JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour
Hocevar Wins JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Event at Birch Run
Jul 3, 2022
Richard Childress has always had the upmost conviction in Tyler Reddick and Randall Burnett, but Sunday morning before the Cup Series race at Road America was different.
He really had conviction.
"I told him this morning, you’re going to win this race, we just can’t beat ourselves," Childress recalled. "I said 'be solid.' I think I told y’all that on the radio when the race started."
The eponymous boss man at Richard Childress Racing has loved this combination since he hired them to work together in a championship winning season in the Xfinity Series in 2019. Childress has repeatedly compared Reddick to Cale Yarborough, arguably the most purely talented race car driver of that bygone era.
He has always held a conviction that Reddick and Burnett would win races, but this is one of the few times he was entirely convinced they were going to take the trophy back home to Welcome, North Carolina before the race even began.
"He’s always had a lot of confidence in me, but it seems like a place like this, and it was obvious last year we had good speed, circumstances just kind of played its part in why we didn't win," Reddick said. "A lot of the road courses this year, even (Circuit of the Americas) we ran up front and led late, and I thought COTA honestly from the drop of the green we missed it. We weren’t as good as we should have been. The whole team knew that, unfortunately."
But Burnett unloaded their car in the right place for Elkhart Lake, Reddick qualified third and spent most of the race running second to the most prolific modern road racer in the Cup Series in Chase Elliott, and the No. 8 was able to capitalize when the Hendrick No. 9 fell off over the course of a lengthy final green flag run.
The conviction paid off.
"I guess anyways, yes, he had a lot of confidence coming into the day," Reddick said, "I had a lot of confidence in the car. I was just stressed and worried about how the race would play out, if we’d have any hiccups, but thankfully we didn’t, and things went our way."
Reddick had been close so many times before with Phoenix and Bristol Dirt immediately coming to mind, but just got beat or wiped out by Chase Briscoe on both occasions. The two-time Xfinity Series wasn’t even aware until after the fact but a tire hub failure by their teammates in the No. 3 car risked bringing out a caution on the penultimate lap.
It would have been par for the course given how Reddick’s career and season has started -- another gut punch misfortune.
Reddick wasn’t even told about it, because what was he supposed to do, even if he did know? As it turned out, Austin Dillon was able to find a track cutout and drove off the course to waiting safety workers.
"That was crazy," Reddick said. "But I’m glad it didn’t bring a caution out for sure. But hey, I would have been ready for it, honestly."
The past couple of years and the adversity and toughness of the Cup Series has made him ready for anything.
With that said, this felt inevitable. Maybe not so much over the past two seasons with the old car because Richard Childress Racing was closer to a mid-pack car than obvious contenders, but the Next Gen has leveled the playing field.
This combination was always going to find their way to Victory Lane at the highest level.
"This whole team, we’ve been at it for a couple years now together, and even some of us back to the Xfinity Series days," Reddick said. "That first year together in the Xfinity Series we were able to go out and back up a championship and win a lot of races.
"Then we got slapped in the face with the reality of what Cup racing is like, and just I’ve had to learn a lot over the course of these last three years in the Cup Series as a driver."
That inevitability, again, was always clear to Childress too.
"It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to do it, it was when they were going to win," Reddick said. "That’s what we kept telling them. Had a couple of meetings, all of us, and talked about what it’s going to take to get us in the winner’s circle, and that’s not beating yourself and to be solid, and that’s what these guys did today, and they did that."
And to do it against Elliott on a road course was a major statement for what this team could do in the fall.
"When you beat Chase Elliott, you beat one of the best, and the Hendrick guys, hats off to them, they’ve got their four cars in, we’ve got one of ours," Childress said looking over to his crew chief. "We’ve got one more to try to get in. So we’re going to be a contender for the championship, right?"
"Absolutely," Burnett said.
"That's what I wanted to hear," Childress said.
It’s what Childress envisioned when he signed Reddick before the 2019 season. There was a belief in place that Reddick could turn the entire fortunes of the company around when placed in a spec car. All things equal, literally, Childress believed that this driver would always make a difference.
"I’ve watched Tyler since he was running the trucks," Childress said. "He struggled a little bit there, but he was always driving the trucks to their limit. Then, when he got in the Xfinity (Series) at JR Motorsports, he was the same.
"He drove that way. He’s got so much talent (but) he just pushes that limit every week."
Even earlier this year, in those five second place finishes or near misses, it was obvious that Reddick was going to keep driving the 8 car to the front until everything fell together. He learned a lesson from each of those moments.
It's a cliché but the first win changes everything.
"I don’t obsess, but I go back and I look at it and I realize there were things I could have done differently," Reddick said. Then I try to learn from it and apply it going forward so I don’t make those mistakes...
"How can I learn from Bristol? Yeah, I got wrecked, but I had a gap and I let him run me back down and get there. I gave him an opportunity. I look at Darlington, I could have done a better job on that restart. I could have had a run on Joey (Logano) and William (Byron) but I kind of got messed up myself.
"There’s a lot of things I could have done differently over those five second-place finishes I had to where I could have won the race, so I try to look back at that and learn from it. So hopefully when I’m in a position to win a race again, I don’t make those same mistakes."
A Tyler Reddick that no longer makes those little mistakes is one of the top-five drivers in the field. It's the difference between a contender and a champion.
It's exactly what Richard Childress knew back in 2019 and told his driver on Sunday morning.
"You're going to win."