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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Eyes on Xfinity: Tyler Reddick Consistently Consistent Defending Championship

Expectations were high for Tyler Reddick in 2018, as he began his first full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He would tell you himself that for much of the season he didn’t live up to those expectations.

Even though Reddick kicked off the season with a bang by winning at Daytona International Speedway in the closest margin of victory in NASCAR history over then-teammate Elliott Sadler, the rest of the regular season was somewhat forgettable.

The No. 9 JR Motorsports team didn’t pick up their second top-five finish until early May at Dover International Speedway. Its third didn’t come until Labor Day Weekend at Darlington Raceway. But that’s where things started to click for Reddick.

Reddick grabbed another top five the next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and entered the playoffs with momentum. Though not having many playoff points, he pointed his way through the Round of 12… and Round of 8, making it to Homestead-Miami Speedway, with what many believed was a fighter’s chance at the title. But, oh, did the California driver deliver.

While Cole Custer dominated the opening two stages, Reddick found the high line, and sometimes the wall in the final stage, en route to the victory and the championship. The inconsistency was worth the wait for the No. 9 team, and the playoffs helped shape him as the driver he is today.

“I would say the playoffs changed it,” Reddick told Frontstretch of how he’s evolved as a racecar driver. “At Homestead, I did what I normally do at a lot of these racetracks and go as hard as I can. Once the playoffs came around, and you’re going round-by-round, stage-by-stage almost, trying to battle for every point you can and not give any points away.”

In the midst of battling for that 2018 championship with JR Motorsports, it was announced in late October that Reddick would join Richard Childress Racing for the 2019 season.

Now eight races into 2019, and the move has elevated Reddick. The No. 2 team has six top-five finishes (he had seven total in 2018), while adding an additional top 10. He’s won two poles, one stage and has a worst finish of 14th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he crashed late battling Kyle Busch and Christopher Bell for the victory.

Regarding that incident, Reddick simply put it as, “I may not be like most people, I don’t want to settle, especially when I’m racing Kyle Busch.”

As the season progresses, Reddick is going to try and maintain what he learned in last year’s postseason, hoping to claim back-to-back championships.

“Keeping a level head throughout the year is what’s probably going to keep us gaining and accumulating those top fives,” Reddick said. “The way we started off the playoffs last year, we put a lot of emphasis on race-by-race. Be smart, take what you can get out of those race days and survive to Homestead.

“This year, I let winning early get away when I take us out of it by going too hard too much of the time. Going your hardest every single lap isn’t going to get you to Victory Lane, it’s just going to get you to the back of the field really quick. I’ve got to keep the same mentality that I found in the playoffs from here until we get to the playoffs and probably keep that mentality when we get here.”

Compared to this time last season, Reddick feels leaps and bounds ahead of where he is as a driver.

“I feel like we’re really ahead of the game,” he stated. “We go to places that I feel like I’m terrible at and we will run well at. I’d be like ‘Man, this is another one I’m not good at.’ We’re going to have tough days throughout the year that just don’t go our way — we can’t let it take us out of the big picture, and that’s going back to winning the championship.”

In eight races with RCR, Reddick has led 165 laps, which is 19 shy of his total amount last season (184, 44 of which coming in the championship race at Homestead). With the move looking like it’s paying off, he believes coming in as the reigning champion made the team up its ante, focusing hard on the Xfinity program.

“They’ve been really pumped about me getting there, and they felt a little bit of pressure,” Reddick said. “I feel like it made them push to get out of the gates really strong, and we’ve done that so far to this point.

“So far it seems to be a really good match. Me and Randall Burnett [crew chief] are getting along really well. The cars suit my driving style. Wherever we’ve gone, how I like to drive a race car has been rewarded by a fast vehicle.”

Riding a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes heading into Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, a victory seems to be right around the corner for the No. 2 team. Reddick thinks so, too.

“We’ve been right there, and eventually, it’s going to come our way, especially if we keep putting ourselves in that position,” Reddick added. “It does feel like we’ve kind of given away wins because we haven’t been able to grasp them when we’ve been a step away. If we keep working on it and putting ourselves in positions, eventually it will come our way.”

Oh, and Reddick doesn’t care what his Twitter haters say. If you criticize him, don’t be surprised if you get a mouthful in return.

“When you’ve got nothing better to do and someone says something and you’ve got something you can come back with, it’s always nice to put someone on blast that feels like they can get a Twitter and put out their ‘hot take,'” he said. “I don’t mind putting someone who has a lot to say about me and respond to something to them and put them out in front of thousands of followers.”

In two starts at Talladega, Reddick has a best finish of eighth, leading two laps in last year’s event.

Xfinity Notes: 

  • There are 37 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekends MoneyLion 300 at Talladega. Landon Cassill makes his return to JD Motorsports, piloting the No. 4 car. Brett Moffitt will compete in his first race for JR Motorsports in the No. 8, while Ross Chastain makes his second start for Kaulig Racing in the No. 10 and Jeffrey Earnhardt returns to the No. 18 at Joe Gibbs Racing.
  • Talladega is the third of four Dash 4 Cash races, as Christopher Bell and Cole Custer have already won an additional $100,000 at Bristol and Richmond. With his win at Richmond, Custer has the opportunity to win another bonus this weekend, as does Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick.
  • After getting off to a decent start this season in his rookie year for Kaulig Racing, Justin Haley will pull double duty at Talladega, making his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut for Spire Motorsports.
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About Dustin Albino

Dustin Albino
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2018 marks his fourth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be in the sport in some fashion. It's safe to say Dustin is living the dream.

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