Tyler Reddick raced to his first NASCAR Cup Series victory Sunday, continuing the season-long trend of first-time winners on road courses.
Each of the first three road-course races this year has had a first-time winner, with Reddick breaking through at Road America after Ross Chastain won at the Circuit of the Americas and Daniel Suarez at Sonoma.
“What better place than Road America?” Reddick said. “I love the fans. I love this racetrack. Being here Fourth of July weekend is just so special.”
The Richard Childress Racing driver won by 3.304 seconds over defending race champion Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports. All the other drivers were over 21 seconds behind Reddick.
Kyle Larson was third, followed by Chastain and Suarez.
Elliott had the pole position and led for much of the day as he attempted to follow his victory last week at Nashville with another.
Nobody has won more than two races through the first 18 events on the Cup Series calendar. It’s the first year in which the series hasn’t had anyone win at least three of the first 18 races.
Elliott and Reddick were both well ahead of the field before making pit stops with about 20 laps remaining in the 62-lap race. Elliott had a narrow lead over Reddick as they came out of the pits, but Reddick eventually pulled ahead of him as they headed back toward the front of the pack.
“Just waited for the right opportunity and was able to take advantage of it at Turn 65x,” Reddick said.
Reddick took over the lead once all the cars that had been ahead of him made their pit stops.
Reddick had a chance to win slip away at Bristol in April. Reddick and Chase Briscoe were dueling for the lead that night when the two cars spun out of control, enabling Kyle Busch to slip past them for the victory.
“This year’s been one mistake away from greatness all year long,” Reddick said. “We finally did it today.”
Elliott was seeking his eighth career Cup Series road-course win to tie Tony Stewart for second place — one behind Jeff Gordon’s nine.
And he seemed well on his way to getting there.
Elliott was dealing with an apparent steering issue at the start of the race. He complained of an apparent brake issue near the halfway point.
Yet he still was in firm control for much of the day. Elliott didn’t win either of the first two stages only because he made pit stops just before the end of each of them.
Briscoe won the first stage and Ryan Blaney took the second stage.
“I think we were good enough to win,” Elliott said. “Those always hurt.”
Scott McLaughlin picks up victory in front of his visiting parents
Scott McLaughlin on Sunday picked up his second career IndyCar victory, which may go down as one of the most special wins of his career.
The New Zealander won at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio with his nervous parents watching from pit lane. McLaughlin had not seen his family in 31 months because of the pandemic, but his parents finally were able to leave New Zealand in May to attend the Indianapolis 500.
Wayne and Diane McLaughlin booked their trip to maximize their visas and planned nine IndyCar races on their tour of the United States. It took four to see their only their son drive his Team Penske entry to victory lane.
When he won his first race in February on the street course in St. Petersburg, Florida, he had to celebrate with his parents via FaceTime.
“I really wanted to get a win here with Mom and Dad,” said McLaughlin, who had won three consecutive V8 Supercars championships in Australia.
The race took a turn when five different Chevrolet drivers were knocked out with various problems, and Andretti Autosport began battling internally.
Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean kept bumping wheel-to-wheel and their final contact knocked the steering wheel out of Rossi’s hands, leaving him unable to turn as both cars went off course.
“What the hell is wrong with him?” Grosjean screamed.
So he was less than pleased to later receive team orders to aid Rossi’s finish.
“What do you want me to do? Just block everyone behind and not go ahead?” Grosjean asked.
Told that yes, Andretti Autosport expected Grosjean to hold up traffic to help his teammates, the Frenchman declined.
“Because Rossi put me in the wall, so I am not going to protect him,” Grosjean replied.
Grosjean was then informed of the stakes via team radio: “Rossi is not a lap down, you are.”
Rossi finished 19th, Grosjean was 21st and Colton Herta spun mid-race and finished 15th, best of the four-car Andretti fleet.
IndyCar champion Alex Palou finished second for Chip Ganassi Racing and Honda, and Will Power had a brilliant run to put a second Penske driver on the podium. Power had been penalized in qualifying, started 21st, spun in the opening laps and charged through the field to finish third.
The race had the potential to upend the IndyCar standings after the top three drivers in the standings — Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, Power and Penske teammate Josef Newgarden — all had poor qualifying efforts. It put Pato O’Ward, who was fourth in the points, on the pole with the chance to close major ground in the title hunt.
Instead, he and Arrow McLaren SP teammate Felix Rosenqvist were two of the five Chevrolets knocked out early, and Ericsson retained his hold on the standings. He leads Power by 20 points.
Rinus VeeKay finished fourth for Ed Carpenter Racing and was followed by Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Ericsson.
Jimmie Johnson finished 16th for his best result on a road or street course. He gained 11 positions on track.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.