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Tyler Reddick reflects on closest finish in NASCAR history

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On Saturday night in Daytona Beach, everyone was hanging out at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.

At one table sat 10 people. Among them was Tyler Reddick, the winner of the day’s Xfinity Series race just down International Speedway Blvd. at Daytona International Speedway.

The 22-year-old driver ate and had a few drinks with friends and competitors, including Spencer Gallagher and his girlfriend.

At another table, Reddick’s spotter Earl Barban dined with his wife and a friend.

Ryan Reed, who finished third to Reddick, was at another with his family and some of Reddick’s friends.

At one point, a friend told Reddick he was getting together with people for drinks 10 miles away, right on the coast at Riptides Raw Bar & Grill.

Reddick tagged along.

When the JR Motorsports driver entered the establishment, a surprise gathering of between 30 and 40 friends and family members were waiting for him.

They were there to celebrate Reddick’s triumph in the closest finish in NASCAR history.

A HEAVENLY PUSH

Not among those celebrating with Reddick was his grandmother, Carolyn Brown, who passed away from health complications in October.

Saturday’s win was the first for Reddick since.

For Reddick, she was there to help put his No. 9 Chevrolet in the right place when the final of five overtime restarts began earlier in the day.

She was present in the form of the No. 1 Chevrolet driven by Elliott Sadler.

Due to a power problem stemming from the exhaust system on his car, Reddick had been unable to push or be pushed effectively in the draft most of the day.

That changed when an 18-car wreck broke out around Reddick on the backstretch on the first overtime restart, when he had restarted in the fourth row. Reddick was one of the few to make it through with minor to no damage.

“When there was not very many cars left and I was one of the few left to push, I guess they had no choice but to push me,” says Reddick.

On the final restart, Reddick restarted on the inside front row with Sadler behind him. Reed and Ryan Truex were on the outside.

The dueling set of drivers were nearly even for the first half lap. Then the push – similar to one Sadler was penalized for earlier in the race – came. It allowed Reddick to clear Reed heading into Turn 3. No one but Sadler would pull even with Reddick the rest of the way.

Thanks to Grandma Brown.

“That little extra push that we got, Elliott was her helping us, that’s how we looked at,” Reddick says

Tyler Reddick beat Elliott Sadler by a NASCAR record margin of victory of 0.0004. (Getty Images).

ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING

When the two cars leading the PowerShares QQQ 300 roared by pit stall 42 for the last time, David Elenz was pessimistic.

Sitting atop his pit box, the crew chief for Reddick and the No. 9 Chevrolet didn’t believe his car would win the drag race against Sadler to the checkered flag.

He had plenty of reasons to believe either way thanks to the race’s previous 142 laps, but specifically the last 22, which included all five overtime restarts.

The third one ended in a two-car wreck exiting Turn 4 with Reddick cleanly leading the field and preparing to take the white flag.

But the caution was issued moments before Reddick crossed the start-finish line.

“I was excited and I thought I had won, but I was like, ‘No, there’s no way. That was too easy. I’m sure that’s going to come back,”‘ says Reddick. “Sure enough, it did.”

As for Elenz, TV cameras had caught the 36-year-old crew chief celebrating his third Daytona win (Chase Elliott, 2016; William Byron, 2017). In the confusion of overtime, he’d forgotten NASCAR allowed unlimited restarts.

“It was pretty quick that Earl said on the radio that we were still under caution,” says Elenz, who quickly had to focus on his job. “It becomes factual at that point. … Thankfully, we had something we had to do. We had to work with the engineers and see where we’re at on fuel and see how much was in the box to make sure he could pick up on the apron or not. There was something for us to work on. I think if we had plenty of fuel and weren’t worried about it, I think it would be a little harder because you’d still be sitting there all pumped up and not focused on something you have to do. I think it helped that we were in a difficult situation.”

Two tries later, Reddick took the white flag and Elenz’s job was done.

Finally, mercifully, Reddick had enough fuel to also take the checkered flag.

After Reddick crossed the start-finish line, Elenz wasn’t going to get too excited.

“Heck, we’ll wait a little bit longer, because we didn’t wait long enough the first time,” Elenz thought.

Tyler Reddick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in victory lane at Daytona International Speedway (Getty Images).

ONWARD

Three days after his win over Sadler by 0.0004 seconds, Reddick’s voice is shot.

“Too much hootin’ and hollering and all that stuff,” he says.

In his first start in the No. 9 Chevrolet, with a new crew chief, new spotter, new everything, the native of Corning, California, won his second Daytona race. He was the victor of the 2016 Truck Series race.

Reddick’s two-for-six so far at the “World Center of Racing.”

“Some people try and go their whole careers just getting one win and I somehow got me two already,” says Reddick. “It obviously hasn’t sunk in because it hasn’t hit me in the face what we accomplished in our first outing as a team together.”

Reddick was still catching up on about 300 text messages and an avalanche of social media messages congratulating him on the win.

“You can see where obviously the race just ended,” says Reddick of the text messages, which included a message from his former owner Chip Ganassi. “Twitter blew up so bad that I can’t even scroll pass one day of feed or notifications, even if it’s just mentions.”

The time for celebrating will end soon with the Xfinity Series continuing its season Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I have a really good feeling about it since we tested there a month ago,” says Reddick. “I feel like we’ve already gotten the ball rolling pretty good.”

He’ll be doing it with Elenz, who won last year’s Xfinity title with Byron in his first year working with just one driver.

“I told him I’m going to make him mad a lot this year,” says Reddick. “Not because I mean to, I’m very frustrating to work with sometimes because I’m so black-and-white with how I break things down, being the dirt racer that I am. Nevertheless, I know we’re going to have fun this year.”

Reddick’s new owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. agrees.

“In the offseason he was texting me about how their tests were going,” Earnhardt said this week on the Dale Jr. Download. “He’s on his own shooting me text messages about how the day is going and I love that about him because he just wants to be engaging. We have great relationships with all our drivers but he’s fitting in so well to JR Motorsports.”

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Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

The NBC Sports tournament has now reached its final four.

Here’s the bracket so far.

Bubba Wallace, RPM reinlist US Air Force as two-race sponsor

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Richard Petty Motorsports will continue to receive support from the United States military. On Friday, they announced the US Air Force will continue as a primary sponsor in 2019 as well as a major associate sponsor throughout the season on Bubba Wallace’s No. 43.

The two races for which the Air Force will be the primary sponsor are Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway (4th of July weekend) and Sunday, Nov. 10 (Veteran’s Day weekend) at ISM Raceway. Last year during his rookie campaign, Wallace finished in the top 15 in both of those races. He was 14th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona and 10th at ISM.

“The Air Force continues to see benefits from our partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver, Bubba Wallace,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service in a press release. “Wallace Jr. and his personality align well with our target audience’s interests and the Air Force’s commitment to teamwork and technology. The combination of Bubba Wallace and the iconic No. 43 provides a continuing sponsorship opportunity that reflects our Air Force core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, as well as has a positive impact on generating public awareness about the U.S. Air Force, our people and our mission.

“Like NASCAR, much of our work is based on science, technology, engineering and math principles combined with teamwork and training. This sponsorship is a great way to highlight that connection.”

Last year, Wallace visited four Air Force bases. He participated in drills at each and flew in an F-16 with the 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers” at Shaw AFB in South Carolina.

“I was really impressed with all the different aspects of the Air Force, and the different opportunities they offer,” said Wallace Jr. “I was able to visit different bases and see the Airmen in action and actually participate myself. That gets me excited and then I’m able to talk to inspiring students who are looking at a career in the Air Force. I’m pretty humbled to represent the Air Force.”

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John Hunter Nemechek, Chase Briscoe approved to run for Xfinity Rookie of the Year

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NASCAR has approved John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe to compete for the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year title in 2019, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Nemechek made 18 Xfinity starts in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing while Briscoe made 17 with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Nemechek will compete for GMS Racing in the No. 23 Chevrolet. Briscoe will drive the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

When Nemechek was announced on Dec. 6 as joining GMS Racing, a team press release said he would compete for Rookie of the Year. But a NASCAR spokesperson said his eligibility had not been decided on at the time.

The Rookie of the Year title was not mentioned in SHR’s Nov. 27 press release about Briscoe going full-time.

The Xfinity rookie field next year will include Nemechek, Briscoe, Noah Gragson in JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet and Justin Haley in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet.

Briscoe said in an Q&A on Reddit he was “honestly surprised” he was approved.

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Richard Childress Racing reveals Daytona 500 cars, sponsors and Xfinity details

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WELCOME, N.C. – Richard Childress Racing kicked off its 50th anniversary Friday at its headquarters in Welcome, North Carolina, with announcements about the 2019 season.

RCR announced Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in his rookie Cup season. Hemric had originally been announced as driving the No. 31.

Hemric, who moves up after two years in Xfinity, drove the No. 8 in his two Cup starts in 2018.

Richard Childress Racing

Hemric will be sponsored by Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Liberty National Life Insurance, Cessna and VF Workwear.

Cessna is also a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Growing up in Kannapolis, it was all about racing,” Hemric said in a press release. “I always dreamed of having the opportunity to drive for RCR and for Richard himself. Now, two iconic numbers, the 3 and the 8, are going to be under one roof. I know it makes Richard happier than anybody, just understanding what that means for the sport of NASCAR and how our fans are going to be able to connect with that.”

RCR also confirmed NBC Sports’ report that Luke Lambert would be the crew chief for Hemric.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

The team revealed gold-themed cars Hemric and teammate Austin Dillon will drive during Speedweeks in Daytona to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary.

Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet will be sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the Advance Auto Parts Clash.

The scheme for the exhibition race is based on the car Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove in the 1998 All-Star Race.

Xfinity Series

Team owner Richard Childress confirmed Tyler Reddick would be the organization’s only full-time Xfinity Series driver in 2019.

The defending series champion will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet and be paired with crew chief Randall Burnett, who worked with Matt Tifft on the No. 2 in 2018.

Childress said its second Xfinity car will be the No. 21 “more than likely.”

Technical Alliance

Childress confirmed the teams that will be full members of a technical alliance with RCR in 2019.

In Cup, RCR will be joined by StarCom Racing (No. 00), Germain Racing (No. 13) and Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43).

Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series (No. 11 Chevrolet) will also be a part of the alliance.

Childress said ECR engines would be provided for all those teams.

Charter

Childress said the team would sell a team charter to StarCom Racing that had been leased to the team in 2018.

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