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In 2019, Tyler Reddick hoisted the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship trophy for the second season in a row, becoming the first back-to-back title winner since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011-12. Two years later, the second-year Cup Series driver for Richard Childress Racing is battling the pressure of being an underdog while chasing his first Bill France Cup.
“The pressure is certainly different,” said Reddick. “Coming from the Xfinity side and running for those championships, we were — if you will — deemed one of the top teams. For the last couple of years, RCR has done a really good job of building up to get back to the status as one of the top teams in the Cup Series and get our cars closer to going out there and winning races.”
Though winless, Reddick edged out RCR teammate Austin Dillon for the final points position in the NASCAR Playoffs after the thrilling regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway. While Reddick is making his Round of 16 debut and keeping the organization’s title hopes alive, Dillon’s eight years of top-flight experience and four playoff appearances have provided his younger counterpart with a sense of composure and chemistry moving forward into the postseason.
“Austin is a very consistent team and organizational leader,” said Reddick. “Things happen to all of us, but you never see Austin letting one bad race or one bad thing carry on. Being around that really helps me stay centered, as well. He’s done a really good job of allowing his position in the No. 3 car to help the organization and it motivates me to see him just be himself. It’s been such a good pairing.”
So far this season, Reddick has made huge strides in many categories. Through 27 of 36 races, the No. 8 wheelman has his first career pole, four more top 10s and only one fewer top five than his full 2020 rookie season.
His first bid at a Cup championship has continued the learning experience.
“When you’re in a Cup car and running against Cup guys and teams, there’s normally less mistakes and less room for error,” said Reddick. “In the playoffs, it’s all about execution, doing all the right things and just staying very aware of what our position is and what realistic goals we have once our races get rolling.”
In the midst of the playoffs among a cluster of seasoned veterans, Reddick knows the pressure only increases from here — starting with Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports Live, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“It’s all about racing the track and making the most out of our night with our team,” said Reddick. “Surely, there will be moments where some of the veterans — and even some of the younger drivers — will feel like they can get in somebody’s head, and get an advantage. But I feel good with what we’ve worked on and where we’re at as a team to stay on path and do what we need to do tomorrow night.”
Racing on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 brings added emotion to the playoff intensity.
“It’s important to remember the sacrifices that people selflessly stepped up to make,” said Reddick. “There are a lot of emotions that will be involved, for sure. I’m taking all of the energy and using it as something that can be positive for me going into the race.”
Saturday’s showcase marks Reddick’s third Cup Series race at Richmond. He enters tied for 12th place in the playoff standings (the final Round of 12 transfer spot) with 2026 points.
“On paper, we gained on the cutline [after Darlington] but we are still sitting on it,” said Reddick. “But certainly, we felt like it showed that we had a car that was capable of running much better than 18th. Knowing that really lit a fire under us and we are still more motivated than we’ve been all year long. We faced a challenge that definitely beat us down, but we know what to do moving forward and we’re ready to put up another fight at Richmond.”