Over the past few years, when fans and media of NASCAR have thought about the Homestead-Miami Speedway the name of Tyler Reddick is one of the first to come up. The Corning, CA native twice used that south Florida track to secure a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship when he won there in 2018 and 2019. And his trend of success continued in the Sunshine State in 2020 during his rookie campaign on the NASCAR Cup Series when he finished fourth on the 1.5-mile oval.
The move by the series to one of his better tracks could not be coming at a better time for Reddick as he has begun the 2021 season about as poorly as could be imagined. After a 27th place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, the Richard Childress Racing No. 8 Chevrolet team could only manage a 38th place result the next week on the Daytona International Speedway road course.
Reddick believes his poor start to the season may take away some of the aggressive driving style he has used on this track to achieve great results in the past.
“It’s extremely important,” Reddick said of the upcoming event at Homested during a Friday morning media teleconference. “Unfortunately because of how bad of a start we’ve had, we really can’t go for broke. We can’t be aggressive because in the first two races, I think we’ve gotten like two points or something like that.”
Reddick actually has 11 points and currently sits 33rd in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after the first two races of the season. Being buried deep in the standings is a disappointing position he shares with another young charger. And the 25-year-old driver was expecting more going into his second season in the sport’s top division.
“Me and Matt DiBenedetto(37th) are in a really, really bad spot right now in points,” Reddick pointed out. “We just can’t let this slide continue because if it goes on much further we’re going to be in a deeper hole three races in than I was at my worst right at the end of the regular season stretch before the playoffs started(in 2020). And that’s no way to start what’s supposed to be an improvement upon my rookie year.”
Reddick earned one of his three top-5 finishes of 2020 at Homestead when he finished fourth behind the top-3 of Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. The driver who eventually wound up 19th in the final series standings at the end of the year might have had a chance to finish even higher in that race had it not been for a miscue on the white flag lap when he slowed thinking the race was over.
“The move that I set up on Blaney on what I thought was the last lap in (turns)three and four, I would have waited one more lap and got a little closer and maybe got third out of it,” Reddick recalled of the last couple of laps at Homestead. “Him and Chase got to racing on the last lap and maybe I could’ve taken advantage of them racing and passed them both. I didn’t lose any spots and it was kind of an unfortunate misunderstanding.”
Reddick won his two Xfinity Series titles at Homestead by employing a high line around the track that few others seemed interesting in trying. The eventual winner logged lap after lap by running right against the outside wall in the turns, risking contact with the barrier on every circuit.
“Hitting the fence at Homestead hasn’t really been a problem for me,” he declared. “I’ve gotten really comfortable in understanding what my limits are knowing where the right rear quarter panel is. I’ve definitely heard all about it. If you hit the fence in these Cup cars, your day is over because you’ll keep cutting tires. I think what other people consider hitting the fence, and when I scrape the fence, there’s a difference there.”
However, the former dirt racer says that other drivers have become more willing to move to the top of the track. And he believes that is due, at least in some part, to the fact that the track no longer hosts the championship deciding race. But he also believes that more cars on the top of the track could open up more avenues elsewhere.
“When we went back last year in June, it was pretty obvious a lot more guys were comfortable running the fence,” Reddick explained. “I think these guys, with this race that’s not the championship finale, you’ll see more guys be more aggressive and take more risks. They definitely saw in this race we had six or seven months ago how much speed there is up there so more and more guys are going to be up there but that’s going to open up the bottom and the middle. I’m alright with that too. We had a pretty good car all over the race track here six or seven months ago.”
While this is not a must win situation for Tyler Reddick and his RCR team, it is a situation in which the No. 8 needs to pile up some points if there is to be any chance of making the NASCAR Playoffs on points should they not find victory lane before the cutoff.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association
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