Daytona International Speedway has been, in a short amount of time, very good to Tyler Reddick. The Californian snatched the season-opening Xfinity Series round here last February, launching his run to the series championship in just his second season. But that was then, and Reddick must rise to lofty expectations again this weekend when he lines up in both the Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season openers, including his Daytona 500 debut for Richard Childress Racing.
What’s your story? How’d you find your way into all this?
“I was born in Redding, California and grew up in Corning, which is 45 minutes south of there. That’s where I spent most of my childhood. Then we started racing from the time I was four and half years old. I raced Outlaw Karts. When I got a little older we jumped into other things. My grandfather was into sprint cars back before they had cages and whatnot. It was the true outlaw days of it! My grandmother got mad at him. She thought it was too dangerous, so he got out of it for the sake of her.
“My dad was into motocross growing up and he did outdoor national-style racing and he also did some modified racing on asphalt around where we lived. I guess you could say I was the first in the family to take racing super-serious. I guess when you start racing at four or four and a half, I guess you’re getting pretty serious pretty early.
“When I got to mini sprints, there was no transition. We jumped right in and were running in the big shows right off the bat, so there was no time to really get my feet wet and win some races against local guys. I just went right to racing the best of the best in that deal. That was the kind of mentality we always had, and for better or for worse — who really knows — pretty much everything I did, whether it was sprint cars, mini sprints, midgets and late models, we hardly ever went to smaller shows. That’s how you learn and grow. Yeah, it sucks when you’re getting stomped in the ground by some of the best guys in those cars. (But) that’s the way to learn.”
You’ve been thrown into the deep end pretty much every step along the way of your NASCAR journey. Did it ever get intimidating?
“I was definitely intimidated. It was definitely intimidating in the mini sprint world. There were about three or four guys that were just so, so good. They were almost unbeatable. In the sprint cars it about doubled as there were probably about eight guys that are just legends who are still racing to this day. Then there were the late models and they actually blew me away with how many really, really good, talented race car drivers ran in that series. A lot of them have been around for a long time. There were just a lot of really good drivers. There still are.
“There were big steps and I would say the intimidation factory doubled each time. The more I got to race against them and the more I got to know them, things died down for me. From the outside looking in, the most intimidating driver in dirt racing was probably Scott Bloomquist and that’s who I ended up working with for a couple years when I was in late models. He helped me grow into the driver I’m trying to become right now.”