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November 17, 2018

Reddick’s all grown up — just in time to win Xfinity Series title

Tyler Reddick’s growth and maturation as a driver were on full display Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And now, he’s a champion.

Reddick won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship for JR Motorsports by winning the Ford EcoBoost 300, book-ending his year after his season-opening win in his first full-time campaign in the series. The 22-year-old Reddick beat out Championship 4 contenders Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Daniel Hemric to reach the series pinnacle.

“We had to overcome a lot,” Reddick said after exiting his car. “This year was all about learning. It was an up-and-down year and with everything we had to do, we had to do it in the playoffs, and it rewarded us with a championship. We can hang our hat on that.

“I know people will say we weren’t consistent, but we got it done when it counted most.”

RELATED: Race results

Reddick opened the 2018 season with a bang, winning his second career Xfinity Series race in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway to seal the first spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs. The official margin of victory — 0.000 seconds — was the closest in NASCAR national series history.

But the driver struggled to find his way following that win. It took until deep in the playoffs for the No. 9 team to be running for the win late as growing pains were evident during Reddick’s first year with the team.

On Saturday under the lights, everything came together. Reddick led 44 laps, third-highest in the race, but soared to the lead on the strength of some pit strategy that saw him pit early in the final run.

He passed Bell for P1 on Lap 164, then held off a hard-charging Custer — who led the opening 93 laps — by riding the rim at a track known for rewarding those who can run the top successfully.

RELATED: Custer laments late stop

“I knew coming in here if we just made it to Homestead, this is a great track for me, it rewards my aggression,” Reddick said. “We hit the wall a lot, but the car kept in one piece long enough for me to get to the end.”

The JR Motorsports driver was quiet on the radio after taking the checkered flag, soaking the win in and letting crew chief Dave Elenz and others holler out celebrations.

It was a moment of reflection for the driver, who would later say multiple times that he made too many mistakes this year.

A seven-race summer stretch resulted in just one top-1o finish and four finishes of 25th or worse and took his name out of the championship discussion, but driver and team both righted the ship in time for the title push.

RELATED: Junior praises Reddick

“It’s just a great moment,” Reddick said in Victory Lane as the title win began to sink in. “This isn’t going to be the year where the best car all year won. We had to fight really, really hard. I made a lot of mistakes. I had a lot of growing pains. These guys didn’t give up on me.”

It’s the second consecutive championship for team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., who runs JR Motorsports with his sister, Kelley. William Byron won the 2017 series title in the same No. 9 Chevrolet. Chase Elliott earned the organization’s first title in 2014, also in the No. 9.

Reddick scored three career victories in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with now-defunct Brad Keselowski Racing from 2014-16, finishing second in the standings in 2015 before making the jump to the Xfinity Series. He will make the switch from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing’s Xfinity Series program in 2019.

“We dug down deep when it mattered most, and we got it done,” Reddick said. “We had to run well and we were consistent and got to Homestead. I knew if we got here, we had a good shot at getting this championship done.”