By Bob Pockras
FOX Sports Writer NASCAR
Richard Childress knew Tyler Red Dick could leave Richard Childress Racing after 2023 season, so Reddick agree to join 23XI Racing in 2024 was no surprise.
But Childress, speaking briefly before Sunday’s race at Pocono, couldn’t hide his disappointment. He said he wasn’t bitter about the young driver’s decision, just disappointed.
The bigger question is whether this disappointment will lead to Childress trying to get Reddick out of the No.8 Cup car next year.
Childress looks like someone who is going to keep his options open. He’s been in the sport long enough to know that a lame duck situation for an entire season isn’t easy, but he also knows that a strong race car driver and team can pull it off, like Kevin Harvick did it at the RCR with four wins and a third. – place in the ranking in 2013.
“I have a contract with him in 2023,” Childress replied when asked if Reddick would be back in the #8 car. “He will be at the RCR in 2023.”
When it was mentioned that he didn’t say car #8, Childress joked, “You said that, not me.”
Tyler Reddick explains his decision to join 23XI Racing
Why make this decision to go to 23XI Racing now? Tyler Reddick said he saw what 23XI Racing was doing and wanted to be part of it.
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Childress said he did not speak with Reddick about his displeasure. Reddick, who looks safe to make the 2022 playoffs thanks to his win at Road America, hopes performances like his second-place finish Sunday at Pocono can heal wounds.
“If we keep doing well, I’m sure we’ll work things out,” Reddick said of his relationship with Childress.
It’s probably true. Time has a way of healing, and Childress said he was determined to make sure the team is doing well when asked if Reddick would be back next season.
“Next year is a long time,” Childress said. “I made a commitment to his team to give them everything they need to win the championship and to come out in 2023 and give them everything they need to win the championship.
“I gave it to our race team.”
Read between the lines, and it looks like Childress is saying that if he has a chance of landing someone he thinks is good or better than Reddick in 2023, he might try to find a way to put that pilot in the 8 car. Or he might just be disappointed enough to want to sweat Reddick through the rumor mill, just as Childress must now sweat talks with potential sponsors for next year and beyond.
Again, performance can help end this conversation. Reddick is 14th in the standings. Some would say the finish at Pocono (he crossed the line in fourth and then moved up to second) validated his statements that he remains focused on doing his best at RCR through 2024.
“None of us [on the team] I never doubted it, but I certainly think others have about how it was going to turn out,” Reddick said.
“We don’t really need validation from others to know we’re doing the right things, but it’s really good to go out there and get in the top five.”
Tyler Reddick on the possible departure of the RCR at the end of the season
Tyler Reddick says he has had no discussions with anyone at RCR (initiated by him and/or the team) about the possibility of him leaving after this season.
All of the Reddick drama is likely what led the industry to chatter last week about the very possibility of Kyle Busch driving for Childress, who got into a run-in with Busch after a race at Kansas in 2011.
Representatives from both sides have indicated that Busch driving for Childress probably won’t arrive (but in NASCAR, never say never, right?) and that more likely than not, Reddick will be in car # 8 next year. RCR teased on social media a Cup driver announcement for next week with a ghost image that appears to be Xfinity Series driver Austin Hill, but there was no indication that it had anything to do with the situation of Reddick.
“It was no surprise that he probably went to where the money was in 24,” Childress said. “We made an offer, and his agent said, ‘Your offer is as good as anyone.'”
While Childress apparently made a competitive bid, Reddick said during the 23XI announcement that he was heavily influenced by 23XI’s plans for the future and wanted to be a part of it.
For Childress, the hardest part to overcome was the timing. He didn’t like being told the morning of the announcement. He knows the rumors and information might leak out, but he felt like he should have had more time.
“The biggest surprise was when he came to see us less than an hour before the announcement. I don’t think it showed any respect for his racing team or anyone who got him where he is,” Childress said.
“Less than an hour before the announcement? A lot of things are swirling around an 18 month announcement.”
That’s why Childress, in a statement after Reddick’s announcement, said the timing couldn’t be worse.
“The most important thing is that you should respectfully come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I signed, I want to do something, how do you think we should make a joint announcement?'” he said. Childress Sunday.
“None of that happened. I’m not upset that he was going wherever he was going. But the way it was handled was not very professional. … I asked them to wait for the end of the year and then let’s do it.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway replaced the curb where the dividers were ripped out last year and removed some of the bumps placed in the corners that threw cars that missed corners.
This will force NASCAR to eventually arbitrate track limits, but will also prevent the race from having the jaw-dropping wrecks of a year ago.
So how NASCAR officiates the race will be something to watch.
The other story to watch? Ty Gibbs.
Gibbs will make his second straight start in place of Kurt Busch, who is suffering from concussion-like symptoms after a crash at Pocono in qualifying on Saturday.
“I’m determined to focus on my recovery and get back on track,” Busch said.
Gibbs, 19, finished 16th in his Pocono debut. He took a win on a road course in his Xfinity career, and the way he races on a Cup road course could be an indication of the correlation between his skills and the Next Gen car.
Thinking out loud
For every race since 2019, NASCAR’s post-race technical inspection process has worked well. It takes the first two cars for a complete disassembly, and sometimes a chance for another disassembly.
Cars from third to fifth go through a minimal process of checking alignment, weights and a visual appearance by inspectors. Once passed, they are released to be loaded onto the trucks and leave the track.
But at Pocono last week, that process ensured that the race-winning car was never completely torn apart. That’s because the first two cars both failed inspection – after third-placed Chase Elliott had already been released from his less vigorous checks.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch disqualified after Pocono race
Quick Thoughts: NASCAR had to deem the JGR violations egregious to disqualify the top two cars on Sunday at Pocono.
Should NASCAR hold on to the third-place car until at least the second-place car passes the tech? Should he keep the top 5? Should it contain all the cars? What would the line be?
The only completely fair thing to do would be to keep all cars loaded into transporters and not let them go until a car passes the tech. But it keeps teams on track for at least another hour, if not more.
The only thing Sunday proved was that the third place car should be kept. And I guess until the top three are disqualified in one day, consider keeping the top four or five.
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They said it
“If he wants to keep it, he can keep it as far as I’m concerned. He crossed the finish line first.” — Chase Elliott on whether he wants the disqualification winner trophy Denny Hamlin
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the last 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 after stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
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