CONCORD, N.C. — Road-course racing used to be a source of apprehension for Tyler Reddick. The skin-crawling thought of mixing in right turns among the left, and the NASCAR Cup Series schedule’s recent expansion to a half-dozen twisty circuits only heightened the phobia.
Recent road-course runs suggest the fears are starting to subside, evidenced by Reddick’s Sunday surge to a runner-up finish on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. The Richard Childress Racing driver’s day was dotted by a pair of crucial miscues — one that left him nursing slight right-side damage early and another that had him playing damage control late with William Byron — but the outcome matched a Cup Series career-best result.
Reddick started 29th after his crash the previous week at Talladega skewed his performance metrics for Sunday’s Roval lineup. A scrape of the wall during the race’s opening stage left him second-guessing what the car’s potential could have been as he tried in vain to chase down the No. 5 Chevrolet of eventual race winner Kyle Larson.
“It does leave a ‘what if’ in your mind,” Reddick said post-race. “It’s like if I hadn’t crashed this car early in the race, and almost ended our day, it should have been a little bit faster.”
But Reddick’s No. 8 Chevy has shown glimmers of improvement in road-racing environs this year. He also won the pole position in qualifying for the Cup Series’ inaugural race at the Circuit of The Americas in May. The organization’s overall betterment also rubbed off on RCR teammate Austin Dillon, who historically hasn’t counted road racing as a strong suit but resided among the top five for certain stretches Sunday before settling for 15th place.
All of those components have gone a long way toward reducing Reddick’s goosebumps.
“I tell you what, when he got over to RCR in 2019, man, there wasn’t anything he dreaded more than road racing,” said Randall Burnett, the No. 8 team’s crew chief. “That’s all Tyler Reddick there. He’s put in the work and the effort to get better at these places, and it just kind of shows the talent this kid’s got. He’s unbelievable and able to adapt to a lot of things. Put in a lot of effort this winter, and they’ve put a lot of effort in our road-course cars to make them better. … He’s putting everything together, and we’re going to have a handful next year.”
Reddick acknowledged the extra effort on RCR’s own behalf, but also tipped his cap to the technical alliance shared with Kaulig Racing and road-racing veteran AJ Allmendinger, an Xfinity Series title contender and Cup Series winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course this season.
“Our team worked really hard in the offseason to clean up and make better what was our worst type of racing,” said Reddick, who made his first postseason appearance this season but was eliminated in the Round of 16. “A year ago here, I was absolutely terrible and just dreading getting to it, but now with this car, we felt like we had the best shot to win. It’s just a shame to not take advantage of it.”
Reddick also had his regrets about contact with William Byron as their contest for position heated up with 19 laps to go. Reddick admitted that he “just flat-out made a mistake” as he raced in close quarters with Byron and Larson, and that his bump cost the former a shot at winning — his only means of advancing from the Round of 12.
“We hated that to happen. We were racing him hard, and we’ve raced those guys clean all year long,” Burnett said. “Tyler’s one of the cleanest drivers out there. By no means intentional, you’ve just got the 5 here on your door and the 24’s right in front of you, you’re kind of in the middle and you sail off in there and the 24 checks up just a tick before you’re ready to and stuff like that happens. Like I said, it’s unfortunate and kind of ruined their chances of maybe winning the race, but we’re here racing our guts out, too. We’re racing for our life, and at end of the day, wind up still second.
“Still got a little bit to learn. The guy in the 5 car’s pretty good, so still got to figure out a way to beat him, and we’ll go from there.”