Reddick wasn’t going to pass Dillon for Daytona win, his thoughts and a look at the final sequence to end the Coke Zero Sugar 400

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — Austin Dillon had a plan. He had to do it. Austin Cindric knew what Dillon had to do and expected it in return. The end of Sunday’s rain delayed Coke Zero Sugar 400 couldn’t have played out more perfectly for Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing. Dillon was in 2nd one spot behind Team Penske’s Cindric. Dillon’s teammate, Tyler Reddick, was right behind in 3rd. An Richard Childress Racing aligned car in Noah Gragson sat 4th. The three of them could gain up on race leader Austin Cindric.

Dillon knocked Cindric out of the way in the closing laps which sent the Daytona 500 champion’s No. 2 Ford out of control in Turn 1. He’d regain form but the damage was done. Reddick would slide behind Dillon in 2nd which allowed Dillon to lead the final 3 laps en route to his 4th career Cup Series victory and make a walkoff moment by stamping his name into the postseason.

However, the move didn’t play out like Dillon had in his mind before.

“Truthfully, it was trying to get him out there,” Dillon said. “Kept pushing him out. He would do a really good job of I think he was on the brake pedal because it wasn’t getting him far enough out. The 62, he could kind of get to my back bumper and get a run, and we got a decent run through the tri-oval.

“My intention was to get the lead before the white, so it worked out the way I wanted it to. But I’m not going to just say that that was the time I really wanted it to happen. I was actually just trying to get him a little further out, and he got free right there into one.”

It didn’t exactly work like wanted but the plan still ended like he had in his mind. Dillon crossed the tri-oval first on Lap 160. He is going to the playoffs.

“Laps are clicking down, and I knew I could get to the 2’s back bumper pretty good,” Dillon said of his late move on Cindric. “The 62 and the 8 did a good job of getting up through there, so I felt like three Chevys in a row was an advantage.

“In the back of my mind I knew that the 12 car was still out there, and before I didn’t know where he was points-wise. If I waited until the white flag to make the move, possibly if he wrecks or someone wrecks back there, it could take our shot away.

“I wanted to make it before the white. Truthfully, that was — it just kind of happened. I was kind of planning on getting a bigger run than that before and pulling out to the right. And I figured that the 2 was going to be a sitting duck because they were going to go with me, the Chevys would, and then we would race it out from there.

“He kind of got loose as I got to his back bumper into one, and I kind of have been giving him that same shove. I don’t know if I just caught more momentum that lap than the others, but when he got free, I just kind of moved up the track.

“Then I got way out front. It’s very hard to tell yourself to hit the brake pedal when you are driving away from the guys that are behind you to not give up that huge gap.

“When I saw Tyler got there and they were all splitting up, I was, like, Man, I can’t let them go too big of a run. I knew Tyler would have my back. He has been a good teammate to me, and I enjoyed working with him.

“Hit the brake pedal. He got on my back bumper and from then on it was managing the gap to him in my mirror. We were able to bring it home.

Cindric however expected it.

“I got hit by another race car going 190, 200 miles an hour,” he said. “Glad I saved it. Glad I tried to come back through the field, but (Austin Dillon’s) racing for a playoff spot. I totally expect to get drove through. It was just kind of a matter of time. Pretty bummed, you know? We had a shot to win today… We put ourselves in position – not a scratch on (the car). Just… (laughs) Dang it!”

Still, they had 3 more laps left. With Reddick in second, no one expected Reddick to pull out of line and pass his teammate for the win did they? Reddick said there was no way he would do that to Dillon.

“I know that may be hard to believe,” Reddick said of sticking with his teammate. “But certainly, I had no interest and he knew that. I wasn’t going to pass him. I was going to be playing blocker for the rest of the field.”

The elephant in the room is the fact that Reddick and Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress, aren’t exactly on the best of terms right now. Childress is okay with keeping Reddick through the length of his contract which ends in 2023, but he’s not happy with how the situation played out that led to Reddick announcing that he’s going to 23XI Racing in 2024.

Would that play a role in the end and make Reddick want to make a move on Dillon’s grandson instead?

Austin Dillon celebrates his Daytona win on Sunday

“That’s not why I did it,” he said. “I did it for Austin. It wasn’t even on my mind, honestly. It was trying to get my friend, my teammate, fellow driver at RCR in the playoffs because it’s not just my group of guys that deserve it. It’s everybody at RCR that works really hard on these cars and now both of [them] are in the playoffs.”

Dillon said that he and Reddick’s relationship never changed and that he had full trust that Reddick would push him to victory.

“No. “When Tyler made his decision a couple of months ago, I called him and congratulated him,” said Dillon F”or me being an owner’s son sometimes comes with caveats, and I wanted to make sure that I had nothing to do with the reasons that he was leaving.

“When I called him, I was, like, Hey, man, I just want make sure I’ve been a good teammate to you. He said, No, you have been an amazing teammate. Me and Alexa really enjoyed being around you guys.

“I said, Look, man, congratulations on your deal. Let’s go try and win some races for RCR over the next year and a half.

“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. 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. Now, earlier in the race he made a heck of a move getting on pit road, and I thought I beat, like, four or five people getting on pit road on the outside. That little fart drove around me and Stenhouse and somebody else and got himself in a good position.

“But I was, like, Dude, where were you going? Did you get scared at all about making pit road?

“He was, like, No, I felt good about it.

“That’s just how Tyler is. It doesn’t matter what position he puts himself, he is confident, and that confidence shows. I’m thankful that he has been my teammate for this long, and hopefully together both of us can keep progressing our share forward, and it feels good to have us both in the Playoffs.”

Now both RCR cars are playoff bound for the first time since the 2017 season.

“We have been doing that all year long,” Reddick said of working with Dillon. “The No. 8’s had some struggles this year, and the No. 3’s been there to help us and vice versa. It’s really good that a lot of Chevrolets — whether it’s Trackhouse, Hendrick, ourselves — all of our cars are in the playoffs, so we’re able to really work together in a lot of key races coming up.

“I think [it’s] 15 out of 27 races that Chevy cars have won. Things are clicking. I know today was a little chaotic but still a win; still counts. [Our] cars have had good speed and now all of us together are going to be able to work toward the same goal, and that’s making it through the playoffs, and hopefully, four of us make it to the championships four.”

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