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Kyle Larson, Austin Cindric calling it: Tyler Reddick will win — soon

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The champ has spoken. Keep an eye on Tyler Reddick in 2022.

During Wednesday’s preseason Media Day at Daytona International Speedway, 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson predicted a career year for his junior competitor. Reddick drives the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet — just as a reminder of which car to follow once the season begins Sunday with the Daytona 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM).

“I feel like when I watch him, I am watching myself just because we are both really aggressive,” Larson said. “And he seems to be even a little more aggressive and kind of keep things in control better than I could back when I was running really hard in Ganassi equipment trying to run up front.

“He’s the guy that I look at this year, that I feel like is going to have the breakout season and win a lot of races.”

DAYTONA 500: Weekend schedule | Betting odds | All-time winners

Larson, now with Hendrick Motorsports, spent his first six full-time seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing. It was in his third run that he broke through to Victory Lane. Reddick is about to begin his third year, too, trending in the same direction.

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So far, in 74 career starts, Reddick has notched six top-five and 26 top-10 finishes. Those stats include three runner-up showings – 2020 at Texas Motor Speedway and 2021 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval.

An already existing difference between the two drivers, though: Larson didn’t qualify for the playoffs until his third season. Reddick did in his second, by virtue of points. He was eliminated after the Round of 16 last year, ultimately finishing 13th in the standings.

“I don’t know,” Larson said. “I think Tyler Reddick is going to have an amazing season. I think he’s been the best car at all the tests. I think he showed last week at the Clash that he is really good.”

Reddick led a second-best 51 laps in the Busch Light Clash two weeks ago. His transaxle broke, however, with 97 laps remaining, leaving him 21st on the results sheet.

Before that, there were two Next Gen tests in January – one at Daytona, another at Phoenix Raceway. Reddick recorded the second-fastest speed Day 1 at Phoenix, falling short to Larson himself by 0.145 seconds. He was then 16th-fastest Day 2 at Daytona. His 50.218-second lap then can’t compare to his 48.788-second and 48.401-second runs Tuesday during the opening two Daytona 500 practices.

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“Well, unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any drafting while we were (testing) here,” Reddick said. “So, it’s really kind of opposite and I really want to learn what the car is capable of. I had Randall (Burnett, crew chief) all pissed off last night because I was dragging the brake and paying back into (Kevin) Harvick so he could push me around the race track. So, I am already being a little more aggressive than I should be, but what’s new?”

Nothing, if asking Larson.

Reddick did win back-to-back Xfinity Series championships between 2018-19 before he moved up to the Cup Series level. After he left, the Xfinity title went to Austin Cindric, who is once again a competitor as he joins the Cup ranks as a rookie this year. He, too, expects a checkered-flag breakthrough – and soon.

“Like, he’s been doing awesome, by the way,” Cindric said. “I say that because he’s my friend. But I’ve been waiting for the Tyler Reddick Cup win for a long time.”