Tyler Reddick won out after a frantic ending to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway ahead of tonight’s Winstar World Casino and Resort 350.
No one from the final round group of 12 drivers chose to head out onto the 1.5-mile oval until there was less than one minute remaining in the five-minute session. Johnny Sauter led a mad dash out of the pits, and all 12 drivers were able to make the start/finish line before time expired so they could log an official Round 3 lap.
In the end, it was Reddick, driving the No. 19 Ford F-150, that earned his second Truck Series pole in the last three races with a lap of 181.959 miles per hour.
“With how this qualifying is, it’s kind of a madhouse – you go and get out of your box as quick as you can, go sit in pit road for four minutes, and just wait until [you see] who’s gonna be the first one to move,” Reddick told Fox Sports. “We wanted to be way up there in case no one did get a lap, but once everyone went with plenty of time to go, it was all about getting the right gap.
“Once we were rolling down the backstretch – some people were probably thinking where they were at, they were not going to make it back [to start/finish] – I got enough time to make it back, so I just tried to get as big a gap as I could.
“The 20 [Brennan Newberry] stumbled a bit off of [Turn] 4, and I was able to take advantage of the draft and I had some clean air where I needed it most where lots of times you get really tight behind another vehicle.”
Starting alongside him on the front row will be Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch, who has won six times in the No. 51 Toyota Tundra this year – and all four times he’s raced on a 1.5-mile oval like Texas (Kansas, Charlotte, Kentucky, Chicago).
Defending Truck Series champion and current points leader Matt Crafton will start tonight’s race in third with Ben Kennedy on his outside in Row 2. Crafton’s main rivals for this year’s title, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Blaney, will start in eighth and ninth respectively.
Green flag for the 147-lap event is scheduled to drop shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET this Halloween evening.
Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.
A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.
“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”
Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.
He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.
“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.
“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.
“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.
“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”
Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.
“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.
“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”
Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.
Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.
“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.
“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”
This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.