PLYMOUTH, Wis.—Four years ago, Road America tested Tyler Reddick to the point where he questioned whether he was cut out for NASCAR racing.
On Sunday, at that very track, Reddick scored his first NASCAR Cup win in his 92nd start. With a fast car and flawless execution on pit road, Reddick remained in contention throughout the Kwik Trip 250.
The driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet had just one obstacle in his way—Chase Elliott. Once he passed the No. 9 Chevy with 16 laps remaining, Reddick extended his advantage to 3.953-seconds over Elliott en route to his first NASCAR Cup win.
“I worked really, really hard for this at Richard Childress Racing,” Reddick said. “For it to come at a road course—of all places—this track—of all places, looking four years in the rearview, saying it was going to happen here, I would have thought you were insane. This is probably the worst track I ever came across as an Xfinity Series driver. I almost thought about quitting, honestly, when I left this race track. I didn’t think I had it.
“This weekend kind of turned my 2018 Playoff/Xfinity run around. It made me grow up. It made me get my stuff together. It’s really crazy what this place can do to a man. So, I’m really glad I got put through these tough times when I was here a couple of years ago because as a driver, it really made me turn around a lot of things.”
Elliott, the defending race winner, led a race-high 36 laps. After he climbed from his car, Alan Gustafson consoled his driver. Elliott took a moment to sit down on the pit road wall and just shook his head when he saw Team Hendrick vice president of competition coming around the corner.
“That was poor driving there when it mattered most, unfortunately,” Elliott said. “Just didn’t do a good job there getting my gap back on when he was close after the pit stops. He did a really good job. Congrats to Tyler. It’s a hard thing to do, to win in this series and I know he’s been looking for that first one for a long time. So, happy for those guys.”
Kyle Larson finished third followed by Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
“I thought we were third best and we finished third best, nice, smooth day,” said Larson, who was nearly 20 seconds behind Reddick. "For him to win was awesome. It's special for the northern California fans out there. Tyler and I grew up racing together on the West Coast, and I know Lowell and Becky Morale will be proud. Really neat, and hats off to him and their team."
With the exception of the stage breaks, the race went green for 58 of 60 laps—but the contest wasn’t without incidents. Four laps in, Kyle Busch, who started from the rear after an engine change, was battling Aric Almirola for 18th when both cars spun in Turn 5. Busch dropped back to 35th.
Elliott, the polesitter, led the first 12 laps before green-flag pit stops began. When Elliott came in for service, he turned the lead over to Chase Briscoe. Briscoe held serve for the Stage 1 win. Briscoe and the top nine drivers pitted. Denny Hamlin, who was running 23rd, pitted and received his 25th penalty of the season for running through too many pit boxes on exit.
Elliott had worked his way back to 10th prior to the end of the stage and cycled back to the lead for the Lap 18 restart with Larson, Reddick and Chastain in tow. Five laps later, Joey Logano locked up his brakes in Turn 5 and pulled Bubba Wallace into the spin cycle with him. Kurt Busch, who was running behind them, was clipped by Logano.
The next round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 28. William Byron, who was running eighth at the time, had a loose wheel and was forced to return to pit road. He dropped to 26th after his second service and finished 16th.
The top five drivers—Elliott Reddick, Larson and Chastain—came to pit road on Lap 29. Ryan Blaney assumed the lead and held on to win Stage 2. Once again, Elliott cycled to the lead. Reddick, Chastain, Larson, Suarez and McDowell completed the first three rows for the restart on Lap 33. Wallace’s troubles continued when he went off the course into the kitty litter in Turn 1. He’d finish 35th.
Reddick’s crew chief Randall Burnett told everyone on the No. 8 team if there was any indication that Elliott was pitting, the driver needed to follow the No. 9 Chevy. The leaders came to pit road on Lap 43—and Reddick exited the pits right on Elliott’s bumper.
“We just needed to be close when we came out on fresh tires,” Reddick said. “I wanted to pull away in order to defend, to get away from Larson, get away from Ross. Coming out in close range like that with fresh tires was the difference. We just waited for an opportunity—and we got it.
Three laps later, Reddick was able to pass Elliott coming through Turn 5 for second place. He then passed Harrison Burton, who was leading but had yet to pit. Elliott moved to within a half-second of the No. 8 Chevy’s bumper, but Reddick checked out.
“Well, I definitely knew he was fast, but we could stay with him on the long run,” Reddick said. “I thought he was going to run me back down. I started to make some mistakes, started to take care of the brakes; apparently I didn't need to. Yeah, very good shape there.
“What a day.”