Silver Spoon & The Rookie
By Bob Pockrass
Richard Childress Racing rolls into Kansas Speedway as a little bit different race team than it was five days earlier.
The organization enjoyed its first win in 89 races when Austin Dillon won Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. More than that, it posted its first 1-2 finish since October 2011, as Tyler Reddick finished second.
One race doesn’t make the season, but the victory just underscored the improvement for RCR this year.
Dillon sits 14th in the standings, and Reddick, a rookie, is 17th, just 14 points out of the current cutoff. After 18 races last year, Dillon was 22nd in the standings and teammate Daniel Hemric was 24th. They had combined for one top-5 and five top-10s after 18 races in 2019, and Dillon and Reddick this year have four top-5s and 11 top-10s.
So RCR found some speed, thanks at least in part to the new Chevrolet Camaro body, designed specifically for additional speed with the aerodynamic package used on tracks bigger than 1.3 miles.
"It means a tremendous amount because we've struggled, and everyone knows that, but Chevy has really worked hard and put together a great car for us," Childress said.
The addition of Reddick, who won back-to-back Xfinity Series titles, has pushed Dillon. While Hemric had a methodical approach (and frankly, probably deserved another year in Cup if Reddick had not been as successful as he was in Xfinity), Reddick takes a little more risk. Most, but not all of the time, it works in his favor.
"You bring Tyler in, who has absolutely crushed it from the Xfinity Series with two championships, brought something to push me," Dillon said. "I think that's something that everybody needs, is competition.
"I can't thank him enough for all the competition he's brought to our company."
Reddick is having a solid enough rookie season, hovering around 16-18th in the standings the last couple of months. His races are showing an increasing sense of maturity, in that conventional wisdom indicated he would crash himself out of the longer Cup Series events if he took as many risks as he did in his Xfinity Series championship seasons.
"Hopefully [this will] push it in the right direction," Reddick said. "We've been looking for validation for a long time, what's the right way to go, which direction we need to take our cars and team.
"It's been really hard to search and find that with how much the track position plays into the handling of your vehicle. [At Texas] we saw the capability of both of these cars."
Both Reddick and Dillon seem comfortable this year. Reddick’s team pretty much is his Xfinity group from last year with Randall Burnett in charge. Dillon has seemed to have a revolving door of crew chiefs and reunited with Justin Alexander, the crew chief for his two previous Cup victories.
Being a crew chief for Dillon attracts additional scrutiny and requires a little more savvy, as Dillon is the grandson of team owner Richard Childress. That family relationship has left Dillon, who has won Xfintiy and truck championships as well as a Daytona 500, open to criticism that he has his ride for only that reason.
"Not bad for a silver spoon kid, right?" Dillon said after the win Sunday.
Childress, an old-school racer, has been watching races from the RCR command center at the team shop. It is there that has all the data of an artificial intelligence software (Pit Rho) that some teams use. The call for Reddick to take no tires and Dillon to take two tires on pit stops late in the race at Texas was made from that data and suggested to the crew chiefs from the engineers in the command center.
"You stay patient," Dillon said. "You have faith. I have faith. Faith can really take you a long way.
"I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of ups and downs during that time period. You go through peaks and valleys."
Dillon hopes the peak can continue for both him and his teammate.
"[Reddick] can win anywhere he goes," Dillon said. "He has that talent in him.
"I wouldn't be surprised next week at Kansas if both of us have another shot with what we're bringing to the track. We got to do a really good job, like we did [at Texas], putting ourselves in situations where we are leading the race and we can take that opportunity to the next level."
On The Air
Cup Super Start Batteries 400 (Kansas), 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
Gander RV Trucks 200 (Kansas), 7 p.m., FS1
Gander RV Trucks 200 (Kansas), 1:30 p.m., FS1
Xfinity Kansas Lottery 250 (Kansas), 5 p.m., NBCSN
Stat of Note
The last eight races on 1.5-mile tracks were won by eight different drivers (Texas - Austin Dillon, Kentucky - Cole Custer, Homestead - Denny Hamlin, Atlanta - Kevin Harvick, Charlotte 2 - Chase Elliott, Charlotte 1 - Brad Keselowski, Las Vegas - Joey Logano, Homestead 2019 - Kyle Busch).
They Said It
"I want to race and I want to be in a race car. I love competing. I love being pissed off at the end of the race. I love being happy at the end of the race. I love that adrenaline of lining up next to that guy and wondering how in the hell you're going to come off the turn two ahead of him and that's a feeling that can't be replaced." – Clint Bowyer on his fututre plans