No Daytona disharmony: Dillon, Reddick form a no-tension tandem in RCR triumph

·6 min read

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The notion of any friction between Richard Childress Racing teammates should be thrown right out.

Tyler Reddick’s pending move to 23XI Racing in 2024 created no such disharmony in the Daytona draft when it came time for him to do what was best for his current home team. His dutiful driving provided a buffer, pushing the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet of Austin Dillon — a teammate and a friend — to a playoff-clinching win in Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Reddick’s looming departure from Richard Childress’ group was the kind of seismic move that’s had lingering effects, given the team’s blunt reaction when it was announced last month. In Sunday’s regular-season finale, Reddick’s focus was less on the future decoupling than it was the current union, helping his teammate join him in the 16-driver postseason field. Mitigating any hurt feelings wasn’t even a consideration.

“It’s not why I did it. I did it for Austin. I mean, I didn’t really do it for … it didn’t even, it wasn’t even on my mind, honestly,” Reddick said on pit road post-race, still smiling widely from his runner-up role in the RCR 1-2 finish. “Just trying to get my friend, my teammate, a fellow driver at RCR in the playoffs because it’s not just my group of guys that deserve it. It’s everybody at RCR that works really hard on these cars, and now both of our cars are in the playoffs.”

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When Austin Dillon made his winning bump-and-run move on Austin Cindric on the 158th of 160 laps, Reddick squeaked by the squirrely No. 2 Team Penske Ford with a low-side dive to pick up two spots. He caught up to Dillon’s back bumper and his scraped and scarred No. 8 Chevy stayed there the rest of the race, keeping a resurgent Cindric plus eager underdogs Cody Ware and Landon Cassill at bay.

Any moves that served his own self-interests over the team never materialized.

“Yeah, I know that may be hard to believe, but certainly I had no interest and I think he knew that I wasn’t gonna pass him,” Reddick said. “I was going to be playing blocker for the rest of the deal.”

Austin Dillon\
Austin Dillon\

“He did a really good job, and he did the right thing there,” said No. 8 crew chief Randall Burnett. “The biggest thing was, our goal at the beginning of the year is to get both cars in (the playoffs) whether it’s through winning or points or whatever. Obviously we want to win races. So for him to push the 3 and be a good teammate, everybody being a good teammate, I’m really happy for those guys. Those guys did a great job. They worked really hard week in and week out so, well-deserved on their part to get a win and it’s nice to be able to help push ’em to it.”

The two drivers embraced in Victory Lane, soaking in the champagne instead of the rain after a weather-slogged weekend at Daytona International Speedway. But the shared moment meant more than just a mutual show of respect among teammates.

Dillon revealed in his post-race interviews that when Reddick had made his decision to join 23XI that he called him to offer congratulations, but also to make a quick gut-check.

“For me being an owner’s son sometimes comes with caveats, and I wanted to make sure that I had nothing to do with the reasons that he was leaving,” Dillon said. “When I called him, I was, like, ‘Hey, man, I just want to make sure I’ve been a good teammate to you.’ He said, ‘No, you have been an amazing teammate. Me and Alexa (De Leon, Reddick’s girlfriend) really enjoyed being around you guys.’ I said, ‘Look, man, congratulations on your deal. Let’s go try and win some races for RCR over the next year and a half.’ ”

“For me, I was in none of his negotiations, talks, or anything. So it was more like he has been in a way inspirational to me to pick up my game because he has so much speed, and he shows it constantly. Tyler has been good for me. Then I think I’ve been good for him in some consistency aspects. We’ve rubbed off on each other in different ways to really help.

“When he got to my back bumper, I knew that I could trust him.”

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Funny enough, Dillon’s faith in his teammate was challenged earlier in the race with a bold pit-road entry, helping Reddick gain a handful of spots with a dramatic whoa-down from the superspeedway pace.

“That little fart drove around me and Stenhouse and somebody else and got himself in a good position,” Dillon said. “But I was, like, ‘Dude, where were you going?’ ”

Reddick confirmed to Dillon later that he had no jitters about making that move.

“That’s just how Tyler is,” Dillon said. “It doesn’t matter what position he puts himself in, he is confident, and that confidence shows. I’m thankful that he has been my teammate for this long, and hopefully together both of us can keep progressing our share forward, and it feels good to have us both in the Playoffs.”

It’s been a whirlwind last two months for Richard Childress Racing. Reddick’s news came in the middle of his first two Cup Series wins, and Dillon — hampered in the standings by five crash-related DNFs — salvaged his postseason fate with a clutch victory that meant more magic for the No. 3 at Daytona.

With the playoff uncertainty finally settled for both RCR mates, each driver’s quest for a first NASCAR Cup Series title begins in Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Darlington Raceway.

Childress, the Hall of Famer team owner, vowed no team tension in chasing that trophy, either.

“I think I talked to all of those guys after his announcement, and I said we’re going to give him 100% chance to win races and 100% chance at winning the championship,” Childress said. “Now, we’ve got two in there, so we’ve got to give both of them the same advantage to try to win the championship.”