NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2021 NASCAR Preseason Power Rankings, No. 16: Tyler Reddick

Entering off the heels of a competitive rookie season, Tyler Reddick comes into 2021 set to do more in his sophomore season.

Reddick, driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, finished 19th in points in 2020 after posting three top fives and nine top 10s. He was bested by Cole Custer for last year’s Rookie of the Year award, but Reddick proved to be Custer’s biggest threat for the award throughout the regular season.

A Look Back

Reddick flew into the NASCAR Cup Series after claiming consecutive Xfinity Series titles in 2018 and 2019, showing an enormous pickup in win rate while driving the No. 2 RCR car en route to the 2019 title.

The California native went from winning two races for JR Motorsports in 2018, to collecting six victories in 2019 for RCR and more than tripling his top-five production — jumping from seven to 24 in one season.

Reddick also made two Cup starts for RCR in 2019, finishing 27th in the Daytona 500 after a crash and placing ninth at Kansas Speedway later that spring.

His first year in a full-time Cup ride proved promising right from the start. After another season-opening crash at Daytona International Speedway, Reddick began stringing top-20 runs together. At Phoenix Raceway, Reddick was running in the top five when a mechanical failure relegated him to a 33rd-place finish.

But once the 10-week COVID-19 hiatus ended, Reddick picked up where he left off. He finished seventh at Darlington Raceway, a result that began a streak of four straight top 20s. In total, Reddick tallied 25 top-20 finishes out of 36 races in 2020.

Promising Venues

Perhaps it is early in Reddick’s budding career, but some tracks definitely seemed to suit the 25-year-old last season.

On paper, Reddick is not necessarily defined by a track type as much as he is per track. That said, Reddick ran his strongest at rough, abrasive tracks that promote racing right against the wall, such as Auto Club Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Reddick earned an 11th-place finish in his first outing at Auto Club, but the track isn’t set to be on the Cup schedule again until 2022. Then in three Darlington races last season, Reddick finished seventh, 13th and 23rd, respectively, while posting a fourth-place finish at Homestead-Miami. The spring Bristol race resulted in a crash-related DNF, but Reddick finished fourth there in the fall.

Reddick also found success at many of the mile-and-a-half circuits, perhaps most notably Texas Motor Speedway where he finished second behind teammate Austin Dillon in July and 15th in the series’ return in the fall. Elsewhere, Reddick finished eighth and 14th in the two oval races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in addition to a 13th-place effort at Kansas Speedway and a 10th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway, which will not return on the 2021 schedule.

2021 Scenarios

Despite missing the playoffs as a rookie, Reddick has a good chance to propel himself into the postseason after the baseline he set in 2020.

Richard Childress Racing appeared improved across the board, with both in-house cars of Reddick and Dillon producing impressive runs as well as better outings from its affiliate Richard Petty Motorsports and then-driver Bubba Wallace. Dillon’s performance increased as the playoffs arrived, and Reddick never seemed terribly far behind his veteran teammate. This year, success may rely upon whether RCR can continue its upward climb.

What remains to be seen is how Reddick performs on the road courses. There are seven scheduled this season, up from two in 2020, and each may play a significant role in how high this team’s ceiling is.

The good news there is that Reddick scored top fives at each road course on the Xfinity Series schedule, in addition to posting finishes of 18th at the Daytona road course and 12th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in Cup Series competition last year.

Outlook

Tyler Reddick showed immense promise as an unproven rookie and is poised for a strong season ahead. Reddick has shown improvement in between rookie and sophomore seasons before. The Cup Series is a much more difficult platform on which to make that happen, but Reddick may just be able to build upon the foundation he and his team built last year to produce impressive results sooner than later.

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