Tyler Reddick isn’t content.
“No,” he tells RACER without hesitation. “I want more.”
Such is the attitude of a competitor. From the outside, it would seem Reddick has nothing more to prove in the NASCAR Xfinity Series after winning back-to-back championships in his first two seasons in the series. He’s next headed to the NASCAR Cup Series, meaning the book is now closed on his career – for now, at least – as a full-time Xfinity Series contender.
In two years, Reddick hoisted the big trophy in Miami and was the guest of honor for a day at the Universal Orlando Resort. Reddick was again seated at the head table for the season-ending awards banquet and gave the final speech of the night.
Most importantly, in addition to the two championship trophies and rings he now possesses, Reddick showed impressive improvement from his freshmen to sophomore seasons.
“Obviously, I can’t get championships anymore, but I want to win more races, and I’m going to try to do that,” Reddick said.
Reddick’s second title with Richard Childress Racing was much different than his first with JR Motorsports. This one took no one by surprise. From the start of the season until its final lap, Reddick and his No. 2 Chevrolet team were one of the best, so much so they were amongst the ‘Big 3’ the series seemed to have between him, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell.
During the regular season, Reddick led the point standings for all but its first three weeks. Taking the top spot after a third-place finish at ISM Raceway, he never looked back and was crowned the regular-season champion.
For some further proof in the numbers, Reddick had five DNFs last year and three this season. His average start went from 11.7 in ’18 to 6.0 in ’19, while his average finish dropped from 12.9 a year ago to a series-leading 6.3.
Feeling like more of a complete driver, Reddick has been trying to find the right way to describe why the second title means more than the first without disrespecting those at JRM.
“There’s a lot more hands and people at RCR that have touched that car than the small team at JR Motorsports,” Reddick said. “It’s incredible and kind of crazy to forget that JR Motorsports is a Xfinity team, but they’re a lot smaller team. That doesn’t take away from the championship we had, but the amount of people that work on the engines at ECR to the people at the chassis shop that build the cars, to the people hanging the bodies in the body shop and then from there all the people building the suspension parts and pieces, all that little stuff.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort into that car and the goal was to get everyone that touched that car a championship. I guess for me, that’s why it meant more. Part of it too is just another thing about the people is the number of folks at RCR that came up and shared their excitement for me being there – that got me really excited.”
Or another way to look at it is with the word ‘validation.’ A second title is a validation for Reddick.
“Absolutely,” he admitted. “That’s the perfect word, validation. … The first one was a little fluky if you will. When you have a format like this, it doesn’t matter even if the person won every single race all year long, they’re going to say, oh well, it was a fluke. You’re going to have people who are upset about this or that.
“But for me, I definitely fell more into the category (last year) of, OK, he was smart in the playoffs, which you can’t discredit, but he didn’t have the all-around performance all year long. I wouldn’t say it took away from the first championship; it almost made the shock and awe, just the ‘Wow, it actually happened,’ that much crazier and really hard to believe.
“This was a lot more believable just because of how the year went, how consistent we were, this one was – as much as I was screaming, more of a sigh of relief that it went the way we wanted it to whereas the first one was just a shocking moment and you’re just like, ‘Wow, did that just happen?’ Like a miracle almost. So, I think those were the differences.”
In talking about how he’s matured over the last two seasons, Reddick felt last year he didn’t mature until the playoffs began. One of the messages he kept using after winning the ’18 title was that the potential had been there all year, “the driver needed to put his head on straight.”
Putting aside his scuffle with Custer in Kansas, Reddick feels this year was a big step in the right direction. One difference has been with RCR when things started to go wrong, Reddick and the team didn’t let everything unravel. Even on the days when an obstacle would appear, Reddick felt more times than not, they rebounded with a good result.
It means an “immense amount” to a driver like Reddick to have checked off so many boxes in the last two years. But again, that doesn’t make him content or complete.
“I don’t feel complete, but I feel a lot closer to where I’d want to be,” Reddick said. “This year, I would consider a success; I would consider a massive improvement, but you always want to be better. I still look at those DNFs. I still look at Pocono (when he went wide in the final corner). I still look at a few of these races, and I look at four stage wins versus the 22 that Christopher [Bell] had.
“So, there’s still things that I can do better and it’s a massive step in the right direction. That’s what makes it feel a lot more complete in a lot of areas that I was not even close to where I needed to be last year.”