NASCAR Cup Series racing is a high-stress business, as Tyler Reddick and crew chief Randall Burnett know well. This is why the Richard Childress Racing duo make sure to have fun where they can – like with their radio communication.
It is not uncommon to hear Burnett refer to Reddick as “little buddy” or “homie.” Both are used frequently and interchangeably, and there is no specific reason for when they come out. It’s just what Burnett does. Reddick has heard it since race one, day one, when he was paired with Burnett in 2019 in the Xfinity Series.
“I’m pretty sure he called other drivers that, so I didn’t think too much of it,” Reddick said. “Depending on how the day is going, when he does say it, it gets different reactions out of me. But I’ve gotten used to it, and it’ll follow with something I give back to him.”
Burnett isn’t sure why he started talking like that beyond it being something he once heard.
“I have fun with that,” Burnett said. “My dad always called me homie for some reason. When I was growing up, that was his words. He’d say, ‘Hey homie, are you all right?’ It just extended to me and it comes out. That’s how I signed off my transmissions.”
Reddick joined the Childress organization after winning the 2018 Xfinity Series title with JR Motorsports. He and Burnett instantly clicked, winning six races together and Reddick’s second straight title. When the time came for Childress to discuss moving Reddick to the Cup Series, those conversations included Burnett moving with him and Burnett didn’t hesitate.
It may not look like the two have much in common. While they both have children, there is an age gap, and Burnett is a NASCAR veteran, whereas Reddick is always quick to point out those he’s working with have been in NASCAR racing far longer than he has. But the two bonded quickly over a love of racing and having similar backgrounds spent growing up in racing and around dirt.
It goes without saying that a driver’s relationship with his crew chief is vital. Some of the best in the business have the longest relationship because they are built on common ground and trust — think Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, or Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli, and even Kevin Harvick and Rodney Childers. It’s only been four years for Reddick and Burnett, but their relationship has been solid from the beginning.
“We get along really well,” Reddick said. “I’ve worked with him longer than any other crew chief in my racing career. We were really comfortable with each other from day one, but the amount of ground we’ve been able to cover individually and together as a team has been really great up to this point.”
When you ask Burnett to tell you about his driver, he laughs and says Reddick is one of a kind.
“One of the things I like the most about Tyler is he is as much a part of this team as you can possibly be,” Burnett said. “He’s with the guys, at the shop working. He’s doing everything on his end to make himself better, to make this whole deal better. It’s kind of rare to find that these days, so it’s a pretty big privilege for all of us to work with him.”
Those who spent a good deal of time listening to the No. 8 radio will quickly discover Reddick and Burnett have roles beyond just being driver and crew chief. As odd as it might sound, the two don’t fight.
“This Cup deal is pretty high stress,” said Burnett, “and we had a lot of fun on the Xfinity side with always being a frontrunner and winning races. We tried to carry that mentality over to this side, even as stressful as it is. If you are off a little bit on the Cup side, they’re going to make you pay for it all day long.
“He and I, we’re both lighthearted enough to know this deal is hard enough as it is. We don’t need to make it harder on ourselves. Honestly, we’re privileged to be doing this for a living. He’ll get worked up sometimes, and I’ll have to be the level-headed one, and then sometimes I’ll make a bad pit call or do something silly on my end, and I’ll be beating myself up, so he has to be the level-headed one. We take turns.”
Reddick doesn’t hesitate to criticize himself, and encourages Burnett to take risks.
“He does do that,” Burnett said. “He’s not shy at trying to egg me on to play my hand, or make a big adjustment or something like that. He knows how to push my buttons to get me to do it.”
Countered Reddick, “When I get mad and say stuff about myself, it almost pisses me off, even more when he tries to make me feel better about it. I want him to tell me, ‘You suck. You really screwed up,’ and he won’t’ tell me that when I want to hear it sometimes. But maybe that’s why we work so well together.”
Understanding that they are on the same team and have the same goal, there is an underlying belief in the communication between Reddick and Burnett that things will get better. On the days when it takes more grinding than others for a result, the team knows to keep working.
“We believe in each other, and I know he’s giving me 110%, and he knows I’m doing the same,” said Burnett. “As long as we keep that mentality, and neither one feels the other is laying down, we’re going to continue to make it better. Everybody on this 8 car has bought into that mentality.”
In 84 races together at the Cup level, Reddick and Burnett have led laps, finished in the top five and participated in the playoffs. Next comes breaking through for a win, which looks closer than ever. And Burnett admitted he wants to win for his driver because of how hard Reddick works.
And you can bet when that day comes, the “little buddy” and “homie” references on the radio will be as loud and proud as ever.