Tyler Reddick 2022
James Gilbert | Getty Images

The domino effect: Tyler Reddick on verge of first win entering Sonoma, nearing playoffs 

It’s a relief Tyler Reddick will have multiple opportunities to analyze Sonoma Raceway’s road course this weekend from the seat of his No. 8 Chevrolet. Last year, the first time he experienced the wine country’s asphalt was when he sped past the waving green flag. 

The 2021 race marked Reddick’s debut at Sonoma, not just at NASCAR’s top level but across all three series. Due to COVID-19 concerns, there was no practice or qualifying. He finished 19th, completing the full 92-lap distance without any prior track work. Thankfully for Reddick, he’ll have both pre-race opportunities Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, FS1) to feel better prepared for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 (4 p.m. ET, FS1).

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 23: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 BetMGM Chevrolet, waits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 23, 2022 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
James Gilbert | Getty Images

“That was pretty crazy,” Reddick told NASCAR.com. “I’m racing in a field of drivers that have ran that track – at least a majority of them – at least 10 times, a lot of laps there. So, I’m playing catch-up. I’m having to try and learn a new configuration again, a lot of the same corners but the priorities of what corners you want to be good in are going to be different, so I’m just trying to manage that as best I can.”

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Also unlike last year, Sunday’s feature will be run on the 1.99-mile layout rather than the 2.52-miler used for the last two races in 2019 and 2021 (COVID-19 canceled 2020) – aka ever since Reddick joined the premier series full-time. The shorter course was the go-to option from 1998-2018. And now it’s back.

In his third full-time season, Reddick holds four top fives, six top 10s and a total of 249 laps led, which is good for sixth most in the garage. Just last week, he came in 16th at World Wide Technology Raceway, and he was sixth two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Before that, he was 30th at Kansas Speedway and second at Darlington Raceway, building on a rather up-and-down trend through 15 races.

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - APRIL 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Mars Crunchy Cookie Toyota, takes the checkered flag ahead of Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Logan Riely | Getty Images

Reddick has two runner-up finishes this year (Darlington-1, Bristol Dirt Race). In his career, he has five — and only one driver all-time has ever had more without a win (G.C. Spencer with seven).

“We have lots of speed pretty much every single weekend. There’s only been maybe two or three where we’ve not had it,” Reddick said. “I mean, we’re up there racing against guys that go to Victory Lane, some of them we’ve been better than all day to get the job done. It’s frustrating to see it happen, but the last thing any of us want to do when we see that is to get mad, give up, quit or quit putting in the effort that we have been all year. It’s just motivating us even further.”

With 11 races left in the regular season, Reddick sits 16th on the playoff bubble with a two-point cushion above the cutline. Currently, he claims the final transfer spot and one of the five currently available to drivers based on points. The 11 different winners this season have earned provisional postseason berths.

Although the Richard Childress Racing team is conscious of its playoff placement, members haven’t given it any thought – “zero,” Reddick said. If anything, they’re circling repeat tracks and keeping detailed notes. Reddick notes there is a lot of racing still left. The belief is if he and his crew keep doing business as usual, a checkered flag will be captured and a playoff ticket will be punched. 

“I’d like it to be like dominos,” Reddick said. “That’d be great.”