Friday 5: Offseason not a time for rest for Tyler Reddick
When an up-and-down season that saw Tyler Reddick not secure a playoff spot until a roller-coaster night in the regular season finale, only to be eliminated in the first round, came to an end, he was not ready for a break.
“When I got to the first day after this past season and was that motivated to just roll into the next year without a break, I knew I was doing the right things last offseason and throughout this past year because I’m just as hungry - if not more hungry - than I was before,” Reddick told NBC Sports.
“The effort, the time and the experience gained (the previous offseason) was clearly paying off, so the motivation was there to just, ‘Let’s turn it up a little more if we can. Let’s pick it up a notch and take it even further.’”
Last offseason’s effort helped Reddick improve on road courses and set the foundation for this offseason, preparing for the debut of the Next Gen car and the chance to score his first Cup victory.
His focus on road courses last offseason led to a pole at Circuit of the Americas and four top-10 finishes at such tracks, including a runner-up performance at the Charlotte Roval. His three stage wins last year all came at road courses. Top-10 finishes at Road America (eighth), COTA (ninth) and Watkins Glen (10th) played a key role in securing the final Cup playoff spot last season.
Offseason is a chance to improve for Reddick and not just take a break.
“Whatever it is in life that you want or really desire … it doesn’t just come to you,” Reddick said. “You have to go out there, whether that is quite literally get out there and figure it out, or put something in place or position to gain experience.
“The time I put into (improving on road courses last offseason) equaled the reward that I got out of it for getting better at something that I felt like I truly struggled with. Just lots and lots of time.”
This offseason presents a challenge because there are so many unknowns with the Next Gen car.
Reddick notes how reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson races so much beyond NASCAR, giving him chances to refine his skills and experience a variety of situations that could prove helpful in his Cup car.
“When I think of somebody that spends as much time in a race car as possible, trying to learn and trying to get better, (Larson) has got everybody beat by a lot,” Reddick said. “You could probably add the amount of lap time or track time that he has and you could probably throw five or six other drivers together and you wouldn’t still get the amount he has. He’s just raced so much.”
Reddick said one way to match some of what Larson has done on track is through working hard in the offseason and that includes iRacing. Reddick says it can be helpful driving different types of cars on iRacing than he would normally race in preparing for the unknowns of the Next Gen car.
“The learning process that you go through from your first lap on and how much can you speed that up is very important,” he said. “I think that is something Kyle (Larson) is really good at. He’s put himself in a lot of different race cars and been able to adapt to them really quickly. He’s done that a lot still to this day, and I think that allows him to be able to run so well in the Cup Series.”
Larson is among six Cup drivers with rides for 2022 scheduled to compete in next week’s Chili Bowl, joining Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Elliott, who won the 2020 Cup title, began running midget cars in Dec. 2020. Elliott says he likes the challenge of learning a new discipline of racing.
“I don’t mind getting embarrassed, I just want to get better,” Elliott said on MRN’s “NASCAR Live” this week.
Reddick doesn’t have the option for such racing, so his focus has been finding other ways to improve in the offseason.
“Not knowing what the car is going to drive like to the full extent, you don’t want to do too much of one thing and start to lead yourself down a false path,” Reddick said. “Because of that, the energy and focus that I had available that we were able to direct at a specific number of things, kind of had to widen that out (this offseason).”
Even with the new car, there are lessons that can carry over from last season. For the highs and lows that Reddick and his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team went through to make the playoffs, one of the biggest lessons came in the playoff opener in the Southern 500. Reddick struggled with his car, finishing 18th.
“All this extra effort in all these little areas to really go through the details is great, but if you break away from the fundamentals that are the foundation for all those little extra things that make it much more complete, you have nothing, you have no foundation to base on,” Reddick said. “That’s where we just faltered a little bit. We got so caught up in getting all the details on the car right, me paying attention to all the little details of the track changing and all these other things, that we just got away from the very simple stuff.”
Lesson learned and focus is on the Next Gen car. Reddick is scheduled to be back in the car next week during the second day of NASCAR’s organizational test (Jan. 11-12) at Daytona International Speedway.
“My approach is kind of going in with an open mind and just absorbing as much as I can,” Reddick said of that test.
2. Busting at the seams
Kaulig Racing will field five teams this season and all of them are operating out of one shop with another building not expected to be ready until the end of the month.
“We are busting at the seams,” Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing told NBC Sports.
It’s just been part of a busy offseason for Rice and the organization, which will field two full-time Cup cars this season and three Xfinity teams.
“I’ve worked the entire time,” Rice said. “I do what I love, so I’m not working, honestly. I’m more concerned doing a good job for the fans with the new Cup car, with the Next Gen car.
“I’ve been very involved, probably more than most new teams with watching what goes on at the practices, speaking up in the meetings. I’ve been involved in that.
“Our new shop, we renovated that, that’s been a little bit of a hassle because everybody is behind in everything. … My wife Tammy always tells me, ‘Hey, God has got it, so don’t stress it.’ It’s been definitely more stressful, not due to going Cup racing, not due to getting people, just the parts and pieces and the things that are out there that are hard to get.”
Rice said this week the organization had two Cup cars. He said they’ve tested the same car at each of the organizational tests and will use the same car at next week’s organizational test at Daytona.
Justin Haley will drive the No. 31 for the full season in Cup. AJ Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson will split time in the No. 16 Cup car this season.
Even with all the work this offseason, Rice says it’s important to have a light mood.
“We try to have fun,” he said. “Our victory lane celebrations are genuine. It’s not something that we’re putting on. We know for a fact that we might not ever be in victory lane again. That might be the last time we step in victory lane. That’s not our plan, but we know for sure that it’s a privilege to win one of these NASCAR races.
“We let everyone know at Kaulig Racing that we’re going to do everything we can to keep the fun, no matter what is going on. We want to know everyone’s life. We want to be a part of their family. We want them to understand this is a family atmosphere but also it’s a competitive sport.
“When you walk into the Cup garage, the intensity steps up. It’s only because throughout so many years we’ve allowed that to happen. It’s still NASCAR racing. It’s still racing and it still should be fun.”
3. The development of the Next Gen car
It is less than a month before the Next Gen car makes its debut in a race in the Feb. 6 Busch Light Clash exhibition race at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
It has been quite a journey for the car. It was scheduled to make its debut in 2021 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted development of the car in 2020 and pushed the vehicle’s debut to this season.
Here’s a look at the tests that have been done with the car since 2019:
Oct. 8-9, 2019: Austin Dillon at Richmond
Dec. 9-10, 2019: Joey Logano at Phoenix
Jan. 15-16, 2020: Erik Jones at Homestead
March 2-3, 2020: William Byron at Auto Club Speedway
Aug. 24-25, 2020: Cole Custer at Dover
Nov. 16-17, 2020: Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. at Charlotte Motor Speedway (one day on Roval and one day on the oval)
Dec. 15-16, 2020: Chris Buescher at Daytona
Jan. 12, 2021: Kurt Busch at Charlotte oval
March 16-17, 2021: Bubba Wallace at Richmond
March 30-31, 2021: Alex Bowman (Chevrolet), Drew Herring (Toyota) and David Ragan (Ford) in a manufacturer test at Martinsville
April 6-7, 2021: Tyler Reddick at Darlington for a tire test
June 1-2, 2021: Kurt Busch (Chevrolet), David Ragan (Ford) and Drew Herring (Toyota) at manufacturer test at Charlotte oval.
June 29-30: Ross Chastain (Chevrolet), David Ragan (Ford) and Drew Herring (Toyota) at manufacturer test at Dover.
June 30, 2021: Crash test of Next Gen car at Talladega
July 27-28, 2021: Justin Allgaier (Chevrolet), David Ragan (Ford) and Drew Herring (Toyota) at manufacturer test at Texas.
Aug. 18, 2021: Christopher Bell at Bristol.
Sept. 7-8, 2021: Chris Buescher, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano at Daytona
Oct. 11-12, 2021: Organizational test at Charlotte Roval
Oct. 26, 2021: Tony Stewart does tire test at Bowman Gray in preparation for Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer also run laps in the car that day.
Nov. 17-18, 2021: Organizational test at Charlotte oval
Dec. 9, 2021: Stewart Friesen did a tire test at Lancaster (South Carolina) Motor Speedway in preparation for the dirt race at Bristol.
Dec. 15 and 17, 2021: Organizational test at Charlotte oval
Jan. 5-6, 2022: Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain and Chris Buescher at Atlanta for a tire test on the repaved track
Jan. 11-12, 2022: Organizational test at Daytona
Jan. 25-26, 2022: Organizational test at Phoenix
4. Top teams in the last three years
Winless in its first three seasons, Kaulig Racing has become one of the top teams in the past three seasons. The organization is tied for third in wins since the 2019 season in the Xfinity Series.
Here are the teams with the most wins in the Xfinity season since 2019
33 - Joe Gibbs Racing
16 - Stewart-Haas Racing
14 - Kaulig Racing
14 - JR Motorsports
13 - Team Penske
7 - Richard Childress Racing
In the Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing also has won the most races in that stretch.
Here are the Cup teams with the most wins since 2019:
37 - Joe Gibbs Racing
28 - Hendrick Motorsports
19 - Team Penske
15 - Stewart-Haas Racing
4 - Chip Ganassi Racing
In the Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch Motorsports has the most wins. Here’s a look at the winningest Truck teams since 2019:
22 - Kyle Busch Motorsports
18 - GMS Racing
10 - ThorSport Racing
8 - Hattori Racing Enterprises
3 - Niece Motorsports
5. NASCAR competition changes
NASCAR announced this week that Brad Moran will be the Cup Series Managing Director and oversee the Cup garage. He replaces Jay Fabian, who stepped away from his duties in August after facing charges of animal cruelty.
Moran had been the series director in the Camping World Truck Series since July 2016.
“The entire competition team is incredibly strong at the NASCAR Cup Series level, and I look forward to helping them grow the series at this exciting time in our sport,” Moran said in a statement from NASCAR. “As we introduce the Next Gen car and continue to promote the outstanding talent and personalities at NASCAR’s top level, I’m honored to help shepherd the series alongside this experienced group of teammates.”
NASCAR also announced that Seth Kramlich will take over Moran’s role overseeing the Truck Series this season. Kramlich had been the assistant director in the Xfinity Series the past three seasons
Wayne Auton remains Xfinity Series Managing Director.