PLYMOUTH, Wis. – It was a dogfight between two pilots, pure and simple.
It was Tyler Reddick who edged out polesitter Chase Elliott in the intense heads-up battle in Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 at Road America.
The victory was Reddick’s first in the NASCAR Cup Series, making him the fifth winner for the first time this season. As the 13th different winner this year, Reddick narrowed the playoff bubble by one position.
RELATED: Official results | photos on the track
With seven races remaining before the cutoff race at Daytona, there are currently three playoff spots available by points. Reddick’s victory moved 10th-place finisher Kevin Harvick below the playoff cutoff line.
Elliott dominated the first two stages but won neither, choosing to pit before the end of the races to preserve track position. And at the final green-flag pit stop on lap 44 of 62, Elliott narrowly beat Reddick out of pit road to start the final green-flag race.
But Reddick kept Elliott in his sights.
“I definitely knew he was fast, but we could stick with him for the long haul, which told me that if we went through the last… that pit sequence, we’d be close or dodge him (on pit road), (and ) we would have a great opportunity.
“I didn’t quite understand it. We were within range. Fortunately, I waited for the right opportunity and was able to seize it at Turn 6.”
By the way. Reddick closed in on Elliott on Lap 46 and braked faster than the No. 9 Chevrolet into Turn 5, bringing the front end of his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet up next to the left rear quarter panel of Elliott’s car.
Reddick parried uphill at Turn 6 on the left and cleared Elliott from the corner. Elliott struggled through Turns 7 and 8, but Reddick pulled away on the carousel.
At that point, the pass was for third place, as Denny Hamlin and Harrison Burton still had pit stops to make. On lap 47 Reddick passed Burton for the lead and gradually pulled away in the closing laps.
He crossed the finish line 3.304 seconds ahead of Elliott and 21.138 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Kyle Larson.
Reddick, who was 100 yards from victory at the Bristol dirt track in April when Chase Briscoe went too far in the final turn and dropped him broadside, couldn’t have picked a better place to score his first victory.
“What better place than Road America?” Reddik said. “I love the fans. I love this race track. Being here the 4th of July weekend is very special, and just a big thank you to (sponsor) 3Chi and the special paint scheme we had this weekend.
“I love that they came on board this year and took a chance on a young guy like me, and we did it. We won a race.”
Elliott earned his second place gracefully, acknowledging the mistakes he made in the final race.
“First of all, congratulations to him,” Elliott said. “I know he’s been very close to that first win, and I’ve been down that road, and it can be tough. I’m happy for those guys. They deserve it.
“For us, just proud of our NAPA team. I didn’t do a very good job there. I just let it stay close enough to put pressure on me there while we had decent tires and we could never get enough room. He made a couple of mistakes. I was gaining a gap there a couple of times and I made a couple of mistakes and let him come back close enough to throw me out of sync, and then after that I started to struggle.
“Obviously, it was very difficult to get someone to pass them. It was impressive that he was able to get there and capitalize on my mistakes. … I felt like we probably needed a little bit, but I think we were good enough to win, so that always hurts.”
MORE: Elliott Leads Most Laps, Ranks Second
Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while Chevrolet swept the top five positions.
Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Harvick rounded out the top 10. Martin Truex Jr. led the Toyota that finished top to a 13th-place finish.
Briscoe, who started second, won Stage 1, and Ryan Blaney took the Stage 2 win, taking him to five stage wins this season. Blaney finished 11th with Briscoe 14th.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled for next Sunday (3 pm ET, US, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Grades: All three road courses so far this season have produced first-time winners: Chastain at Circuit of the Americas and Suarez at Sonoma Raceway in addition to Reddick. … Harvick trails Christopher Bell by 20 points for final playoff-eligible position. Elliott leads the series standings by 33 points over Blaney. … Elliott led a race-high 36 laps. Reddick led the 16 finalists. … Reddick’s win was also the first for his crew chief, Randall Burnett.
Post-race inspection was completed at the NASCAR Cup Series garage at Road America without major issues, confirming Reddick as the race winner.
Contributing: Staff Reports