The toast of Indy: Rousing win for Reddick, RCR heals wounds

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Victory Cuvee at Richard Childress’ North Carolina vineyard has been in more regular rotation these days. It’s billed online as the wine of the month and the wine of the week at the NASCAR team owner’s sprawling 70-acre side hustle, and well, that seems about right.

Tyler Reddick helped Childress round out an especially newsy month on the last day of July, sharing another cork-popping moment Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. The team celebration was the customary all-smiles affair with the bonus of champagne-soaked brick kissing included, even with the looming inevitability of their partnership’s end drawing near.

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Reddick’s first Cup Series win on July 3 at Road America was followed just nine days later with the bombshell that he would leave for 23XI Racing in 2024. Childress’ reaction at the time was tinged with some acrimony, with the team’s statement bluntly denouncing the timing of Reddick’s jump. Reddick said Sunday that he and his team owner “haven’t really spoken much” since that news broke.

Just 19 days later, the bubbly apparently pairs well with awkwardness. In proving so far that he’s a lame duck with no let-up, Reddick indicated that winning should help soothe any wounds.

“I’ve told him that as long as I’m racing here, I’m going to do everything I can to win races for this team, and I would love to win a championship or two with this team,” Reddick said. “I’m going to be more committed — I feel like the older I get, the smarter you get, the more you find ways to work really hard, and I’m just going to work as hard as I can for this team because there’s a lot of great people on this team, a lot of great people at (engine builder) ECR and a lot of great people not just on my car but at the shop at RCR that work really, really hard on these cars, and they’ve helped me come so far as a driver. I’m just going to give them everything I’ve got.”

Reddick cemented his second straight trip to the Cup Series Playoffs with his second victory of the year. His July breakthrough ended a two-year winless drought for Richard Childress Racing, which promoted Reddick to the Cup ranks after the two paired for an Xfinity Series championship in 2019.

Tyler Reddick celebrates with his family and team at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Alejandro Alvarez | NASCAR Digital Media

Reddick’s contract with RCR runs through the 2023 campaign, and 23XI and Toyota jumped at the opportunity to sign next year’s top free agent this year — before the usual Silly Season swirl had even settled on the shorter-term signees. In remarks to FOX Sports, the timing is what stuck with Childress, who said he was notified that morning before Toyota went live with a news conference at noon.

Any personal feeling of estrangement might be understandable, but it didn’t stop Childress from fielding a winning car bearing Reddick’s name and his Sunday.

“After they made their announcement, I met … I thought about it a lot that night, gave it a lot of thought, and it’s more than just about one person. It’s about a team,” Childress said. “Stayed up most of the night thinking about what I should do, how I wanted to handle it. I went in the next day and told the whole team it wasn’t a perfect circumstance the way it went down, but we’re going to give it everything we’ve got this year, and we’ll see where we go next year.”

That closing note of “we’ll see” for 2023 begged a follow-up question, and Childress reaffirmed, “Yeah, Tyler will be in the car at RCR next year.”

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That commitment has followed from Childress on down the org chart at RCR. Crew chief Randall Burnett helped guide Reddick to his second Xfinity title in 2019, then made the leap to the Cup Series with him.

In the two-plus seasons since, the No. 8 crew has grown into the organization’s top producer — a perch Burnett says he’s intent to keep despite any frayed feelings.

“Well, you know, it’s one of those things. It’s a business deal,” Burnett said. “We’ve still got a lot of racing left to do with Tyler, and that’s what I told our guys. We’re all professionals. A lot of us, everybody in our team is veterans of the sport. We’ve all been around for a long time. We’ve seen drivers come and go and things move around, and that’s just part of our sport.

“We’ve talked about it as a group, and Richard sat in on some of them and talked with all of us about it. The biggest thing we can do is go out and do what we did today and that’s put fast cars underneath Tyler and try to win races and show everybody what this team is made of so we can try to figure out what we need to do to fill that void. That’s what we’re going to continue to do. We feel like we’ve got a great shot at the championship this year, to win two races now after just not even a month apart.”

As the long goodbye for Childress and Reddick continues, the 26-year-old driver said he’s content to keep adding to the team’s legacy. Sunday’s latest chapter gave RCR another Indy accomplishment, one that dates back to Dale Earnhardt’s emotional win in the second Brickyard 400 in 1995.

Childress soaked it all in Sunday, but made sure to replace the Speedway’s signature sparkling bottles with his own brand. Any vintner worth his or her salt can deliver their wine’s slogan on demand. Few get to do it from one of the more prestigious race tracks on earth.

“For all the winning moments in your life,” Childress said, holding the bottle aloft for the cameras. “That’s pretty good.”