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Tyler Reddick burns it down after scoring his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory. (Jason Reasin Photo)

Reddick Breaks Through, Outduels Elliott At Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – For the third time this season in three attempts, a road course produced a first-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series.

This time it was Tyler Reddick, who has had his fair share of oh-so-close moments taking away the opportunity to score that first victory. To do it, he held off the sport’s most successful road-course racer, Chase Elliott, to get the elusive win No. 1 in the Kwik Trip 250 presented by JOCKEY Made in America at Road America.

“It’s a huge sense of relief,” said Reddick, who made his 92nd career Cup start Sunday. “This whole team, we’ve been at it a couple years now together.”

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Reddick crossing the start/finish line. (Nicholas Dettmann Photo)

He added, “I’ve had to learn a lot over the course of the last three years in the Cup Series as a driver. But I’ve a lot of great people behind me that have helped.”

Going into Sunday’s race, Reddick had five career second-place finishes, including two this season and one of those in excruciating fashion, losing the lead in the last corner of the last lap on the dirt at Bristol.

The shortcomings left him constantly thinking he was one step from greatness.

Step taken.

“Everybody on this team at Richard Childress Racing has always believed in me,” Reddick said.

Reddick beat Elliott to the line by 3.304 seconds for the victory. Kyle Larson was third. Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez, the latest first-time winners – both of which were on the other road courses this season (COTA and Sonoma) – rounded out the top five, respectively.

Reddick is the fifth first-time winner this season, joining Chastain and Suarez as well as Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe.

Even looking at the history at Road America, in the 13 all-time Xfinity Series races at the 4.048-mile road course, five of those winners collected their first career victory.

Reddick said he doesn’t use those kind of statistics to motivate him. But he did acknowledge he’s aware of it.

Is there a rhyme or reason road courses produce so many first-time winners? Or is it just a coincidence?

“That’s a great question,” said Randall Burnett, Reddick’s crew chief, who also picked up his first Cup victory as a crew chief in his 130th race. “I don’t know if there’s a specific reason for it. I think a lot of it is circumstantial, how the cautions fall, how your pit strategy falls.”

And, in a bit of irony, sometimes things just have an interesting way of playing itself out.

When asked if he thought a road course, let alone Road America, would be the place of his first career victory, he said, “It sounds crazy but I honestly thought that’s where the first one would come.”

It was an interesting comment as he also recalled what a trip to Road America was like for him in 2018, his first full season in the Xfinity Series.

“It was a nightmare of a day,” Reddick said.

Everything that could go wrong did en route to a 34th-place finish. Several other elements began to put the thought in his mind that he was not cut out to be a professional race car driver.

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Reddick in victory lane. (HHP/Jim Fluharty)

“It was here that things could’ve went one of two ways,” Reddick said. “It could’ve went one way where I was pretty much giving up on the thought of … I didn’t think I had it. but I had a lot of good people around me that believed in me.”

It was the motivation boost he needed.

The following week, Reddick finished third at Darlington, the first of eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts, culminating in a win at Homestead in the finale and giving him the Xfinity championship. He then followed that up with another Xfinity title in 2019, which then translated to a ride in the Cup Series.

“From that point on, things have been a lot better,” Reddick said.

Elliott, who is third on the all-time road course wins list with seven, dominated the day, leading a race-high 36 of the 62 laps. It looked like he was going to tie Tony Stewart for second on the all-time list in road course wins and move to within one of Jeff Gordon’s all-time mark of nine.

With 16 laps to go, battling for position as there were drivers ahead of Elliott and Reddick who hadn’t pitted at that point, Elliott had trouble slowing his car into the downhill braking zone into turn 5, missing the apex and running the corner wide.

That gave Reddick an opening on the inside and cleared Elliott going into the next corner.

Reddick officially took the lead a short time later, passing Harrison Burton just before he crossed the start-finish line to mark 15 laps to go.

“I just need to do a better job there,” Elliott said. “I just let him stay close enough to pressure me when we had decent tires and never could got enough of a gap, made a couple mistakes.”

From there, it became a two-driver battle for the win at Road America as they were well ahead of Larson by more than 10 seconds.

With 10 laps to go, the lead between Reddick and Elliott stood at 0.708 seconds. Elliott chipped away at that deficit to within 0.596 seconds with seven laps to go. But, Reddick stayed cool on a hot day in Wisconsin.

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Chase Elliott was unable to secure the win from the pole position. (Jason Reasin Photo)

Over the next handful of laps, Reddick opened up the lead to more than 2.5 seconds with three laps to go. From there, it was about hitting the marks and finishing it off and this time he did.

“The last five (laps) were pretty stress free,” Reddick said.

One of Reddick’s oh-so-close moments came in April on the dirt at Bristol. He led a race-high 99 laps. In the waning moments of that race, he and Briscoe battled for the lead. As the two went through turns 3 and 4, Briscoe drifted up the track as he tried to make a move for the win. In the process, he also collected Reddick and the two drivers spun.

Instead, Kyle Busch won the race.

Many of the drivers after the race were complimentary of Reddick and his accomplishment.

“I’m so happy for Tyler Reddick,” Chastain said. “The guy is an animal and he deserves this.”

Former teammates such as Cindric greeted Reddick with a giant hug. Reddick’s former boss, Brad Keselowski, also congratulated him.

Car owner Richard Childress was also proud of his young and budding star.

“He does work really hard,” Childress said of Reddick, adding, “I knew this would be a good shot of him winning this race.”

Knowing a thing or two about having to wait a while for career victory No. 1, Elliott was also complimentary of Reddick.

“First off, congrats to him,” said Elliott, who also scored his first career victory on a road course and did so in his 99th career Cup start. “I know he’s been super close to that first win. I’ve been down that road. I’m happy for those guys. They deserve it.”

For Reddick and his support, they always believed the question that needed to be answered was not if he’d win a race, but when.

There is now an answer to that question.

“What a crazy ride it’s been,” Reddick said.

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