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NASCAR Crash Course: Tyler Reddick’s long road to get over the pothole

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Tyler Reddick had been on the verge of victory in the NASCAR Cup Series, entering last weekend’s race at Road America with five career second-place finishes. Now, he is the sport’s fifth first-time winner this season in a record year.

To win at Road America, Reddick edged out the sport’s premier road course racer, Chase Elliott, who spent most of the day cruising out front. He was trailing Reddick by about a second until a wheel problem at the final pit stop cost the No. 9 team the lead.

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

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“It was nice coming out of pit road right there, off the bumper of car 9,” Reddick said, “and just me and him going for it and may the best team win.”

Reddick found a way to go from there, putting pressure on Elliott before finally making the winning pass at Turns 5 and 6. Pulling away to win by 3.3 seconds, Richard Childress Racing made a statement that they will be heard on the road for just a few minutes. days after picking up the Reddick option for 2023.

“It wasn’t a question of if I was going to do it; it was when,” owner Childress said of the victory, stating that “when you beat Chase Elliott, you beat one of the best.”

It was a popular win for a driver whose talent is well known in the garage area, earning him hugs from rivals like Austin Cindric and respect from Elliott and Kyle Larson.

“I know he’s been very close to that first win,” Elliott said. “I’ve been down that road, and it can be tough.”

By the way. From a flat while dominating Auto Club Speedway in February to a spin on the final lap of the Bristol Dirt RaceReddick has been gracious in defeat as he leaves those races feeling defeated.

Even Road America has taught 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 driving the No. 9 car for JR Motorsports at the time, competing in his first full-time season in the sport’s Xfinity Series. Going down the backstretch, he lost track of his speed despite putting the car in neutral and crashed into the sand trap at “Canada Corner” of this 14-turn track.

It was the start of a disastrous weekend, which ended with Reddick blowing out the rear gear after missing a turn. 34th place was a gut test into the future, giving him more DNFs (four) than top-five finishes (two) at that point in the year.

“It could have gone in a way where he was giving up on the idea of ​​… I don’t think he 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 things have been a lot better since then.”

That comeback included five top-five finishes in the final 10 races that year, the first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series championships that caught the attention of current owner Childress. From there, it’s been a four-year build to this point, as Reddick toiled at his craft while suffering some harrowing near misses that tested his patience.

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

It’s much easier to avoid them when you have the confidence to become a NASCAR Cup Series winner.

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Green: Chase Elliott/Kyle Larson. The past two NASCAR Cup Series champions are starting to step up. Elliott’s average finish over the past two races is 1.5, leading 78 laps in the process, while Larson has two consecutive top-five finishes despite crew chief 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 finish in the last nine races, giving him 10 on the year (points leader Elliott has 12). The problem is that intermediate drivers like Tyler Reddick keep winning and knock Harvick out of a playoff spot as soon as he seems to secure it.

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

Speeding ticket: Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was arrested not once, but twice for going through too many pits. Now that’s 26 pit calls in total for a driver having a rollercoaster season (two wins, bad luck and a long list of self-induced mistakes).

Whoops!

The main topic of conversation in NASCAR this week will revolve around Noah Gragson. An up-and-coming driver in the sport’s Xfinity Series, this talented driver often lets his temper get the best of him.

For most of 2022, he had cleaned up his performance, the maturity on and off the track launching him into the championship conversation. But this incident, intentional contact with Sage Karam has him back at the center of controversy with a vicious accident that left a ton of innocent and broke victims in its wake.

“Right away, it just became me,” Karam said. “It’s totally unnecessary. It’s very dangerous, it put a lot of drivers at risk… for safety, I think it was completely wrong.”

The crash left Karam owner Tommy Joe Martins calling out JR Motorsports on Twitter in a public exchange.

Finally, NASCAR talked to Gragson and eventually imposed a significant monetary penalty and points. For his part, Gragson backed away, feeling revenge was warranted after previous contact between the two had thrown him off course.

“People’s things were broken,” he admitted. “But three times [getting run off the track] It’s a bit ridiculous.”

So are 13 wrecked race cars.

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