When Tyler Reddick announced at Homestead-Miami Speedway last November that he was running a part-time XFINITY Series schedule with Chip Ganassi Racing, he bet on himself.
The California native was graduating from the Camping World Truck Series, a place he spent the better part of three seasons with Brad Keselowski Racing. In those 63 career starts, Reddick picked up three checkered flags. But the challenge was just beginning as the XFINITY competition is much more difficult.
Just 16 races into his XFINITY career, and Reddick has begun to hit his stride. At Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 23, the No. 42 car put a whoopin’ on the field, leading 66 laps and winning the race by over 14 seconds. Essentially, he was in another zip code.
Reddick knew in his heart that his first-career XFINITY victory was going to come at a mile-and-a-half racetrack.
“I just like the speed at the bigger tracks,” Reddick told Frontstretch of his victory. “It’s fun. The less downforce makes it less forgiving, and that makes it even more fun. I just enjoy racing at big tracks with not much downforce and the cars are always out of shape and not comfortable.
“We had a pretty good car that times was a half-second faster than others, but still the race played out perfectly. We ran about 100 laps green and we had plenty of time to get that huge lead. The car was good, but we definitely got lucky.”
Lucky? Maybe, especially as NASCAR historically throws a late race caution to bunch up the field. Meanwhile, the stand alone race one year ago at Kentucky featured 12 cautions and the dominant drivers crashing out late. Thankfully for Reddick, at this year’s race he didn’t have to fight off a scrum of drivers late in the race.
For Reddick, it was more important to get Chip Ganassi Racing a victory before he departs at the end of the season and moves on to chase an XFINITY Series title with JR Motorsports. Though the No. 42 car had three previous victories this season, they all came from Kyle Larson.
“The goal for me for sure was to win races with the team,” Reddick said. “They were able to do that with Kyle [Larson] and if I do my part, we should be able to do the same thing. It was a learning process that took time. You can’t overnight get in the car and go fast. It’s almost unheard of unless you have an unbelievable gift. At some point, you have to put in the effort and you have to learn with trial and error at times.”
During the first race of 2017 at Kentucky in July, Reddick started sixth and finished 10th. That was just two weeks after he picked up a then career-best finish of third at Iowa Speedway.
As all drivers do with more experience, Reddick feels as though he has improved greatly since his first race of the season at Daytona. But again, it wasn’t an overnight process.
“The consistency comes down to being patient and racing smarter,” he elaborated. “Earlier in the year, I ran as hard as I could with my guts hanging out the side, just running as fast as I could and race everybody really hard. Yeah, we ran well at times, but there were some situations that I had to learn from and maybe let this guy go, so I didn’t lose two seconds on the guy ahead.”
Though Reddick improved, the consistency factor is something the 21-year-old wants to work on.
In Reddick’s 16 races this season, he has two top-five finishes and four top 10s. With an average finish of 18.4, it ranks him 18th in the championship standings, ahead of Spencer Gallagher, who has competed in all 28 events and 67 markers behind Brandon Jones.
Reddick mentions that he feels for Gallagher and Jones, who both are experiencing atrocious luck in 2017. He’s been there and done that. But for the driver of the No. 42, it’s the support group that surrounds him, starting from the top down with team owner Chip Ganassi.
“He’s very intimidating,” Reddick said of Ganassi. “He knows what he wants and knows how to get things done. I haven’t been able to see him at all the XFINITY races, but he’s very sure of himself. Not in a bad way, he knows what he needs to do and he knows what he needs his team to do and it’s proven itself over the years. It’s cool to be racing for someone who is in this for the racing. He got in this for racing and racing alone.
“That’s all he cares about is racing and winning and being successful. Running for someone like that is a little bit of pressure, but it’s a good kind of pressure. It adds flame to a burning hot fire. I want to drive for someone who breathes racing.”
Ganassi has proved over his tenure in NASCAR and IndyCar that it’s all about winning. Because of that, Reddick wants to bring him the owner’s title at Homestead, shall the team make it to the Final 4. That was the goal coming into the season.
“I believe I told him in Victory Lane that we got our win, but we’re still not done yet,” Reddick said. “We’ve got to go get that owner’s championship because Ganassi doesn’t have a championship in NASCAR. It’s nice to have these next few races and not having to worry about it. When we get to Homestead, I feel like we’ll be in great shape. I love Homestead and I feel like their cars are really good there.”
CGR announced at Dover that Alex Bowman will pilot the No. 42 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Speedway, leaving Reddick in the car at Kansas Speedway and Homestead.
- One week following a dominating victory in the XFINITY race at Dover, Ryan Blaney will be back behind the wheel of the No. 22 car this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He along with Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones will take part in both events this weekend.
- Chip Ganassi Racing announced last Friday at Dover that Alex Bowman will be in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Charlotte and Phoenix International Raceway in November. This will be the Arizona native’s first XFINITY event since finishing 14th at Homestead last season with JR Motorsports. It will only mark his second NASCAR campaign of 2017, finishing sixth with GMS Racing at Martinsville Speedway in the Truck Series.
- The cutoff race for the opening round is here and Ryan Reed sits two points ahead of Brendan Gaughan for the coveted transfer position. Michael Annett enters the race 10th in the standings, seven markers off the pace, while Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements will likely need to win, sitting 12 and 20 points behind, respectively.