It was a dogfight between two drivers, pure and simple.
It was Tyler Reddick who outdueled pole winner Chase Elliott in the intense mano-a-mano 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 first-time winner this season. As the 13th different winner this year, Reddick shrank the Playoff bubble by one position.
With seven races left before the cutoff race at Daytona, there are currently three Playoff positions available on points. Reddick‘s victory bumped 10th-place finisher Kevin Harvick below the Playoff cut line.
Elliott dominated the first two stages but won neither, choosing to pit before the end of the runs to preserve track position. And on the final green-flag pit stop on Lap 44 of 62, Elliott narrowly beat Reddick off pit road to start the last green-flag run.
But Reddick kept Elliott in his sights.
“I definitely knew he was fast, but we could stay with him on the long run, which told me if we cycled through that last… that pit sequence, we’d be close or get around him (on pit road), (and) we’d have a great shot.
“Didn’t quite get around him. We were within reach. Thankfully, just waited for the right opportunity and was able to take advantage of it in Turn 6.”
Indeed. Reddick closed on Elliott on Lap 46 and outbraked the No. 9 Chevrolet into Turn 5, getting the nose of his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet beside the left rear quarter panel of Elliott‘s car.
Reddick pulled even up the hill into left-hand Turn 6 and cleared Elliott off the corner. Elliott fought back through Turns 7 and 8, but Reddick pulled clear in the Carousel.
At the time, the pass was for third place, given that Denny Hamlin and Harrison Burton still had pit stops to make. On Lap 47 Reddick overtook 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 on the Bristol Dirt Track in April when Chase Briscoe overdrove the final corner and knocked him sideways, couldn‘t have picked a better venue to score his first win.
“What better place than Road America?” Reddick said. “I love the fans. I love this race track. Being here on 4th of July weekend is just so special, and just a huge shoutout to (sponsor) 3Chi and the special paint scheme we had this weekend.
“Love that they’re coming on board this year and taking a chance on a young guy like me, and we got it done. We won a race.”
Elliott took his second-place finish with grace, acknowledging mistakes he made in the final run.
“First off, congrats to him,” Elliott said. “I know he’s been super close to that first win, and I’ve been down that road, and it can be a rocky one. 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 him stay close enough to pressure me there while we had decent tires and never could get enough of a gap. Made a couple mistakes. I was gaining a gap there a couple times and made a couple mistakes and let him get back close enough to get me out of sync, and then after that just started struggling.
“Obviously, it was super difficult to get to somebody to pass them. It was impressive he was able to get up 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 those always hurt.”
Trackhouse Racing teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez finished fourth and fifth, respectively, as Chevrolets swept the top five positions.
Chris Buescher, Austin Cindric, Michael McDowell, AJ Allmendinger and Harvick completed the top 10. Martin Truex Jr. drove the top-finishing Toyota to a 13th-place result.
Notes: 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 the final Playoff-eligible position. Elliott leads the series standings by 33 points over Ryan Blaney, who finished 11th…Elliott led a race-high 38 laps. Reddick led the final 16… Reddick‘s victory also was the first his crew chief, Randall Burnett.
— NASCAR Newswire —
See complete race information on the Road America Race Page.