RACING

NASCAR Crash Course: Tyler Reddick’s long road to overcoming the bump

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Tyler Reddick had come so close to victory in the NASCAR Cup Series, entering last weekend’s race at Road America with five career finishes. Now he is the sport’s fifth winner this season in a banner year.

To win at Road America, Reddick passed the sport’s premier road racer, Chase Elliott, who spent most of the day riding ahead. He kept Reddick out by about a second until a wheel issue at the final pit stop cost the No.9 team the lead.

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Finally, months of bad luck for Reddick began to balance out.

“It was nice to come out of pit road right there off the bumper of car 9,” Reddick said, “And just me and him go and may the best team win.”

Reddick found a way from there, pressing Elliott before eventually making the winning pass into Turns 5 and 6. Pulling away to win by 3.3 seconds, Richard Childress Racing said they would be heard from across the road just days after picking up Reddick’s option for 2023.

“It wasn’t a question of if he was going to do it; it was when,” owner Childress said of the win, saying “When you beat Chase Elliott, you beat one of the best. “

It was a popular victory for a driver whose talent is well known in the garage business, a victory that has led to hugs from rivals like Austin Cindric and respect from Elliott and Kyle Larson.

“I know he came very close to that first win,” Elliott said. “I’ve walked this road, and it can be tough.”

In effect. From a puncture while dominating Auto Club Speedway in February to a spin on the final lap of the Bristol Dirt RaceReddick was graceful in defeat while leaving these races feeling defeated.

Even Road America gave Reddick a lesson in humility.

“It’s really crazy that this is where I got my first win,” Reddick said. “Because this place four years ago made me question everything.”

Reddick was running the #9 car for JR Motorsports at the time, racing his first full-time season in the sport’s Xfinity Series. Descending immediately to the rear, he lost track of his speed despite putting the car in neutral and crashed into the sand trap at the “Canada Corner” of this 14-corner track.

It was the start of a disastrous weekend, which ended with Reddick blowing up the rear end after missing a shift. 34th place was an instinctive test for the future, giving him more DNFs (four) than top five (two) at this time of year.

“It could have gone in a direction where I was pretty much giving up on the idea of ​​— I don’t think I had it,” Reddick said. “But I had a lot of good people around me who believed in me, got me back to where I needed to be, and from then on things got a lot better.”

That rebound included five top-five finishes in the last 10 races that year, the first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series championships that caught the eye of current owner Childress. From there, it was four years to this point, as Reddick worked hard at his craft while enduring harrowing near misses that tested his patience.

“There are a lot of things I could have done differently in those five second places where I could have won the race,” he said. “So I try to look back and learn from that. So hopefully when I’m able to win a race again I don’t make the same mistakes.”

Avoiding them is much easier when you have the confidence to become a NASCAR Cup Series winner.

Traffic report

Green: Chase Elliott/Kyle Larson. The last two NASCAR Cup champions are starting to find their groove. Elliott’s average placing over the past two races is 1.5, leading 78 laps in the process, while Larson has back-to-back top-five finishes despite team leader Cliff Daniels. serving a four-race suspension.

Yellow: Kevin Harvick. There are signs that Harvick is coming out of his nearly two-year slump. Sunday’s 10th place finish at Road America was his seventh top 10 in the last nine races, giving him 10 for the year (leader Elliott has 12). The problem is, mid-pack drivers like Tyler Reddick keep winning, knocking Harvick out of a playoff spot as soon as he seems to secure it.

Red: Brad Keselowski. A heavy blow to the outside wall led to a lengthy pit stop for repairs, prolonging Keselowski’s first season nightmare as driver/owner of RFK Racing. The 2012 Cup champion remains winless on the road courses for his career (0 for 34).

Speeding Ticket: Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was stopped not once, but twice for going through too many pits. That’s now 26 total pit penalties for a driver with a roller coaster season (two wins, bad luck and a long list of self-induced mistakes).

Oops!

The main topic of NASCAR conversation this week will revolve around Noah Gragson. A promising driver in the sport’s Xfinity series, this talented driver often lets his temper get the better of him.

For most of 2022 he had cleaned up his number, his maturity on and off the track throwing him into the championship conversation. But this incident, intentional contact with Sage Karam once again puts him at the center of controversy with a vicious wreckage that left a ton of innocent and underfunded victims in its wake.

“In the aftermath, he totally transformed into me,” Karam said. “It’s totally unnecessary. It’s very dangerous, it put a lot of drivers at risk…for safety, I just think it was completely wrong.”

The wreck left Karam owner Tommy Joe Martins calling out JR Motorsports on Twitter in a public back-and-forth.

In the end, NASCAR spoke to Gragson and eventually gave him a large monetary and points penalty. For his part, Gragson pushed back, feeling the payback was warranted after previous contact between the two sent him off course.

“People’s business has been torn apart,” he admitted. “But three times [getting run off the track] it’s kinda ridiculous.”

The same goes for 13 wrecked racing cars.

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