2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has been a supporter of the sport’s third-tier division since he became a team owner in 2008, following the footsteps of his father, Bob Keselowski.
Brad Keselowski Racing is now one of the Camping World Truck Series’ strongest organizations, fielding two full-time trucks with a part-time third truck. Fielding entries for former Late Model driver Daniel Hemric and former Dirt Late Model racer Tyler Reddick, the team holds positions inside the top 10 in the standings.
Reddick has been with the organization since 2014, running 16 races that season. Competing full-time last year, the California native finished runner-up in the standings to Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Erik Jones. But this year, Reddick is off to what he calls an inconsistent start, featuring four straight finishes outside of the top 10, followed by back-to-back runs inside the top portion of the field.
Frontstretch spoke with Reddick at Dover, discussing his development, his relationship with Keselowski, the future and more.
Joseph Wolkin, Frontstretch.com: Entering your second full season with Brad Keselowski Racing, how would you evaluate your success thus far?
Tyler Reddick: We’ve had good consistency. Last year, we had great consistency. We were able to win twice, so that’s not a bad start. Above anything else, I was really happy with consistency. We never really had any parts failures. If anything did happen, we were able to rebound from it enough to where it wouldn’t have cost us. For this year, I wouldn’t say we’ve had any parts failures, but just really a lot of bad luck. We’ve been in a few bad situations. If we had luck like we did last year, we would still be knocking off top 5s like we were last year.
Wolkin: Speaking of your wins, what has been the biggest difference in your life from then to now?
Reddick: Understanding what it takes to win is one thing that I have really picked up on. You don’t necessarily need to have the fastest truck. As long as you don’t make mistakes all race long, if you are in the top 5, you have a shot. Nine times out of 10, two of the top 5 will take themselves out of the race, whether it is a bad pit stop, a penalty, they get caught up in a wreck or make a mistake. Just knowing that you don’t need to be the fastest guy to win a race on a given Friday or Saturday night became more of a realization for us.
Wolkin: Do you have more confidence in the team since then?
Reddick: Oh yeah. We have come a long way since I first started racing for Brad Keselowski Racing. I feel like I have really gotten used to Doug [Randolph, crew chief]. These guys have been working together for a while. They all know each other very well. The transition to running the Truck Series full-time was pretty easy. It is very easy when you have your guys as good as you do to make your job easier.
Wolkin: You came up 15 points shy of winning the championship last year. How important was it to prove to yourself that you can contend for a title?
Reddick: A lot of people thought it would be Jones, Crafton and a couple of other people going after the championship last year. The way I looked at it was anyone had a shot at winning the championship if you have confidence in each other, and be willing to hold it together for all 23 races last year. It was a shame that we were 15 points shy. We all worked really hard, and we only had a few bad races. It was a few things that I made mistakes it. It wasn’t really the team’s fault. The team was perfect last year in my mind. Obviously, it is hard to keep it two years in a row.
Wolkin: As the season went on last year, your chemistry with Doug improved. What is it that he does to put you at ease behind the wheel?
Reddick: He is very good about staying calm in moments when things can get pretty heated. He doesn’t really let things get to him too much. He does a really good job at keeping me calm in the truck and keeping everybody else calm in the pit area. Doug has also done a really good job on working on me and helping me get the feeling that I need in my truck. I could do a better job at communicating with the team when I’m in the truck during practice or the race. He has a pretty good understanding when I say something of what I mean.
Wolkin: You’ve been with the team since 2014, but what is different with them from then to now with Doug?
Reddick: Since day one, I felt like me and Doug have had a pretty good relationship. We’ve been able to work really well together. I think Doug has been able to understand me better since we began working together. It has made his and my job easier. I feel like I have a better understanding of how these trucks work. But really, a lot of it comes back to Doug. He does a really good job at understanding what we need out of our trucks. He really carries me quite a bit when it comes to trying to get the truck faster and figuring out what’s wrong with it.
Wolkin: Let’s rewind a little bit. You won the K&N Pro Series East race at Rockingham in 2012. Without that win, do you think you wouldn’t have gotten the call to join BKR?
Reddick: I really don’t think so. I feel like that was a very important part – a very important win – in my career. To be able to win at Rockingham for Ken Schrader and that team, it was his first K&N start and it was my first K&N start. It was really big for them, and it was really big for me. I feel like if that didn’t happen that day, I would probably still be racing dirt and running a K&N race once or twice a year, hoping to knock down that door. I was really fortunate to have that situation go that way. It was an incredible opportunity that happened not just for myself, but for Ken Schrader and his team.
Wolkin: What do you remember about your negotiations with Brad just before you began to race for the team?
Reddick: Well, it was pretty cool that the first time I talked to Brad was at Eldora for the truck race, the first year that they had it. I was there racing a Late Model. The Late Models were there to help keep the track running. I was just there after getting invited to go do that by [track owner Tony] Stewart. I was there running Late Models with about 20 to 30 guys. It was a good test session for us, too, so we were still running Late Models at the time. It was pretty cool that it was at Eldora. It was the first time we first started having talks in person, and it went forward from there. That was really the coolest moment – that the balls started rolling at Eldora – probably one of my favorite racetracks.
Wolkin: How has your relationship with Brad developed over the years?
Reddick: Brad is always very busy. With the Cup schedule, you can imagine just how busy he can be. I get to see him every once in a while when he comes by the shop or when he comes by here [the No. 29 hauler] on race day. Aside from that, I try not to bug him too much more than that because as a truck team, we may have time with a few weeks off, but we race back-to-back and run out of time throughout the week. I can’t imagine what he goes through, and he has a lot more media responsibilities and things he has to do. I don’t get to see him all the time, but when I get to talk to him, it’s great to see him around. This is his baby, his race team, and he cares very much about it. He doesn’t want it running 20th. He wants it winning races.
Wolkin: You touched on the off weeks that you guys have. You just had a five-week break. What do you do during those off weeks? Do you get bored at all?
Reddick: Time kind of slips away when you aren’t racing. The weekends roll by really fast, which isn’t a bad thing. It kind of stinks when you don’t get to race for five weeks, but the anticipation builds up a lot. When you finally get back to go racing, it’s a really good feeling because you know the wait is over.
Wolkin: Back to Brad: What is the best advice he has given you since you joined the team?
Reddick: He’s really helped me at understanding racetracks and lines that he has used at those tracks. The last two years, I’ve went to a few tracks for the first time. But this year, all the tracks that we’re going to, I’ve been to before. There’s really no need to bug him about things both he and I already know. Two years ago and last year, he helped me a lot at the tracks that I knew nothing about. He helped the learning process speed up during practice so we can focus more on tuning the truck instead of getting myself up to speed.
Wolkin: Is he more of a hands-on owner at the shop, or does he take a step back to let you guys do what you want?
Reddick: He’s around and he’s there. There is no way he tries to control the race team. He has put some very good people in place to do that for him. Doug Randolph and Chad Kendrick are both very good crew chiefs. He has a lot of good people at the shop. They do their part very well, and Brad very little feels like he has to step in and take things on his own terms. I guess it’s his baby, but he has done a very good job at getting people. It allows him to step back and enjoy it a little bit more than he did in the past.
Wolkin: Does he act more like an owner, competitor, friend or a mixture of the three?
Reddick: Brad is obviously a Sprint Cup champion. But whenever he comes around, he is very much in-tune with what we are doing with the trucks. He’ll say: If you feel this, maybe you should try this. He is always a great person to go to if you have any questions on anything. It’s a nice thing. You have an owner, but you have somebody that you can go to ask questions to. He has his advantages for sure.
Wolkin: Ryan Blaney worked his way through the rankings with the team, and now he’s in the Cup Series. The plan is obviously for you to follow his footsteps at some point, but you haven’t run any XFINITY Series races yet. What is the future looking like for you?
Reddick: It’s very uncertain. I feel like it’s that way for a lot of people that run in this sport. They really don’t know what is going to happen until it happens. We are going to run the whole year [in the Truck Series]. I don’t know what is going to happen after that. There’s kind of an uncertainty. Hopefully, something does happen. I don’t know what it could be, but I’m keeping my ears and eyes open. I’m hoping for anything.
Wolkin: How long do you feel is too long to stay in the Truck Series without getting your feet wet in the XFINITY Series?
Reddick: I feel like I’ve been in the Truck Series for a couple of years now and as much as I love racing in the Truck Series, realistically, it might be at the end of this year. If I am going to move up, it probably should be next year if I am going to. I don’t know where it would be or what level or if anything at all. Who knows? I’ve learned a lot in the Truck Series, and I still have a lot to learn. It wouldn’t hurt to start running some XFINITY Series races and understanding that style of racing.
Wolkin: With the charter system in place in the Cup Series, do you feel like it could hurt your potential as a driver to work your way through the series?
Reddick: I don’t know a whole lot about the charter. I understand the little things about it. The biggest thing it hurts is new teams. I don’t think it hurts new drivers. It’s different. It’s something that is keeping the people that have been loyal to NASCAR for so many years in the sport in case something happens. I guess if teams want to get out, they have something to sell. I think it hurts new teams coming into NASCAR more than the drivers. I may be wrong. It might hurt the young drivers coming in, too, because the big teams are going to want to stick with the drivers they have. If a new team wants to come along, they are going to want to get a new driver.
Wolkin: Do you have any plans to run in the XFINITY Series for Team Penske when the Cup drivers won’t be running the car?
Reddick: I would like to. I have not heard anything yet. At this point, it looks like I’m going to just be running the Truck Series.
Wolkin: What does it mean to you to have Mr. Penske casually come up and speak to you, showing confidence in you?
Reddick: It is pretty cool to be recognized by someone of infinity. He’s done a lot in IndyCar, NASCAR and other series that he is a part of. They’re a successful team, and as a kid growing up, that’s the type of Cup team you want to drive for. It’s really cool to be able to talk to someone like that who has accomplished a lot and done a lot with his team in all the different series that he’s run. It’s really cool to be able to meet someone like him and run into him.
Wolkin: As the focus is on the title run this year, you’ve had some bad luck. What needs to be done for you to get back into Victory Lane?
Reddick: We’ve had to overcome some crazy things this year, so anything is possible. If we’re in the race, we have a shot at winning it. We have a shot at winning anywhere we go. We have to believe in ourselves and believe in what we do.
Wolkin: You have a full-time teammate this year with Daniel Hemric. What is the chemistry like between the two teams this year? How closely do you guys work together?
Reddick: We haven’t had too many chances to work together on the racetrack yet. But off the track, he is an awesome teammate. I really like him a lot. He’s had to work very hard to get to where he is at today. Nothing has been handed to him at all. Every sponsor he has had, he has gone out to go get. I love everything that he has had to overcome to get to this point. He’s a great driver and a great person. There is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the hardest workers in the Truck Series garage.
Wolkin: Austin Cindric attempted Dover in a third truck for the team. What has it been like to work with him a few races last year and now this season?
Reddick: I’ve gotten to race with Austin a couple of times. He’s come from a different world. He’s mainly been a road course racer for most of his career, rally cross and everything else he’s been doing. This is different for him. It was really impressive to see how fast and how he was able to pick it up during the second practice. He is definitely fast and knows how to go fast. They have a great group of guys on that [No.] 2 truck.