Race Weekend Central

Tyler Reddick Chats 2021 Improvements, NASCAR’s Next Gen Car & Fatherhood

Tyler Reddick is about to embark on his third full-time NASCAR Cup Series campaign.

His playoff berth in 2021 marked a season of career bests in the 26-year-old’s young career. The back-to-back Xfinity Series champion scored three top-five finishes while tacking on 16 top 10s and an average finish of 15.0.

Reddick and girlfriend Alexa De Leon welcomed son Beau in January 2020. Reddick won naming rights to their child by securing the 2019 Xfinity championship, his second straight title, ahead of the jump to Cup and Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 car.

Frontstretch caught up with Reddick ahead of the Busch Light Clash at the L.A. Coliseum to discuss the 2022 season at large, his thoughts on the Gen 7 Cup Series car and his first normal NASCAR season as a father.

Adam Cheek, Frontstretch: 2021 was an up-and-down season that ended on a few finishes outside the top 15, but it was a pretty solid year for you guys with three top fives, 16 top 10s and you making the playoffs. What did you learn most from your sophomore season in the Cup Series?

Tyler Reddick: I think, for myself, it was just a continuation of the process and goals that we’d really set for ourselves. Coming off of the rookie year [and] going into the following 2021 season, seeing a lot of those goals being fulfilled or a lot of improvement in those areas that we were striving for was probably the biggest thing. So from that aspect, it was a good year.

One of the things we wanted to do, obviously, was win. That was a big one that, unfortunately, we didn’t get. But there’s a lot of other things that were positives that went our way, or [didn’t go] our way but that we worked toward and then we were able to go get.

Cheek: If you had a track where you’d like to or think you could get your first win, where would that be?

Reddick: I’ve got a lot of good tracks at the beginning of the year for us, I think, or I feel that way anyways. With the last car, I felt like we were right on the cusp of really being one of the top five plate racing teams. With this new car, that all kind of gets shaken up, and it’s kind of a new game again. But I think Fontana [Auto Club Speedway], just the nature of the track.

We’re only gonna get 15 minutes to work on our cars. A lot of drivers have to adapt and just find ways to make their cars work over a race that’s gonna change a lot in the 400 miles that we have, so Fontana is up there, Auto Club Speedway is one of them. And then another one that I think, honestly, it’s even sneaking up on me, is Circuit of the Americas. It’s not in the middle of the summer like it was last year, it’s a race that comes up much, much sooner on the schedule. And it kind of seems like, in a bit of ways, that’s kind of sneaking up on everybody. It certainly sneaked up on us just a little bit.

(At this point, Reddick’s son Beau wandered in, discovered a flashlight and and eventually made off with said flashlight.)

Cheek: I wanted to ask about Beau. You and [girlfriend] Alexa have been parents to him for a couple of years now. How did you balance your home life, your career, being a dad and everything in between?

Reddick: It was difficult. For me, 2021 was a year where I found myself having to make more sacrifices than I initially thought I was going to have to at the Cup level, with COVID-19 and the pandemic just hitting the world like it did. During my rookie year, it gave me a rare opportunity to spend two or three months at home, not doing much of anything like everybody else was, and I got to spend a lot of time with my son, with Alexa.

And so once we got back into a more normal schedule of 2021, that time that I had the year before was pretty much all but completely gone the following year, so [I’m] just trying to spend the most time that I can. It’s a challenging thing. It’s been very obvious to me and my team that the time that we put forth into preparing these racecars, the time I can spend sharpening my skills, whatever it might be, are immensely important to what our race weekend results and performances are like. So trying to get as much as I can done so that I can be home and around, spend time with Beau is a very difficult thing to manage.

I’d love to not do any of those things and spend all the time I could in the world with my son, but that’s not really fair to my team. I have a lot of great men and women on my team that have kids, have family that they’d want to be spending time with as well. But, quite literally, they’ve got to clock in at seven in the morning and clock out no sooner than four. So I try and do as much as I can, try and get home as soon as I can, but yeah, it really does take away from the amount of time that I can spend with them. So it becomes very important, the time that I do have to really be present, not be distracted with work or other things that are going on.

Cheek: Did you learn anything in 2021 that you’ll put into practice this year regarding that balance you were talking about?

Reddick: Yeah, just continue to try and perfect that balance more and more, certainly the more that I can streamline my day. The earlier I can get up in the morning, pushing my boundaries, my limits as a human being, I guess. When I was younger and moved out here, when you’re 18, if you didn’t have to be in the gym by six, seven o’clock, you don’t necessarily have to clock in like a lot of normal jobs. So it was very easy when I moved out here to kind of lose track of what normal was and what a schedule was like.

And having [Beau] come into my life really demanded me to take myself to another level, to have my stuff together a little bit better, have a better routine, get more done throughout the day, be more efficient with my day so I can be home. And in a lot of ways, that desire to do that has actually made me a better driver, a better teammate to my organization RCR that I’m a part of. So it’s been a good thing for me.

Cheek: You mentioned Gen 7, kind of the elephant in the room going into this season. What have you learned the most over the last few months of testing, and what are the biggest differences you’ve noticed between that and the Gen 6?

Reddick: It’s almost impossible to describe the similarities, because I just don’t think there are any between the old car and this new car. The experiences you gather and the knowledge that you have from this last car don’t apply to this new car. But what you can apply is the drive, the energy you bring to the racetrack, to the shop on a daily basis. Just the work ethic that you need to have to be competitive on the Cup level, those things do kind of cross over. But the things that you learn in that process to make a Gen 6 car faster don’t seem in any way like they apply to the Gen 7 car.

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I mean, of course there’s certain things. Like the faster you go there’s always gonna be more downforce. You’re always trying to reach the max slip angle in the tire and not over-slip it. All those things are just kind of what make racing racing and what driving a car at the limit is like, but it’s how you get there with this old car to the new car — very, very different. And you just kind of have to hit the reset button and just remember what it’s like to not really know what a car’s supposed to do and try to figure out how am I going to learn as much as I can and just help your team in that process of gathering that information to make our racecars better.

Cheek: Is there anything you’re particularly fond of with the Next Gen car or that you’re excited to hit the track with, or is it just the attitude of everyone going into the same, brand-new car?

(Prior to Reddick’s answer, Beau returned, still roaming around with the aforementioned flashlight.)

Reddick: For me, the most exciting part about this car is just the fact that everyone’s kind of having to start from scratch, from ground zero, the foundation, and grow from there. And because of that, our motivation, our drive, our work ethic that we’ve put in place and then grew from there in a lot of ways allowed us to catch up and get better in some areas than our competitors who’ve had an edge over RCR for a couple years.

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So to start from scratch, everyone had the same opportunity to kind of build it up around them is exciting. Because I think we are in a good place in how we approach the race weekends, how we’ve approached the offseason, what we’re trying to accomplish. And so, because of that, there’s endless possibilities for us and our ceiling will be as high as we allow it to be. So we’re going to work today to try and keep raising that ceiling up as high as we can go.

Cheek: You mentioned Circuit of the Americas, some of these other new tracks you guys visited last year. Your best runs came on a variety of tracks — second at Homestead-Miami Speedway, second at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, fifth at Daytona International Speedway, then some top 10s at Bristol Motor Speedway dirt and Road America. How were you able to adapt to some of those so quickly?

Tyler Reddick: Yeah, that was a weakness of ours going into the 2021 season. Coming off the rookie year, there’s really only a small percentage of tracks we were good at, and it was the mile-and-a-halfs. It was kind of the the wore-out, Darlington [Raceway], Homestead-esque racetracks. So when we got to the road courses, we were garbage. When we got to the short tracks, we couldn’t get out of our own way, [and] it became really important to really focus on those areas that we weren’t so great at. And there’s no secret to that. We put in a lot of work, a lot of time and effort, into making myself better as a driver, on a short track or a road course, and finding ways to make the car better suited or make me feel more comfortable so I can be more consistent at those tracks as well.

Cheek: After making the playoffs last year and finishing 13th overall in points, what did you learn from being a part of the postseason and what have you taken from that experience for 2022?

Reddick: Well, without being too specific, I think the biggest takeaway is remembering just what your whole process is like and how you prepare. Mistakes were certainly made. Once we got to the playoffs, kind of having a sense of really needing to press all the buttons, which we certainly did. But we missed some things, what would seem very standard, routine things kind of slipped through our cracks.

And that kind of led to us not having that first round like we wanted to. And as soon as we kind of recognized that, that last race at Bristol went pretty good. But unfortunately, still, a few things can happen — a mistake, an issue occurs, it’s just part of racing. And because of those two races that we had at the start of that round being very subpar, we didn’t have a cushion really to lean on to get us out of that round.

So it was a good lesson. It was a tough lesson because we were definitely more than capable of finishing 13th in the playoffs, as we had a lot more speed, especially in the round after that. So when you look at it like that, one or two things that held us back are very, very correctable, very realistic things that can be adjusted fairly easily. With that in mind, we have a great opportunity to be able to get back to where we were last year and go even further.

About the author

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Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he works as a producer and talent for Audacy Richmond's radio stations. In addition to motorsports journalism, Adam also covered and broadcasted numerous VCU athletics for the campus newspaper and radio station during his four years there. He's been a racing fan since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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