Can time, success heal wound between Tyler Reddick and RCR?
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
But Childress, speaking briefly before the race Sunday at Pocono, couldn't hide his disappointment. He said he is not bitter about the young driver's decision, just disappointed.
The biggest question is whether that disappointment would result in Childress trying to move Reddick out of the No. 8 Cup car next year.
Childress sounds like someone who is going to keep his options open. He has been in this sport long enough to know that a lame-duck situation for an entire season is not easy but also that a solid race car driver and team can push through it, as Kevin Harvick did at RCR, with four wins and a third-place finish in the standings in 2013.
"I have a contract with him in 2023," Childress answered when asked if Reddick will be back in the No. 8 car. "He'll be at RCR in 2023."
When it was mentioned that he didn't say the No. 8 car, Childress quipped: "You said that, not me."
Childress said he has not talked with Reddick about his displeasure. Reddick, who appears safe to make the 2022 playoffs, thanks to his Road America win, hopes that performances such as his second-place run Sunday at Pocono can heal wounds.
"If we keep running good, I'm sure we'll smooth things over," he said of his relationship with Childress.
That probably is true. Time has a way of healing, and when asked about Reddick being back next season, Childress said he is committed to making sure the team does well.
"Next year is a long time off," Childress said. "I committed to his team to give them everything they needed to win the championship and to go out in 2023 and give them everything they need to win the championship.
"I've committed that to our race team."
Read between the lines, and it sounds like Childress is saying that if he has a chance to land someone he believes is as good as or better than Reddick in 2023, he might try to find a way to put that driver in the No. 8 car. Or he might be just disappointed enough that he wants to make Reddick sweat through the rumor mill, much like Childress now has to sweat talks with potential sponsors for next year and beyond.
Again, performance can help put that talk to rest. Reddick sits 14th in the standings. Some would say his finish at Pocono (he crossed the line in fourth and then moved up to second) validated his statements that he remains focused on doing his best at RCR until 2024.
"None of us [on the team] have ever doubted it, but certainly I think others have on how that was going to go," Reddick said.
"We don't really need other people's validation to know that we're doing the right things, but it's definitely good to go out there and knock off top-5 finishes."
The whole Reddick drama is probably what led to last week's industry chatter about the possibility of Kyle Busch going to drive for Childress, who got into an altercation with Busch after a race at Kansas in 2011.
Representatives from both sides indicated that Busch driving for Childress likely won't happen (but in NASCAR, never say never, right?), and more likely than not, Reddick will be in the No. 8 car next year. RCR did tease on social media a Cup driver announcement for next week with a shadow image that appears to be Xfinity Series driver Austin Hill, but there was no indication that it had anything to do with the Reddick situation.
"It was no surprise that he was going to probably go wherever the money was in '24," Childress said. "We made an offer, and his agent said, ‘Your offer is as good as anyone.'"
While Childress apparently made a competitive offer, Reddick said during the 23XI announcement that he was influenced heavily by 23XI's plans for the future and desire to be part of it.
For Childress, the hardest part to get over was the timing. He didn't like being told the morning of the announcement. He knows rumors and the info might get leaked, but he thought he should have been given more time.
"The biggest surprise was when he came to us less than one hour before the announcement. I don't think it showed any respect for his race team or everyone who got him where he is," Childress said.
"Less than one hour before the announcement? A lot of stuff swirls around an 18-month announcement."
That is why Childress, in a statement after Reddick's announcement, said the timing couldn't be worse.
"The biggest thing is you should come to me respectfully and say, ‘Hey, I've signed. I want to do something. How do you think we should make a joint announcement?'" Childress said Sunday.
"None of that happened. I'm not upset he's going wherever he's going. But the way it was handled was very unprofessional. ... I asked them to wait until the end of the year and let's do it then."
What to watch for
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has replaced the curbing where splitters got torn off last year and removed some of the humps put in turns that launched cars that missed the corners.
That might require NASCAR to officiate track limits but also will keep the race from having the mind-boggling wrecks of a year ago. How NASCAR officiates the race will be something to watch.
The other story to watch? Ty Gibbs.
Gibbs will make his second consecutive start in place of Kurt Busch, who is suffering concussion-like symptoms after a crash at Pocono in qualifying Saturday.
"I am dedicated to focusing on my recovery and getting back on the track," Busch said.
The 19-year-old Gibbs finished 16th in his debut at Pocono. He has a road-course win in his Xfinity career, and how he races in a Cup road course could be an indication of how his skills fit the Next Gen car.
Thinking out loud
For every race since 2019, NASCAR's post-race technical inspection process worked fine. It takes the top two cars for a complete teardown and sometimes a random for another teardown.
The cars from third through fifth go through a minimal process to check alignment, weights and a visual look by inspectors. Once they pass, they are released to be loaded on to the haulers and leave the track.
But at Pocono last week, that process resulted in the eventual race-winning car never being fully torn apart. That's because the top two cars both failed inspection — after the third-place car of Chase Elliott was already released from its less vigorous checks.
Should NASCAR keep the third-place car until at least the second-place car passes tech? Should it keep the top five? Does it need to hold all cars? What would be the line?
The only totally fair thing to do would be to keep all cars loaded in haulers and not allowed to leave until a car passes tech. But that is keeping teams at the track for at least another hour, if not longer.
The one thing Sunday proved is that the third-place car should be held. And my guess is until all the top three get disqualified in one day, consider holding the top four or five.
They said it
"If he wants to keep it, he can keep it as far as I'm concerned. He crossed the finish line first." — Chase Elliott on whether he wants the trophy from DQ'd winner Denny Hamlin
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!