Chase Briscoe said he wouldn’t have been able to sleep on Sunday night if he didn’t try to throw a slider.
He tried and the decision cost leader Tyler Reddick his first career NASCAR Cup Series win and sent Kyle Busch to a surprise victory in the Bristol Dirt Race.
Reddick, while disappointed, says he didn’t want to fight over it because it was Easter Sunday. That and he accepted an apology from Briscoe made almost immediately after they climbed out of their cars. In hindsight, Reddick conceded he probably could have done a better job defending the lead while Briscoe simply went for it.
Briscoe waited for Reddick to finish a television interview before shaking hands and talking it over.
"I tried … I think I was going to spin out either way. Then I was like, please don’t hit him with the right rear, please don’t hit him with the right rear. And I saw it. I’m sorry. I just wanted to let you know."
"You did a great job of running me down."
"I just kept trying. I couldn’t run it any harder. I’m sorry, I wish you would have won."
"It’s alright. I needed to drive away. I let you get close."
"I just wanted to apologize."
"It’s all good."
The conversation ended with another handshake and that was that.
Reddick was able to get back in the gas and still finished second. He lost the drag race with Busch to the line by 0.333 seconds.
"I didn’t want to ruin his day," Briscoe told the waiting media after wrapping up with Reddick. "I guess he finished second so that’s nice. I didn’t want that to happen to him, right? Tyler is a great guy. He’s a friend and he was doing an awesome job. I just wanted to apologize to him.
"And Tyler gets it. I feel like he’s one of the guys you can race hard and he appreciates hard racing. I think he knows I wasn’t trying to wreck him. That’s the last thing I wanted to do. I was sick to my stomach the moment I realized I took him with me."
That sentiment is what made it so much easier for Reddick to digest and accept -- plus he wasn’t going to throw hands on this night of all nights.
"Well, it’s Easter for one," Reddick said. "And two, I feel like I could have done a better job the laps before to keep the gaps between us. That’s just the way I look at it to be honest."
Remember that this version of Bristol was not only covered in clay, but also a clay that took a tremendous amount of rubber and then was rained on several times throughout the night, making for an extremely hazardous finish.
Everyone was searching for grip and no one had enough -- even the leaders.
"I don’t know, necessarily what I could have done better, if it was more corner entry speed but it was very razor’s edge on the top," Reddick said. "There was some speed up there in the fluff if you will. But it wasn’t really soft like it was in practice, but it wasn’t a ledge or cushion either. It was very hard to feel or understand where the speed was. He did a better job of running the top."
Briscoe could get to the back bumper, but it was going to take running a different line and probably a slide job. That wasn’t really a slider by definition and Briscoe knew it.
"With seven to go, I had been catching him little by little and lost a little bit of ground on the bottom, so I started running it as hard as I could on the top," Briscoe said. "I was actually downshifting in every corner just to keep the wheelspin up.
"I could beat him (in 1 and 2) but (in 3 and 4), we were so evenly matched. So last lap, I knew I was going to be there. I was practically running him over on the straightaway and I wouldn’t have been able to go to sleep at night if I didn’t try to throw a slider, right?
"I was just going to follow him into second. I hate that I got into him, but I thought it was just hard racing. Tyler knows there was no ill-intent behind it. He was telling me he would have done the exact same thing. It was fun for me, and I even think for him, and I hope the fans enjoyed it."
And through it all, Reddick still had a chance to win as Busch was still almost five seconds behind the battle for the lead. The spotter of the Richard Childress Racing No. 8, Derek Kneeland, was telling Reddick to ‘gas it up, gas it up, gas it up,’ but he couldn’t get it going in time.
"I had no idea I was still sitting in second place," Reddick said. "I didn’t realize I was that close to winning as it was. I was there spinning, trying to save it and I should have given up on that sooner. Downshifting. I feel like I could have got rolling sooner, but I stalled it a little bit, and it took me a second to get it down to second gear and that was enough for Kyle to get by us and get the win."
Ultimately, Reddick isn’t going to beat Briscoe up, because he is still beating himself up for how the final laps played out.
"I could be frustrated with the final lap but there were a lot of things that happened before the final lap as to why he was in range to go for it at the end," Reddick said. "It was definitely an exciting finish for the fans."