in person, like he’s done with seven other candidates during the Broncos’ head-coaching search.

The follow-up conversations were part of the process for both Denver — led by Penner with general manager George Paton — and Harbaugh. The face-to-face meeting came after Harbaugh’s initial video interview with Denver, after which he pulled his name out of contention and reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan.

“I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, president Santa Ono and especially the players and their families,” Harbaugh said in his statement Jan. 16. “My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy, happy.’ Go Blue!”

The Broncos moved on as well, continuing their discussions with several other candidates. Denver has interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Stanford coach David Shaw, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero.

Harbaugh now has met with the Vikings and Broncos in back-to-back years. While one source wondered how many more chances Harbaugh would get, another league source said “The league is likely to be interested in Jim as long as he is successfully coaching. He’s proven at every level including the NFL. That’s a hard resume to match.”

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