Questions answered after the 2022 Kwik Trip 250

Who… should you be talking about after the race?

It was only a matter of time. When a rider gets their first second place finish, it looks like victory is on the horizon. If they finish second five times, it will be a matter of when, and for Tyler Reddickit was Sunday (July 3) at the Kwik Trip 250 at Road America.

Reddick started fourth and finished tenth in stage two. But his final pit stop sparked a battle for the lead with Chase Elliott, a driver who looked unbeatable for most of the race. Reddick caught up with Elliott after their final stops, and when Elliott made the slightest wobble on lap 47, Reddick fell. He held off Elliott for the remaining laps to earn his first NASCAR Cup Series win.

Reddick becomes the fifth first-time winner in 2022, the highest since Season 2 of the NASCAR Cup Series. He is the third rider to win his first in three road races this year.

And do not forget Michael McDowell. He made headlines last year when he won his first career race on NASCAR’s biggest stage, but 2022 is quietly having an even better year. McDowell didn’t win, but his eighth place finish on Sunday is his seventh top 10 this year, a career-high just halfway through the season.

McDowell is an insider tip for a playoff spot because he’s always talked about at superspeedways and Daytona International Speedway, as well as the pseudo-super at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But he’s also a standout road racer, and with two road courses through to the playoffs, he has a chance.

Why is?

When the cup race ended on Sunday, the weekend at Road America was already exciting. Saturday’s Xfinity Series race had a fantastic finish, but also an incident that left many wondering if NASCAR should have reacted differently.

Noah Gragson was understandably upset with Sage Karam after Karam bumped the number 9 around the track a couple of times, but his reaction was grossly overdone. Gragson made a sharp right turn at Karam, throwing the other driver out and triggering a multiple car pile-up as many other drivers were unable to see the incident until they were on top. The end result was ugly: 13 total involved with several cars too damaged to continue. Brandon Brown climbed out of his car and collapsed against the retaining wall; He was okay with time to recover a bit, but it was a scary moment.

Should Gragson have been penalized for the move? In short, yes. It should have lasted for at least a couple of laps and should have been parked at best. Frustration is understandable, but intentionally wrecking a driver with no regard for the others involved is inexcusable. There’s even some scope for additional aggression coming at the queen, but it wasn’t. This was just one rider showing his lack of maturity and maybe also why the cup teams didn’t call.

Where… did the other key characters end up?

Polesitter and defending champion Eliot looked like a lock to win another road race. He gave up leg points for fuel strategy and it looked like nobody could touch him in the long game. Elliott led the race by a peak for 36 laps, but in the end it was Reddick’s hunger that took the lead away from Elliott. His second place keeps Elliott firmly in the points lead.

cup winner Kyle Larson knows how Elliott feels as he endured the same race on Saturday, leading 31 laps of 48 but losing the lead in the final miles to a hungry youngster. Larson finished a strong third on Sunday, a boost he needed. 2022 has been anything but consistent for the defending champions, who have recorded four wins at this point last year.

Sonoma winner Daniel Suarez headed into the weekend with confidence after his win at Sonoma Raceway and a top 10 car in the practice charts. Suarez started 17th and quickly worked his way into the top 10. In the end it was another top 5 for Suarez who finished fifth.

When… was the moment of truth?

Even though it’s not yet time to send the cup veterans to the retirement home, the guard is changing. There have been a whopping five new race winners this season, the oldest of whom (Suarez) is 30 years old.

The oldest winner this year is 43-year-old Kurt Busch. Only he and Denny Hamlin have visited the victory lane this year at over 40, and only Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are also over 30 (and Logano is only 32 despite his veteran status). That leaves eight winners under the age of 30, the youngest of whom, William Byron, is just 24.

All five new cup winners have won at all levels of NASCAR, with victories in the Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Cup series; Reddick becomes the 41st rider to do so. Suarez, Reddick, and Austin Cindric are all former Xfinity Champions (Reddick twice).

It’s safe to say that the future of sport is in good hands.

Why… should you pay attention this week?

It’s round two for NASCAR’s newest, smallest Superspeedway this week as the Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway. The spring race ran like a hybrid, a miniature Talladega superspeedway on a mile-and-a-half cookie cutter, with results as mixed as those superspeedways often end up with.

But in four months, with teams taking so long to find the next-gen car, Will this race be the same? If that’s the case, that list of winners could add one more name, drawing the playoff race even closer.

While the new car wasn’t a magic patch to all the Cup Series troubles (and shame on anyone who thought so), it did keep the playoff race interesting and also allowed more good drivers to be competitive each week. That’s a win.

How… do you envision the intangibles?

Numbers are important in racing. As memories of time are lost, the numbers stand as evidence of past races and exploits.

But what about things that are statistically unquantifiable? Talent can be spotted by observation, yes, but there’s just as much to consider as equipment and funding. The scoring system of the time affects how we view a title or a driver who just missed out. The level of competition, the rules, the weather on a given day.

There’s a certain subjectivity to observing drivers Because of all of this, and how we interpret it, observers could watch a young rider with decent accuracy and get a sense of the wins coming, and soon. The signs are almost always there (but not always; there are surprises too, like Cindric’s Daytona 500 win this year), not just in the numbers, but in bold moves and the confidence to take positions on the track.

It’s not always obvious how far a rider will go. And to some extent, the numbers will tell us that when all is said and done. But the build and the ride is there for all of us, and sometimes there are signs of greatness beneath the surface.


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