Tyler Reddick matched his career-best Cup Series finish Sunday at one of his known sweet spots on the NASCAR circuit, Homestead-Miami Speedway. Instead of overwhelming elation, his reaction — much like his car’s characteristics and capabilities — was a night-and-day difference.
Reddick pushed his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to second place in Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400, forging past early contenders Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson in the closing laps but finishing just shy of race winner William Byron. His fourth top-five finish of his career was also his second runner-up finish, equaling his result last July as part of a 1-2 finish with teammate Austin Dillon at Texas Motor Speedway.
Reddick’s penchant for rim-riding and capitalizing on Miami’s multiple grooves was on full display in the late going. The outing was reminiscent of his charges to season-ending victories in back-to-back Xfinity Series campaigns, lifting him to championships in 2018-19. But a 35th-place starting spot in Sunday’s race and a car that didn’t come to life until after sundown kept Reddick from putting his full Miami expertise to use until later.
“I don’t know why we were so off in the beginning of the day here,” said Reddick, now in his second Cup Series season. “Last year or in the summer, we took off really, really good in the daytime, so I saw we would be better in the day and everyone is going to catch up at night, and it was the opposite.
“Yeah, when you see how much faster you were than the guys in front of you and you know you’re running out of time, it gets frustrating. Really if you go back and look at one or two things that would have changed the outcome.”
Among those things: The starting spot deep in the 38-car field, plus a sluggish final restart that left him playing catch-up down the stretch. His runner-up finish helped him make gains after opening the year with 27th- and 38th-place results, but Reddick remains 23rd in the Cup Series standings in a season where new faces — not including his — are snatching up provisional playoff berths at a rapid pace.
“Yeah, I get it, can’t go back and change it, but we had a really bad start to the year,” Reddick said. “Second is great, but it’s not going to put us in a great — we’re still way back in the mess, in the mix of it.”
Though Reddick has yet to lead a lap this year, he was able to find a measure of consolation on friendly turf after two trying weeks at Daytona International Speedway — first on the superspeedway, then on the road course. Reddick showed glimpses of his potential in a promising rookie season last year but noted his difficulties in closing out strong performances. Sustaining the spirit of Sunday’s surge is the next challenge.
“Well, there’s a lot of positives,” Reddick said. “I feel like the story of our — of my rookie season and the story of our team last year was start off really good, midway through the race, just go all the — it just blows up in our face and we just don’t get a good finish out of it. Today was the opposite, which was nice. It’s something that we’ve been needing to get, figure out how we can have nights like this and what we can do to continue to stay hungry and keep fighting.”