Tyler Reddick is trying to navigate his way through a bumpy start to 2021.
Through 10 races, the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing sits 22nd in points with one top five and four top 10s, including a seventh-place effort at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday (April 25).
While those four top 10s double his total from this time a year ago, the Cup Series sophomore’s six other finishes in 2021 are all 20th or worse.
Ahead of the race at Talladega, Reddick sat down with Frontstretch to discuss his season thus far, inconsistency, fatherhood and whether he will compete in more NASCAR Xfinity Series races this season.
Zach Sturniolo, Frontstretch: This has been an up-and-down season for you guys. You’ve have had some awesome runs, mixed in with some runs that I’m sure you wish you would have had better results with. After  races, how do you evaluate this first part of the season?
Tyler Reddick: There’s definitely been some good races. I think, unfortunately, some of the trends so far this year I feel like are trends that we needed to improve upon last year and that we haven’t seen the gains that we probably wanted to see in that regard from 2020 to 2021. I feel like speed across the board consistently was better than what we left off 2020 with, but similar issues to what I think cost us a chance at making the playoffs last year, that’s how we started the year off — basically the same way we ended it.
We’ve got to try and figure that out, understand what we need to continue to work on. I mean, as we all see, more and more guys are getting those wins, clinching those playoff spots and the window is shrinking. And we’ve still got a long way to go yet in this regular season, so we’re gonna have to step it up unfortunately. We’ll just see where we’re able to get going here hopefully soon.
Sturniolo: You mentioned there’s already a lot of pressure as far as spots dwindling in the playoffs as we’ve already got [nine] different winners in  races. Does that change anything for your approach to these next two months at this point of the season, knowing how quickly spots are disappearing for points on playoffs?
Reddick: Yeah, our approach constantly has to shift. We can have a game plan, right? And our game plan to start the year was … we want to improve our consistency. We’d love to have a number of races where we can have the breakout performances and get those top fives and compete for wins. But across the board to make the playoffs at the start of the year, it was, let’s be consistent. Let’s work on getting stage points and stuff like that. Unfortunately, the stage points haven’t been there for us this year. I think our official tally may be like three or four [Editor’s Note: It’s five].
So with that, it’s put us in the hole. We have the good finishes that we want, but the stage points not being collected for our team is really what put us behind the eight ball. I think you look at our good finishes, we have the same trend as last year. We have a good number of top fives and we have more top 10s. And a lot of the guys we’re racing around in points, they’re just capitalizing on more consistency in those stage points. And that’s where I think we’ve just fallen in this hole, unfortunately, and that is something this year and last year, there’s more of a penalty to having a bad start to the year with the way our qualifying metric system is.
If you have a bad day or you start the year off bad and finish bad at Daytona, you’re down in points, you’re down in finish. And if you have a crashed car, you’re not gonna have a fast lap. And if you carry that into the next race and same thing, crash out, whatever it is, you’re starting back in 30th, if you’re not getting good pit stalls, and it makes it really hard to climb out of the hole right away, because the guys you’re trying to catch up to and race against start consistently inside the top 10, have a shot at getting to the top 10 in that first stage and second stage. And you’re just trying to claw to get to where they’re at by about halfway through the race.
So it’s just really hard to get out of the hole with the situation we’ve been put in, with the way our schedule is. Everyone knew that going in. Unfortunately, it just didn’t play out the way we wanted it to. It’s been an uphill battle.
Sturniolo: You got your best finish to the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finishing second there. Then at Bristol Dirt, you ended up seventh there and then you had a great run at Martinsville Speedway as well. Do you feel like the strength of your car and the speed that you guys have to start the season is coming at those 750-hp racetracks? And if so, is that intentional?
Reddick: The focus just lies on being more consistent. I think, aside from Phoenix last year in the spring, we weren’t that great on the short tracks. Honestly, a lot of our focus is based off what we thought we needed to be better at, and that’s being consistent. That’s finding a way to get better at the road courses, so we finish better there to set us up for our good tracks like the high-downforce 550 HP stuff and the mile-and-a-halves that you can move around. So I mean, the focus has been around consistency because you need that to make the playoffs. You need that to survive the playoffs and push through them.
But obviously everyone knows that the championship is decided at Phoenix. That’s a 750 track. The race right before Phoenix, the penultimate race is at Martinsville. That’s a 750 track. So a lot of guys understand that. And with Darlington [Raceway] becoming a 750 race, low downforce, Richmond [Raceway], the road courses being in that package as well, everyone knows that you’ve got to really be on your game with the 750 races. They’re important. So we’ve just tried to be consistent.
I thought we were headed on the right path. But unfortunately, with how Richmond went, it started off good; we just didn’t have the car — the car just didn’t keep up with the racetrack. And what we fought just got worse. The track continued to change as the race went, and that’s just unfortunate. We tried to make adjustments to fix it, but the knobs we were turning just weren’t helping us in any way. We just freefell. We were shaping up to have a really good day in line with the last two weeks, [but] that just didn’t pan out that way, unfortunately.
Sturniolo: I want to go a little bit more lighthearted here. It seems that life has been treating you really well with your son Beau. It always seems super busy but also so rewarding. What has this new chapter of life brought you and [girlfriend] Alexa [De Leon] with Beau in your life?
Reddick: It’s hard to put into words. Those that are already parents, or if you’ve been a parent and raise kids, I think you understand it’s hard when that question is asked. … It’s hard to put into words, really. But I mean, for me, it motivates me to get out of bed, get out the door, and put my best effort forward — not just for myself and my career, but for trying to be a good role model for my son, even at a super early age, or providing the best upbringing that I can.
If I can be more successful on the racetrack, I can hopefully, later down the road in life, whether that’s getting better opportunities, whatever it might be, the more successful I am can only benefit that. It can’t hurt it. He just motivates me in ways I never really saw or would have understood before, to be a better person, try to make the most out of my days.
Having a kid makes you realize how much time you really don’t have in life. And you just try to make the most of it and take advantage of every free moment that you have, and maximize the time throughout the day that you spend doing whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, and get back to being home and spending time with him and Alexa. So that’s been a game changer.
For me, I think it’s it forced me to change in good ways. And if you’re not on your game, as a parent, it can be very overwhelming. And it’s been nice to find out how to push through new experiences that you have no previous understanding of as a parent. It opens up new levels of mental strength, the next level you can take it to and just keep pushing through the tough [and] interesting and stressful times in life that can be presented when you’re a parent. That’s helped me push through things over on the racing side, or other things in life that are challenges, because when you’re a parent, you’ve got to figure it out. You can’t pass it off to somebody else.
Sturniolo: This is way down the road, but if Beau ever decided he wanted to get involved with racing somehow, is that something you would encourage or are a little bit more hesitant about letting him get into?
Reddick: This may come across weird. I haven’t really tried to push that on him at all. I’ve almost been a little bit the opposite, because I know how crazy it is and how — man, it’s a tough career path to follow. It’s a long one. If he ultimately wants to do it, I’m not gonna fight him, obviously, I’m not gonna push back and make it more challenging for him to pursue his dreams. But I definitely want to make sure that it’s something he wants to do.
I’m not trying to lay the seeds, if you will. I’m not trying to just get him to do it. I don’t go to the store and buy him like little toy cars, stuff like that. He just happens to see my simulator in my office, he just jumps on the thing, and it’s not running, but he just pretends that he’s driving it and he goes crazy. Like, oh my gosh. It’s happening. And he loves loud cars. He loves this little remote control power roll thing that we drive around him in.
I think the bug is there, but I definitely wanna make sure it’s something he wants to do. I don’t want to push it on him and and not have him be fully invested in it, because I think that’s the worst thing you can do. Yeah, I’d love for him to be a awesome race car driver, but I think it’s up to him what he wants to do with his life. And it’s important for him to figure out what he truly likes on his own without my influence.
Sturniolo: Circling back to real time for you. With this being your second full-time season, are you noticing yourself falling into any habits, good or bad, that have benefited you or that you notice being a hindrance?
Reddick: The inconsistencies, unfortunately, are the biggest thing. And this is something we’ve got to continue to work on: When we have days where we try to fix our race car and it unfortunately gets worse, those tend to be really, really rough long days. And that’s the unfortunate trend that we have right now. When those days kind of start that way [and] that first adjustment doesn’t really help our car, we haven’t been able to get back to a good place and just maintain that or start to get our car back in the right direction. So that’s something that me and (crew chief) Randall (Burnett) have to continue to work on.
I feel like when we have good days, they’re great days. When we have not-so-good days, they become bad days. And with us as a team, we’ve just got to continue to understand what that is, what that means, what our approach is going to be. We have a good approach when things are going good and we’re aggressive and we’re going after wins. But when we’re trying to minimize the damage and just get out of the day, maximize the not-so-good day to the best of our ability, I think to a degree we still try to turn it into a top-five car. And sometimes, we just have to be realistic.
This isn’t the Xfinity Series where we were able to still do that a lot of the time. This is the Cup Series, and sometimes, you know what you have. Sometimes, the best that you have may only be a 15th-place car, and we’ve just got to figure out where that number is on those tougher days.
I think we’ll start to turn around the consistency part of it. And hopefully, that’ll come in handy if we can get our way into the playoffs when that starts.
Sturniolo: Turning to the NASCAR Xfinity Series, any future scheduled races so far with Our Motorsports? Obviously, you had a great run with them at Homestead [finishing second], although I know not officially on the stat sheet [following a disqualification]. Any future races scheduled with them?
Reddick: We’re hoping I get to do a couple more. I don’t think they’d be for a while; they would probably be later in the year. But there’s some options out there. Hopefully, we get to do that. I had a lot of fun racing with them. I was very thankful for Chris Our to think of me to attempt to run Daytona. Unfortunately, that was a big mess for them. And they had to go and in and acquire the No. 23. They got back going and Blaine Perkins has been in there doing good.
So excited for [crew chief Danny Johnson] over there and that group. They’ve been working hard. I had a lot of fun with them at Homestead and [Las] Vegas [Motor Speedway]. Like you mentioned, though, at Homestead, that was just an unfortunate set of circumstances. I wish it was some sort of a performance advantage that we got caught with. But honestly, what was hindering us there that caused us to fail post-race [inspection] was actually making the car that much harder to drive.
That happens, it’s part of it. Those are the rules; we’ve got to stick by them. But it was nice to hop in there. And that whole team puts their heart out every single week. It was fun to go into that race and have a shot there at the end to try and win it. But I’m hopeful for some races coming up, and I think there will be a few, hopefully.