Winning ways make Richard Childress smile again

INDIANAPOLIS — Tyler Reddick’s victory Sunday at Indianapolis marks just the second time since 2014 that Richard Childress Racing has won at least two Cup races in a season.

It last happened in 2017. Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 and Ryan Newman won the spring Phoenix race.

“Well, it’s great to be back competitive again,” car owner Richard Childress said after Reddick’s win, his second of the season. “The doors were open, the lights were on, but we weren’t competitive. But it’s great to come to a track and know you’re going to be one of the teams fighting for the win.”

The organization that won six championships with Dale Earnhardt has struggled for much of the last decade. Since Kevin Harvick left RCR after the 2013 season, Childress’ teams have combined to win six races.

Success comes in the midst of turmoil. 23XI Racing announced on July 12 that it had signed Tyler Reddick to a multi-year contract starting in 2024. The deal angered Childress, who had not spoken to Reddick since the announcement until Reddick’s win on Sunday.

Reddick said Sunday that “the win helps” mend the relationship with his boss.

Childress admitted after 23XI Racing’s announcement that he “stayed up most of the night thinking about what I had to do, how I wanted to handle it.

“I went into (the race shop) the next day and told the whole team it wasn’t a perfect situation the way it went down, but we’re going to give it everything we’ve got this year and see where we go next year.”

As for next year?

“Tyler will be in the car at RCR next year,” Childress said Sunday.

When asked if that would be the No. 8 car, Childress nodded.

For Reddick, he’s focused on winning more games and a championship this season.

“I’m just looking at the time we have left,” he said. “I know I always give it my all, but certainly knowing that (2023) will be the end of the road, I have to do everything I can to win as many races as possible for this group because I wouldn’t” Be the road racer I am today if it wasn’t for RCR, if it wasn’t for my team people, if it wasn’t for Chevrolet.

“I owe it to them. I owe it to my team. I owe it to the people who really helped me do it and get out there and deliver.

“Sure if anything has helped. Just like when (girlfriend) Alexa said to me, “Hey, if you win the championship, you can name our son.”

“There aren’t always moments where I think I need an extra motivation because I don’t know if it’s possible or if it’s out there, but when I get them, I take it and run with it. For this situation, knowing when it’s going to be my last day with RCR, if anything, it’s probably motivated me more than I thought possible before all of this started.”

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The cars of Chris Buescher and Joey Logano each caught fire during Sunday’s Cup match. Both seemed to be the result of similar circumstances.

Logano’s car caught fire on the final lap and he finished the race sixth before retiring. The driver’s side door and rocker box caught fire, Travis Geisler, race director for Team Penske, told NBC Sports.

“From the contact, the exhaust pipe was bent where it basically blows directly into the carbon door and the rocker,” Geisler said. “At that point, there’s really no carbon material that will survive that kind of heat. It just ignites, and basically your door burns. Some situation we had, I guess, was a lot like (Buescher).

“Something to think about. What to do? I don’t necessarily know an easy, quick fix for this.”

Buescher’s car also had contact that caused a fire inside the vehicle. Jeremy Thompson, race director for RFK Racing, told NBC Sports that the contact with Bubba Wallace “somewhere twisted the exhaust pipe … the rocker panel and all that stuff caught fire.”

Thompson also said that “what happened, I didn’t expect it to happen. We have knocked on those doors. We’ve hit rocker panels, we’ve done all that stuff. I do not know. Very, very strange.”

Buescher reported the fire while coming onto pit road on lap 12. He lost two laps while in his pit as the fire was extinguished with him still in the car.

He came back to finish 10th.

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Sunday marked the first time since July 1994 at Pocono that three Cup rookies finished in the top five.

Austin Cindric finished second for Team Penske, Harrison Burton was third for Wood Brothers Racing and Todd Gilliland finished fourth for Front Row Motorsports. It was the first top-five finish for both Burton and Gilliland.

“We can’t escape each other!” Gilliland said. “Either we fight like 30th, 35th, or now we finish in the top five together. It’s really been like that our whole life and we were saying once we start winning, it’s going to be a lot more fun when we’re fighting each other every week.”

Said Gilliland’s Burton: “It’s nice to race in the Cup with him and have good finishes with him. And yes, he is a good friend of mine. It’s nice. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for our team. And I’m glad we finished ahead. For a while there, he was running better than us and I was only worried about points. I have to beat him in rookie points. So it’s a lot of fun.”

Barton said the termination was much needed.

“Early in the day, we made a lot of mistakes and I thought there was no way we could recover from that,” he said. “We got some cautions, some good restarts there. Really aggressive at the end and it ended up being okay.”

Gilliland started ninth—his best Cup qualifying effort—and used that track position to his advantage.

“Head and shoulders better than we were,” Gilliland said. “So it’s just about building momentum and hopefully we can repeat that in the future.”

The Barton family was also part of this event. Ward Burton, Harrison’s uncle, finished second and Jeff Burton, Harrison’s father, finished fourth in that race. The other rookie to finish in the top five that day was Joe Nemechek, who was third.

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Kyle Larson’s crash in Sunday’s race it was not a result of brake failurea team spokesman told NBC Sports on Monday.

Instead, a team spokesman reported that crew chief Cliff Daniels stated that Larson went too deep into the braking zone and went out of shape.

“All I saw was a blue flash and that’s the hardest I’ve ever hit anything,” Dillon said. “First, I thank God that I am well and these cars are safe enough for me to take such a picture. … I was just blind, really.”

Larson sailed into turn 1, hit the curb and hit Ty Dillon’s car, eliminating both. Larson finished 35th. Dillon was 34th.

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Winning ways have Richard Childress smiling again originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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