Tyler Reddick and RCR: What’s next for their broken relationship?
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. — For driver introductions at Bristol Motor Speedway, Tyler Reddick picked a walk-out song to match the swirling drama around him.
As he walked out to "Sabotage" by Beastie Boys, it was a subtle acknowledgment of the twists and turns of the way his season off the track has developed. Reddick had one of his more frustrating weeks of 2022, as he lost his crew for 2023 and lost his championship chances for 2022 in a span of five days.
The 26-year-old driver announced in July that he would leave Richard Childress Racing following the 2023 season. Childress, the team owner, wasn't happy that Reddick gave him notice of his decision just an hour before it was announced.
The spurned Childress clapped back Tuesday when he announced that Reddick's crew would be used by Kyle Busch next year, as the two-time Cup champion was hired to replace Reddick a year before Reddick was even set to leave.
Childress pledged to obtain a charter and run a third car for Reddick, with more details coming later this month. But for Reddick, it had to hurt. All he talked about the past two months was racing as hard as he can through the end of 2023 with a crew that has worked well with him.
He appeared to be doing that Saturday at Bristol before getting caught up in an accident that wounded his car to the point of needing extensive repairs on pit road. He ended up failing to advance to the next playoff round by two spots.
"I saw the crash happen," said Reddick, who had a flat tire and crashed a week earlier at Kansas to put him on the elimination bubble entering Bristol. "I checked up. I just got ran over. ... We had two bad races — bad finishes.
"We had two really good race cars [the past two races], and we didn't capitalize on it, and that was enough to miss it."
Reddick knew he didn't control his own destiny over the final stage, as he was 30 laps down and needed others to fall out to gain the points he needed to advance.
"It feels terrible," he said. "It's out of your control. ... Hoping for others' misfortune is no way to really race."
Now Reddick must navigate the next month — and maybe more — knowing his future is somewhat out of his control.
"He said he's got a plan, and he's got details for me, so we'll just see what they are when it's time to talk," Reddick said of Childress.
Childress said hiring Busch to replace Reddick facilitated the crew decision because it would hurt Busch to have one crew his first year and a different crew in following years. He told Reddick about the crew change for next year, likely not ironically, about an hour before the Busch hiring was announced.
"It wasn't tense," Reddick said. "He was just filling me [in on] what was going on. I understand because I am moving on. All good."
Reddick refused to get into a war of words with his car owner in the media.
"I looked at it from the business point of view, and I feel like how they're approaching it with Kyle coming in and being with the [No.] 8 team. They're looking ahead to the future and what's going to be best for them in the long term," Reddick said.
"I'm sure how people could think it's personal, but I'm not looking at it that way."
Working with a new crew next year won't be anything new for Reddick. He has driven for seven organizations in the Xfinity Series (three on a full-time or regular part-time basis and four for select races). What he doesn't want is for 2023 to become a throwaway year of sorts.
"It should come together good ... because I work really hard and really want it," he said.
Few doubt that Reddick will continue to race hard. It's the only way he knows how to race. He's a competitor at heart.
"He does a really good job of tuning stuff out and just going to work," said his current teammate Austin Dillon. "You can't deny Tyler Reddick's speed each and every weekend."
Obviously, it would make things easier on all involved if Reddick can land at 23XI Racing a year early. That could happen if Kurt Busch does not return from the concussion that has kept him out the past two months.
Denny Hamlin, co-owner of 23XI Racing, said he won't push Busch to make a decision. And he has no doubt that wherever Reddick lands, he will race hard.
"One thing we've seen over the last couple of months is Tyler Reddick has continued to be a professional," Hamlin said. "He's given his team 110 percent. ... No matter what the circumstances getting thrown at him, I'm very certain that he's going to maintain that level of professionalism and take it in stride."
His competitors are certainly aware of his situation and wonder where Reddick's allegiances will be the rest of the season. He showed a few weeks ago at Daytona that he was still a dedicated RCR driver, as he helped push Dillon to the win to get him into the playoffs.
"He's got to make his own decisions out there on what to do, but I'm sure it's a little awkward for him," former Cup champion Joey Logano said. "Who knows? I guess it will be awkward for next year, too."
That's exactly the question. Who knows? Reddick indicated that he doesn't.
"It's out of my hands," Reddick said. "As I've said to everybody, I plan on finishing what I agreed to do at RCR.
"I want to see that through the end, whether that is the [No.] 8 car or whatever car it will be."
Thinking out loud
There was plenty of chatter in the NASCAR Cup Series garage wondering if the tires could handle the loads at Bristol. Teams had seen in some of the manufacturer testing that the Bristol track was presenting unique challenges.
It was frustrating to watch that come to fruition Saturday, as several drivers had tire issues.
Matching a tire to the track to the car is always a challenge for Goodyear, no matter whether the car is new or the race surface is new.
Just as a race team doesn't always hit it right, the same goes for Goodyear. When it's a three-race playoff round, though, the spotlight and the scrutiny intensify.
Goodyear and NASCAR have shown that they will react and work to find a better tire for the next race. The good thing about Bristol is they have several months to figure it out, as the spring race next year will be on dirt that will cover the concrete surface.
Stat of the day
The 222 races between wins for Chris Buescher are the second-most all-time behind only Bill Elliott's 226 starts between wins from 1994 to 2001.
They said it
"This being my favorite racetrack — I'm not saying that because I'm sitting here at Bristol. I've gotten in trouble at a lot of different racetracks for saying that on their stages beforehand and gotten yelled at, but it's the truth." — Chris Buescher
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.