OPINION: A bittersweet win for Richard Childress

Under the hot Indianapolis sun on the last day of July, Tyler Reddick took Richard Childress Racing to victory lane, and yet there was a chill in the air.

Reddick is set to depart the company in 18 months for 23XI Racing and Richard Childress isn’t happy. Reddick made a long-term decision about his future after Childress only picked up the 2023 option on his contract. And so, even after winning for the second time in five races, there was no putting aside hurt feelings and the post-race scene reeked of awkwardness.

“We got to talk before the announcement was made, but we haven’t really spoken much until [Sunday] since the announcement was made,” Reddick said. “Thankfully, to win smooths some things over, I think.”

Time will tell.

Childress hasn’t hidden his feelings over the last few weeks, including telling Fox Sports that he believes Reddick went about things in an unprofessional manner. Sunday evening in Indianapolis, he again referred to how things with Reddick are different to when Kevin Harvick similarly departed his company. Harvick signed with Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2014 season but still had one year left with Childress.

“Kevin and I talked through his whole deal, and we made a joint announcement,” Childress said in his Indianapolis post-race NBC Sports interview. “He won four races that year, and we almost won the championship. This one didn’t happen like that.”

That’s a bit of historical revisionism on Childress’s part when looking back at stories from that time. Word had leaked about Harvick’s future plans, resulting in Childress being asked about the report. His response: “I’ve got a contract for 2013 and this is 2012. I’m not talking to you about nothing (regarding that).”

When asked if Harvick had informed him about leaving after the ’13 season, Childress said, “You need to go talk to them people. Don’t talk to me about it.”

Childress appears just as irritated now. In the aftermath of Reddick’s announcement, he was pulled from competing in any more Xfinity Series races for Big Machine Racing in the No. 48 car. Childress and Big Machine have a partnership and the team relocated to be near the RCR campus.

RCR’s No.8 kissed the bricks as one, but Reddick’s planned move to 23XI in 2024 still stings team owner Richard Childress. Motorsport Images

Indianapolis should have been a joyous moment for a company trying to reestablish itself as a contender. Reddick has given Childress multiple wins in a season for the first time since 2017. And there were celebrations on the bricks, but there was no denying the underlying tension.

Many questions that Reddick faced centered on his relationship with Childress and the company.

“I’ve told him that as long as I’m racing here, I’m going to do everything I can to win races for this team, and I would love to win a championship or two with this team,” Reddick said. “I’m going to be more committed – I feel like the older you get, the smarter you get, the more you find ways to work really hard, and I’m just going to work as hard as I can for this team because there’s a lot of great people on this team. A lot of great people at RCR and a lot of great people, not just on my car but at the shop at RCR that work really, really hard on these cars, and they’ve helped me come so far as a driver. I’m just going to give them everything I’ve got.”

Reddick talked to the team before his announcement but still admitted it was tough. But he insists that from his side, nothing will change with regard to his approach.

“My commitment level, if anything, probably is a little bit higher, but we’re not talking like it’s a significant amount higher,” he said. “I just know that we’ve had time to continue to work on our cars and make them better and grow as a team and go the right direction and now it’s like, all right, we have a hard stop. This is the end of the road that we have together.

“That puts a good amount of pressure on me to just keep finding more, because we’re always trying to bring the best that we can to the racetrack. But when we know that the end is – it’s not really close, but we know when it’s going to be – we’ve got to take advantage of every single moment possible and I feel like at least for me, it’s a good thing. I think it really makes me push hard, and I think it’s making the team push hard. We’re all working really hard together to give it every last ounce that we have out there and win as many races as we can.”

Reddick also tried to downplay the perceived awkwardness with Childress in victory lane.

“We got to shoot the whatever they call it and kiss some bricks, drink some Champagne, drink some beers,” he said. “[I told him] I’m glad to add to his Brickyard collection of rings and wins. He’s already had a couple of them before me, and I’m glad to help add to that. I want to add to everything I can possible with him before my time is up.”

Reddick didn’t feel the same chill, or at least not that he’d admit, calling it a normal victory lane and interaction with Childress.

“Yeah, winning helps.”