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Why it's "really big" RCR has both Cup teams in the playoffs

Richard Childress Racing’s up-and-down 2022 season in the NASCAR Cup Series got another unexpected shot in the arm on Sunday.

Watch: Watch Austin Dillon dodge the ‘Big One’ at Daytona to take the lead

To say RCR has run the gambit on good and bad news this year has been an understatement.

To start, Tyler Reddick confirmed that RCR had picked up his option year on his contract (for 2023) and followed that up with his first career win July 3 at Road America.

But just nine days later, Reddick stunned the sport – and presumably RCR – with an announcement that he had agreed to a deal to join 23XI Racing beginning with the 2024 season.

The news didn’t seem to go over well at RCR and left a dark cloud hanging over the driver’s relationship with his team for the remainder of his tenure.

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Yet on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, Reddick showed his was still a company man and helped teammate Austin Dillon get to leader Austin Cindric’s rear bumper with three of 160 laps remaining.

Dillon nudged Cindric out of the way for the lead and then Reddick spent the final laps warding off any other challengers, as Dillon claimed the win and a trip to the 2022 series playoffs. A win was the only way Dillon would make the 16-driver field.

RCR now has both its Nos. 8 and 3 teams in the playoffs and a total of three Cup wins so far this season – its most since 2018.

“It feels great,” said team owner Richard Childress. “Our guys have worked so hard. Austin has been involved in several crashes (this season), got him behind in the points. We knew this was our shot to be able to win a race.

“He has always been good here, and we knew if we could dodge all the bullets and be there, we could have a shot at the end to win with him.”

Through the chaos 

Dillon’s move to the front was a fortunate one.

On Lap 138, as the field entered Turn 1, it began raining on the frontstretch of the track and almost immediately cars went spinning in all directions.

Dillon, who was running 16th at the time, was the first car to emerge from the massive wreck unscathed and was named the leader under caution. The race was soon red-flagged – a delay that lasted nearly 3½ hours.

Once the race finally resumed with 16 laps, Cindric grabbed the lead on the restart with help from a push from Martin Truex Jr., only to see Reddick help Dillon get back by Cindric with three to go.

The teammate dynamic

Dillon said never doubted Reddick would do what he could to ensure RCR came away with the win.

“For me, I was in none of his negotiations, talks, or anything. So, it was more like he has been in a way inspirational to me to pick up my game because he has so much speed, and he shows it constantly,” Dillon said.

“Tyler has been good for me. Then I think I’ve been good for him in some consistency aspects. We’ve rubbed off on each other in different ways to really help.

“When he got to my back bumper, I knew that I could trust him.”

Asked about Reddick’s performance in light of how the organization felt about him following his decision to leave RCR after 2023, Childress said, “I think I talked to all of those guys after his announcement, and I said we’re going to give him 100-percent chance to win races and 100-percent chance at winning the championship.

“Now, we’ve got two in there, so we’ve got to give both of them the same advantage to try to win the championship.”

Childress said the importance of getting both teams into the playoffs could not be understated, both in terms of team morale and financial implications.

“It was really big to be able to get this car (No. 3) in the Chase. There’s bonus points. There’s other things that go along with winning,” he said. “The financial aspect of it is a lot better than running second, for sure, and not making the (playoffs).”

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