NASCAR Crash Course: Kissing the bricks was best medicine for Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing

NASCAR Crash Course: Kissing the bricks was best medicine for Tyler Reddick, Richard Childress Racing
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One way to get over a breakup is to bury yourself in work. Tyler Reddick used that focus to win one of NASCAR’s crown jewels, an Indianapolis Motor Speedway triumph Sunday he hopes is step one to heal an open wound with Richard Childress Racing.

Reddick survived a Mario Kart-style ending to this Indy road course, where every turn 1 restart felt like drivers sending it full speed, pinball style, slamming into each other just to slow down and make it through the corner. Once Austin Dillon forced overtime by getting stuck in the gravel, Reddick’s rival Ross Chastain had a different idea on how to handle the crazy restarts: blow past turn 1 altogether.

“I thought I abided by the rule,” Chastain said of choosing an access road. “With three cars on my right, and everybody running into each other, and I was turning in, I couldn’t see how I could make it. I was going to be in the grass.”

NASCAR felt differently, assessing a 30-second penalty for missing the turn that made racing Reddick for the win a moot point. The No. 8 car emerged ahead anyway, the third-year driver leading a race-high 38 laps as he notched a second straight Cup Series win on a road course.

This one felt far different than the first, coming less than three weeks after 23XI Racing announced they’d signed Reddick for 2024. A total of 18 months as a lame duck is a long time to stay a part of RCR; 18 days is a short period of time to absorb that wound. Just check out some of the first things both driver and owner said after the race.

“I’m really happy about it, and hopefully I’ll be racing here again next year,” Reddick said. “Well, I should be, I guess. I should be racing here next year.”

Should be? We’re talking a championship contender who’s supposed to have a contract with this team through 2023.

“Told the whole team it wasn’t a perfect circumstance the way it went down,” Richard Childress said about the pending divorce. “But we’re going to give it everything we’ve got this year, and we’ll see where we go next year.”

After getting pushed, Childress did confirm Reddick would remain in the 8 through next year. But things felt far from settled for an organization that should be on the upswing, posting multiple victories with one driver for the first time since 2013.

Problem is, just like the last time (Kevin Harvick), they’re accomplishing it with a driver who’s choosing to leave the team rather than build on a foundation that’s taken years to create.

“The biggest thing we can do,” said Reddick’s crew chief Randall Burnett, “is go out and do what we did today and that’s put fast cars underneath Tyler and try to win races and show everybody what this team is made of so we can try to figure out what we need to do to fill that void.”

Traffic Report

Green: NASCAR rookies — Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric had his best race since February, finishing best in class to Reddick in second. But how about Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland? Both freshmen scored career-best top-5 finishes (third and fourth, respectively), the best a trio of rookies have done in a Cup race since Pocono in 1994.

Yellow: Chris Buescher — Buescher, a contender to win Sonoma Raceway last month, wound up on fire by the end of the first stage after contact with Bubba Wallace. Falling two laps down, it took almost the whole race to claw back on the lead lap. Somehow, the No. 17 team sailed through the last lapse of carnage, climbing from 29th all the way to a 10th-place finish at race’s end.

Red: Martin Truex Jr. — A driver with four career wins on road courses was invisible Sunday, posting his third straight finish outside the top 10 on this track type (21st). Fourth in the standings, Truex remains on the playoff bubble and could be knocked out if a winless driver below him breaks through over the final four regular season races.

Speeding Ticket: Turn 1 — On a track where passing proved difficult, the entire field decided to make turn 1 a make-or-break effort on restarts. At times, the field spread six-wide as it seemed like entering the turn was equivalent to closing your eyes and hoping for the best.

That melee, which triggered overtime, was the most egregious. A half-dozen cars scattered across the track that led to wild swings in the running order. Chase Elliott was the biggest loser in that one, dropping from a possible win to 16th. Ryan Blaney, whose tap sent Elliott around, wound up right there with him after NASCAR Overtime, dropping to a disappointing 26th.

“That’s all people do at the end of these things,” said a frustrated Blaney. “Just dive in and wreck you… they jumped over the curb and just wipe you out. I just didn’t even have a shot at it… I’m pissed off about it and I have every damn right to be.”

As NASCAR mulls a return to the Indy oval as soon as 2024, tweaking this turn might be smart move in 2023. Could the drivers have done anything better to prep for it?

“Maybe playing a little football,” joked Cindric after the race. “That’s about it.”

Oops!

Ty Dillon has had a tough month, crashing in three out of the last four races while finding out his services are no longer needed at Petty GMS Motorsports after this season. This wreck was easily the worst of it, circumstances outside his control as Kyle Larson lost his brakes and found himself slamming into Dillon’s No. 42 entering turn 1.

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“It’s an impact I’ve never felt before in my life,” Dillon said afterwards, finishing 34th. “That was a big one… nothing you can do about it. Just a string of bad luck we’ve had this year, and we can’t seem to shake it.”

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