Tyler Reddick eyes deep playoff run – if he makes it there

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Tyler Reddick found himself 28th in NASCAR Cup Series points after finishing outside the top 20 in five of the season’s first six races.

Since then, he’s climbed all the way to 11th. And with two regular season races to go, he holds the final playoff spot by 28 points over Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon.

It’s been an impressive effort. And yet, it may not be enough.

During his season-opening skid, Reddick finished second behind William Byron at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He hasn’t been that close to a win since.

And with no win, he can be knocked off the bubble by an upset victory from someone behind the cut line – either this Sunday at Michigan International Speedway or in the Aug. 28 regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.

Last year, Reddick failed to make the playoffs as mistakes in his rookie Cup season proved too much to overcome.

This year, based on everything he and his No. 8 team have done to get into this position, he senses a real opportunity if they can make it in.

“I think we’re running good enough to make it through the first round and have a really good shot at making it through the second round to round three, honestly,” Reddick said Wednesday in a media teleconference.

“We’re right in that window, so that’s really important to make it into the playoffs because we are going to have some Playoff points from the Stage wins. If things go right, we’ll get some more from where we’re at in the regular season standings.

“A lot is on the line for us in that regard because it’s not a matter of just making the Playoffs. I think where we’re running right now and where our RCR team is going – and Austin (Dillon) as well – we are good enough to make it go deeper into the playoffs than just make it a one and done.”

Something else has changed from last year to this year for Reddick as well.

Unable to make the playoffs in 2020, Reddick admits that it was “very easy to kind of get down in the dumps.”

That goal has remained in 2021, but his idea of success has expanded. He wants to help continue the No. 8’s performance gains all the way to season’s end, no matter how his playoff push ends.

Not everything is in Reddick and his team’s control at this point. That’s something that is.

“…For us, it’s just about that rate of improvement and continue to improve all year long and not losing that drive to improve,” he said. “So even if the unthinkable happens and some crazy upset winner happens at Daytona, the season isn’t over. It’s not a bust.

“The drive and the motivation we have would probably only just increase as we try to really work on making everything better within our team … and how we do better as a team once we get thrown into a brand new car for next year.”

But what about the next two weeks? He and Dillon remain mano-a-mano for the final playoff spot, and their battle could end thanks to someone else.

If communication between Reddick’s No. 8 team and Dillon’s No. 3 team became minimal at best in such a situation, one could see it as understandable.

However, Reddick insists that hasn’t been the case. In fact, he said over the last month – and particularly during the two-week Olympic break – the two teams worked closely together on cars and set-ups for the road races at Watkins Glen and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That same philosophy is being carried into this weekend.

“As much as it seems like the doors would shut at this point in time when it’s the No. 3 and the No. 8 fighting for 16th and 17th, the doors have never been more open,” Reddick added.

“There’s lots of sharing going on. We both know that if we want to do well in the Playoffs or make the Playoffs, we each need to keep pushing the other along the way. And we’ve been doing a great job of that this year.

“Going into Michigan – the same thing. It’s happening this week, too.”

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Tyler Reddick eyes deep playoff run – if he makes it there originally appeared on NBCSports.com