Tyler Reddick took a little longer than expected to win the NASCAR Cup Series.
The circumstances of his victory had to wait.
Reddick won Sunday at Road America over defending champion and current points leader Chase Elliott. The victory came in the 92nd start of his Cup career, which included five second-place finishes.
“It was a huge relief,” Reddick said.
The Richard Childress Racing driver won by 3.304 seconds over Elliott, who held pole position and led 36 of the 62 laps. Elliott is looking for his eighth career Cup road-course victory to tie Tony Stewart for second — one behind Jeff Gordon’s record.
“He’s the guy who’s won more road courses than anybody over the last few years,” Reddick said.
Kyle Larson was third, followed by Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.
Both Elliott and Reddick were leading the field before making pit stops with about 20 laps to go. Elliott held a slight lead over Reddick as they exited the pits, but Reddick eventually pulled him ahead as they made their way back to the front of the pack.
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Reddick took the lead for good on lap 47, once all the cars in front of him made their pit stops.
“When we had good tires and could never get enough of a gap I kept him close enough to put pressure on me,” Elliott said. “Made a couple of mistakes. I got a couple of gaps there and made a couple of mistakes and let him get back to get me out of sync, and then started to struggle.”
Elliott held pole position and led for most of the day as he tried to follow up his victory with another in Nashville last week. He is chasing his third win of the season.
No one has won more than two races through the first 18 events, marking the first time this late in the season that there hasn’t been at least a three-time winner.
Instead, Reddick became the fifth first-time winner of the year.
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Each of the first three road-course races this year featured a first-time winner, with Reddick winning at the Circuit of the Americas at Road America and Suarez at Sonoma.
Other first-time winners were Austin Cindric at Daytona and Chase Briscoe at Phoenix.
Reddick, who won the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, looked on the verge of getting his elusive first win several times before Sunday.
Perhaps the most notable example came in Bristol in April. As Reddick and Chase Briscoe were dueling for the lead that night, both cars went out of control, allowing Kyle Busch to slide past them for the win. Reddick led 90 laps at Fontana earlier this year but finished 24th after William Byron ran him into the wall.
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“This whole year was one mistake away from greatness,” Reddick said. “Finally did it today.”
Team owner Richard Childress sensed the progress and made it clear during a pep talk with the driver on Sunday morning.
“I told him this morning, ‘You’re going to win this race. We can’t beat ourselves and (have to) stay strong,'” Childress said.
Reddick made sure his employer’s prediction came true.
The Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday. Kurt Busch won last year.