The NASCAR Cup Series returned from a two-week break with a fury at Watkins Glen International as 37 drivers fought for crucial points. Kyle Larson locked up his fifth win of the season while two Richard Childress Racing drivers battled at the cut line. Tyler Reddick ultimately turned in a 10th-place finish and increased his cushion over teammate Austin Dillon.
The driver of the No. 8 RCR Chevrolet Camaro raced near the front of the pack for much of the day, continuing his season of growth at road courses. He avoided incidents at Watkins Glen and locked up 34 points. Dillon also turned in a solid performance at the road course, but he could not crack the top 10. The driver of the No. 3 racked up 24 points with a 15th-place finish, keeping him behind his teammate.
Reddick entered the weekend with a five-point advantage over Dillon and the playoff cut line. Now he sits 15 points to the positive. This cushion is not enough to make Reddick comfortable considering that there are three races remaining in the regular season, but the deficit will make it more difficult for Dillon to leapfrog him.
The Two Men Will Continue to Battle at Another Road Course
Time is running out for both Dillon and Reddick to lock up their respective spots in the playoffs. The driver of the No. 8 has a better opportunity to do so considering that he remains above the cut line. Though he will have to continue performing at a consistent level during trips to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Michigan Speedway, and Daytona International Speedway.
Dillon, on the other hand, will have to likely win a race to lock up his spot. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick both sit above Reddick with sizable points advantages, so the driver of the No. 3 will be unable to leapfrog them simply based on top-10 finishes.
The next opportunity for both drivers will be Aug. 15 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, they will not compete in The Brickyard 400, a Crown Jewel race on the oval track. Instead, they will take on the road course for the very first time in their Cup Series careers. Reddick will have an early advantage due to his recent consistency at road courses, but Dillon will try to gain some experience when he joins Our Motorsports for the Xfinity Series race on Aug. 14.
Dillon Will Have the Advantage in the Final 2 Races
While Reddick will be the RCR driver to watch at Indianapolis, Dillon will have the advantage in the final two races of the regular season. He has a win at Daytona International Speedway, the 2018 Daytona 500 where he edged out Bubba Wallace, as well as three total top-five finishes and eight top-10s.
Daytona International Speedway will be the site of the regular-season finale. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 will take place on Aug. 28, providing one final opportunity for drivers to lock up a spot in the playoffs. William Byron won the 2020 race and punched his ticket to the championship chase, and Dillon could do so in 2021.
Prior to the finale, the Cup Series drivers will head to Michigan Speedway, another track where Dillon has a history of strong performances. The driver of the No. 3 has made 17 starts at the oval and finished top 10 five separate times. Dillon also has a pair of fourth-place finishes at the track.