To be fair, two championships in a feeder division of NASCAR doesn’t guarantee success on a higher level, as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can tell you. It’s a monumental accomplishment, sure. Every driver wants the title “NASCAR Champion” next to their name for the rest of their lives, and it’s not an easy thing to accomplish.
That said, with the rise of Tyler Reddick to two-time XFINITY Series champion, we may be witnessing the rise of something huge. Reddick’s ability behind the wheel may make him more than just a NASCAR star, it may just make him a legend in the sport.
He’s shown an innate ability to run well at all types of tracks; in 2019 the only kind of track he didn’t win on was a road course. Even then, in the four road courses on the schedule (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Charlotte Roval), he finished fifth, fourth, third, and second, respectively. In the meanwhile, he won on a wide array of tracks from Charlotte and Talladega to Bristol and Homestead. This after a successful Rookie of the Year/Championship campaign in 2018 where he won at Daytona in February and Homestead in November for his only two wins of the season.
In 2020 he’ll be making his run for RotY in the same No. 8 Chevrolet that Daniel Hemric won the award in for Richard Childress Racing. Although Hemric’s campaign was both quiet and consistent, peppered with strong runs at places like Talladega and Pocono, it happened to be too quiet. Reddick’s limited two-run Cup campaign (Daytona 500 in February, Kansas Speedway in May) in the RCR No. 31 showed a little more promise with a top-10 at Kansas. However, that’s not to say that he wasn’t having a strong run at Daytona before being involved in two major incidents, not of his doing.
If it says something that Reddick performed like he did in an entry that wasn’t even part-time, then what will it say when his Randall Burnett-led crew (2019 XFINITY Championship-winning crew, at that) makes the jump to Cup with him? Reddick and Burnett already seem to have the Knaus/Johnson chemistry of the early 00s’, so there’s reason to believe that strong results will be showing up. It isn’t a matter of where but when.
Talk of being legendary in the sport isn’t so far-fetched, either. Reddick isn’t flashy, he isn’t boisterous, he doesn’t really have much of a brand. He isn’t making cameo appearances on NBC sitcoms and he doesn’t have a funny podcast on Apple Podcasts. He’s got an energetic smile and an easygoing personality, though, and he’s got the ability to wheel the fire out of a race car.
He’s much like Matt Kenseth or David Pearson in that sense. He’s not big on big talk. Instead, he prefers to let his driving speak for him, which is why he’s found so much success in NASCAR’s feeder divisions. He won in the K&N Pro Series, he won in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and he’s won two XFINITY Series championships.
Now he’s facing down a full-time ride with Richard Childress Racing in their No. 8 Caterpillar Chevy, and the pieces are in place for Reddick and Burnett to make the most of their rookie year. If Reddick’s performance in the XFINITY Series is any indicator, we may be looking at the rise of some of the rawest talent in years to ever strap into a Cup Series stock car.