For the second year in a row, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 NASCAR Cup Series team will have a rookie driver behind the wheel. This one comes with quite a resume.
Tyler Reddick has two full seasons in the NASCAR Xfinity Series — and two series titles, including the 2019 campaign (which featured six wins) in RCR’s lone car in the series. In two seasons in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Reddick had a pair of top-10 points finishes as well, including a runner-up finish in 2015 at age 19.
Reddick turned 24 in January and has already shown remarkable consistency during his young career. His Xfinity wins and titles are only part of the story. Reddick posted 24 top-5 finishes and 27 top 10s in 2019. His average finish was a rock-solid 6.3, and he finished outside the top 15 just three times all year — and one of those was a 16th-place run.
How good is that? Cup Series champion Kyle Busch ran seven races in the Xfinity Series last year, won four of them and still didn’t post an average close to Reddick’s. The closest full-time driver, Chase Briscoe, had an eighth-place average, nearly two full positions behind Reddick.
Reddick ran for the title with two other NXS standouts in Custer and Christopher Bell, and this year the three will battle for the Cup rookie title. So how come Reddick — with a proven track record — rates as the underdog?
RCR has been a step behind the top-tier Cup teams for some time, as the organization has struggled to rebuild since Kevin Harvick’s departure after 2013. Can a 24-year-old rookie right that ship? Not in one year.
The question surrounding Reddick will be whether he can do what Harvick was able to do and take the equipment to the next level, finishing better than his cars appear capable of doing. He has one advantage in that he’ll be paired with Randall Burnett, the crew chief who he teamed with en route to winning the 2019 Xfinity title. He won’t have to learn to communicate with someone new, and Burnett has certainly been successful in getting Reddick’s car set up for the driver to get the best possible finish.
Will Reddick adjust to having cars that aren’t among the very best in the field? If he can do that and then figure out how to make them more competitive, he’s got a shot at turning some heads this year. Teammate Austin Dillon has more experience, which might give him an edge, but Reddick’s consistency could make him the top dog at RCR in terms of performance down the road.
Caterpillar returns as a sponsor on the No. 8. RCR hasn’t announced a full sponsor lineup, but it will likely look similar to 2019. Reddick is a driver with whom backers should want to be on board.
RCR underperformed as a team in 2019, finishing 21st and 25th in points with Dillon and Daniel Hemric. Satellites Germain Racing (24th with Ty Dillon) and Richard Petty Motorsports (28th with Bubba Wallace) also struggled to perform. That’s a lot for one driver to carry, let alone turn around. Reddick can’t be expected to work miracles. But if the rookie can develop some consistency, better finishes will follow. Long term, he might be the driver RCR needs.
Vegas Betting Odds to win 2020 Cup Championship: 100/1 (per Sportsbook.ag)
(Top photo courtesy of ASP, Inc.)