Tyler Reddick’s car did not look like one that finished sixth at Daytona International Speedway. The front of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was mangled and taped back together. At the rear, the spoiler was no longer straight as the bumper was junked and fenders caved in by the rear tires. There was still grass stuck in the grille.
And yet, at a racetrack where aerodynamics matter, the car got to the finish line. By doing so, Reddick held onto the final spot on the playoff grid to earn his first postseason berth.
“It’s crazy,” Reddick said. “Second to myself in sixth were all guys that, if they won, could have locked themselves in and knocked me out. Thankfully, Ryan Blaney was able to hold everyone off and win the race, and in a way, keep my season alive.
“A lot happened in a matter of about 30 minutes. I’m kind of emotionally spent.”
Everything was going the way Reddick needed it to until lap 146. The car was still in one piece, and despite only earning points in the second stage, the advantage for the final playoff spot still swung in Reddick’s favor. Then came the first big wreck of the night when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got into the back of Martin Truex Jr.
Truex spun to the right and hit the wall and William Byron. He briefly got his car going straight again only to be hit by Alex Bowman and sent into Reddick’s path. Reddick ran square into the back of Truex and picked up some of the backstretch grass, damaging the car’s nose.
Reddick needed multiple pit stops for his team to make repairs. The car trailed smoke under caution – before and after a red flag forced Reddick to sit by himself on the apron in Turn 3 – but kept running to keep Reddick in the race.
“I could tell we had some residual oil burning off the headers and out from under the engine compartment, but we were holding pressures, and all the temperatures looked good, so I knew our car was fine, and it was a matter all that stuff out from underneath the engine compartment,” Reddick said. “It was kind of nice in a way to sit back there and kind of reset and think of what we had to do over (for the end).
“Nonetheless, it was still a lot tonight. But going through this, it’s going to make us tougher, and it’s going to make the next challenge seem like a lot less than this one.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 29, 2021
Fortunately for Reddick, that was only the first multi-car crash of the night. Reddick admitted he was worried about his chances before the lap 158 crash.
“I was a little worried the engine was getting really, really hot,” Reddick said. “I thought we were a couple of laps away from blowing up. Having to block some of the cars, hanging off the back (of the pack), trying to stay out of trouble. I was a little worried, but the caution came out, and we were able to stay up tight in the draft to keep our nose out of clean air and survived.”
It didn’t end there. In overtime, the field crashed going into Turn 3. Among those collected was Reddick’s teammate Austin Dillon, the first driver below the cutline, while Reddick was able to make it through. Except Reddick briefly forgot the race was official because the white flag flew and thought there would be another restart.
“I was getting ready to come down pit road, and Derek [Kneeland], my spotter, started screaming at me to gas it up and get to the line,” Reddick said. “True me fashion, I thought we were going to have to fix the thing and do it all over again.
“I didn’t see much; there was a lot of smoke. I hit the brakes as hard as I could, drove to the apron, missed the initial bit of it. I don’t know, the 48 [Alex Bowman] or somebody clipped my right rear, and I got hit the same way I did here a year ago … that took me out of the race, but thankfully, this time around, I saw it coming, and I turned the wheel left before the contact happened so I was able to keep from getting hooked right and hitting the outside wall.”
Reddick is seeded 15th on the playoff grid.