On the heels of their 2019 Rookie of the Year title with Daniel Hemric, Richard Childress Racing will try to double-down and make Tyler Reddick the top freshman of 2020. If they can accomplish the feat, it will have been done not only for the same team, but in the same car. Hemric was released at the end of 2019 to make room for Reddick.
Reddick joins a crowded rookie class that includes Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek, and Brennan Poole. If the No. 00 can get an exemption from NASCAR for the 17 races run in 2019, Quin Houff may also be considered a freshman this year as he runs his first full time season.
It’s not only a big class, but a strong one with Custer campaigning for Stewart-Haas Racing and Bell receiving major support from Joe Gibbs Racing. Under the right circumstances, these three drivers are capable of winning; not all of them will – perhaps none of them will – but the untested troika will create an interesting race within the race every week.
There were compelling reasons for Childress to bring Reddick to the Cup series – not the least of which was to insure that he was not poached by a rival organization. The biggest reason though, was that Reddick has been successful on nearly every track the Xfinity series visits with top-fives on 24 different venues.
His most successful track has been Homestead, where Reddick not only has three top-fives, but victories in the finale in 2018 and 2019 to secure the last two Xfinity championships. He’s scored three top-fives on another 1.5-mile track at Kansas and has two at Kentucky and Texas.
Reddick also scored a pair of top-fives at Iowa, Bristol, Dover, Phoenix, and Darlington – making him an interesting choice on short tracks and rough-surfaced courses.
He has one top-five finish each at Atlanta, Auto Club, Indy, New Hampshire, Pocono, and Richmond – as well as on the road courses of Road America, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, and the Charlotte Roval. In the second series, Reddick has been a constant threat.
That skill and self-assurance will carry over into the Cup series.
Custer and Bell have equally impressive numbers, however, and the vast majority of the Cup drivers he will face in 2020 are much more seasoned, aggressive, and have greater degrees of confidence. Moving up a division in NASCAR is not for the faint of heart.
Reddick got his feet wet in 2019 with a pair of Cup races. He ran extremely well in the Daytona 500 before getting swept into an accident and retiring on Lap 191. He avoided trouble in the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas in May to finish ninth. In that race, he finished ahead of Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. – and Hemric – in a race with no asterisk for fuel mileage, pit strategy, or major attrition.
The trouble with Young Guns is they don’t know what they don’t know. Even after successfully competing in a pair of Cup races last year, Reddick will find the weekly competition to be much stiffer. Rookies tear up a lot of equipment and there is no rhyme or reason as to when they are going to step over that boundary.
Our best guess before the season starts is that Reddick will be the top rookie 12 times in 2020. He will finish on the lead lap in about a third of his races and score a few top-10s. But then again, Custer and Bell should have an almost identical performance and predicting which of them will be the most fantasy relevant on a given week will be challenging.
Based on Reddick’s career so far, look for him to excel on drivers’ tracks that require him to manage the corners well – tracks like Darlington and Dover or momentum courses like Martinsville, the flat 1-milers, and road courses. Don’t panic if he does not come out of the gates as strong as the other rookies, but be prepared to adjust as the season progresses.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Wins: 9 (10.7%)
Top-5s: 35 (41.6%)
Top-10s: 52 (61.9%)
Poles: 7 (8.3%)
Wins: 3 (4.7%)
Top-5s: 25 (39.7%)
Top-10s: 40 (63.5%)
Poles: 1 (1.6%)
Top-5s: 1 (25.0%)
Top-10s: 2 (50.0%)