The NASCAR Cup Series has a new road course conqueror.
Tyler Reddick survived a wild overtime battle against Ross Chastain—who, as it turned out, was under penalty for finagling the first corner—to win Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
Reddick’s NASCAR Cup Series victory at the 2.439-mile, 14-turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course was his second this month, the second of his career and his second at a road course.
There was one fundamental difference between Reddick’s win at the Brickyard and his victory on July 3 at Road America: Between the two triumphs, Reddick announced he would leave Richard Childress Racing for 23XI Racing after the 2023 season.
He proved on Sunday that lame ducks can still go fast.
“Well, we just know what we’re capable of, and we did that at Road America,” said Reddick, who led a race-high 38 laps on Sunday. “Certainly, [the announcement] was a little bump in the road, but we went out and won a race fair and square a couple weeks ago, and if we change nothing, we keep working really, really hard, we find a way back to victory lane.
“Just really glad to be able to do it here in Indianapolis. This is one really special place to race, and really excited to kiss the bricks here in a little bit and really excited we got [sponsor] 3CHI their win in their hometown.”
After a multi-car melee in Turn 1 sent the race to overtime and dashed the hopes of Chase Elliott, who had restarted second beside Reddick on lap 80, Reddick lined up beside AJ Allmendinger for the overtime restart.
Lining up fifth on lap 85, Chastain steered wide on the restart and opted for the access road beyond the corner. He returned to the track after swapping the lead with Reddick throughout the first lap of overtime.
That finish was WILD! pic.twitter.com/hGT0qSvxz7
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 31, 2022
Reddick was shocked to see Chastain’s unorthodox strategy.
“I was like, ‘Uh-oh,’” Reddick said. “But that was a scenario that had been talked about. If you get bottled up, what do you do? Take the access road. I couldn’t believe he got ahead of me. I was kind of waiting to see if he was going to have a penalty, because I didn’t want to move him out of the way and make his race worse than what it was.
“Yeah, I was really surprised by that, but, hey, we made it work. Hats off to Ross for trying to do that, but really glad it didn’t end up working out, because I’d have been pretty [expletive] off.”
NASCAR frowned on Chastain’s artifice and assessed a 30s penalty that dropped him to 27th at the finish, elevating DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Cindric to the runner-up spot.
“Just trying not to be in the chaos there in Turn 1,” Chastain said. “I thought we were four-wide, and couldn’t go any farther right, and decided to take the NASCAR access lane out there.
“Just pure reaction there for our Worldwide Express Chevy. I took it in practice on accident, overshooting Turn 1… Yeah, just wanted to not get hit, and merged back on where I merged.”
Harrison Burton came home third, followed by Todd Gilliland and Bubba Wallace. The results were career bests for Burton and Gilliland, and with Cindric, it marked the first time since 1994 at Pocono that three rookies have finished in the top five in a Cup race.
(The three rookies at Pocono were Joe Nemechek and Jeff Burton and Ward Burton — Harrison Burton’s father and uncle respectively.)
Despite a multitude of early spins, the first caution for an accident in Sunday’s race didn’t come until lap 62, and it set the stage for the chaos that followed.
After green-flag pit stops, Reddick had built a lead of more than 3s over Christopher Bell when Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet hurtled out of control into Turn 1 and blindsided the Chevy of Ty Dillon with a bone-jarring impact.
The resulting caution tightened the field and set up a restart on lap 65 with Reddick in the lead and Bell beside him in the outside lane and Ryan Blaney trailing in third.
The outside lane on that restart, and the two that followed, proved to be anathema for the drivers running second. Bell was shuffled back on the lap 65 restart and ultimately caused the fourth caution with a blown right front tire that spread debris on the track.
Chase Elliott, who was tracking Reddick before that yellow, spun in a three-wide sandwich in Turn 1 with Blaney and William Byron on the lap 80 restart. Defending race winner AJ Allmendinger, who had driven his No. 16 Chevrolet to second despite a malfunctioning cool suit, was forced wide on the overtime restart and dropped to seventh at the finish.
Blaney was also a victim of the final restart, spinning in Turn 1 and finishing 26th after spending the majority of the afternoon in the top five and leading 17 laps, tied for second-most with Bell. That mishap cost Blaney a chance to put more distance in the standings between himself and Martin Truex Jr.
Blaney and Truex are 15th and 16th, respectively, in the Playoff standings with four races left in the regular season. After Sunday’s race, Blaney leads Truex by 25 points.