In the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, Tyler Reddick’s mind was split into two functions.
“Probably about 50%” of it was worried that a tire on his No. 8 Chevrolet was going to give up on him, resulting in the same race-ending fate as previous race leaders Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott and sending Reddick into the wall.
“The other 50% was just (focused) on running clean laps,” Reddick said.
A handful of laps away from his third career NASCAR Cup win of the season and his career, Reddick had plenty of reasons to be concerned. Not just because of the rash of tire failures on Sunday. He had his team’s own history in potential race winning situations on oval tracks this season to nag at his conscious.
“It’s just because we’ve had a lot of those issues this year,” Reddick said. “(At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California), we were leading … and blew a tire. Unfortunately got ran over by William (Byron) and our day ended.
“(In the Coca-Cola 600), another really strong car. We were running second behind Ross (Chastain). Had a failure. We were able to rebound from Charlotte. There’s just been a lot of races this year that’s been that way.
“Because of that, yeah, it’s in the back of my mind. Again, everyone knows it coming into this. You got to push some limits. Unfortunately with this new tire, with this new car, it’s a little bit more sensitive to it. You just have to be on top of it a little bit better, pay attention to the tires after practice.”
Reddick and the No. 8 team discovered from Saturday’s practice session they had been too aggressive with their right-front tire setup.
“Certainly with the way the practice is set up, you take a chance of not running enough laps, if you’re working on your car a lot, to really get a read on if you’re too low on air pressure or too aggressive on one thing or another,” Reddick said. “In our case we ran enough laps, were able to see that we had been too aggressive on our right front tire. So we made some adjustments going into the race, thankfully.”
Unlike Elliott, Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell (twice), Chris Buescher and others, Reddick’s concerns as night fell were for naught.
He managed to beat Joey Logano by 1.1 seconds.
“It was a huge sense of relief, for sure,” Reddick said. “To finally cross the line, know that we finished the race, that vibration wasn’t really anything at all, as it seemed, was a huge sense of relief for us.”
That good feeling is also a good antidote for a somewhat disappointing way to end the season.
A week after being eliminated from the NASCAR Cup playoffs by just two points, Reddick became the fourth different playoff driver to win in the first four races of the postseason.
With three wins, Reddick now trails only Chase Elliott (four victories) in the win column going into the final six races of the season.
RCR now has four wins in one season for the first time since 2013. Not bad for a lame duck team no longer in playoff contention. Reddick will be replaced by Kyle Busch in the No. 8 car in 2023 with Reddick currently slated to drive a third car for the team, according to Richard Childress.
“I’m really proud of how far we’ve came,” said Reddick’s crew chief, Randall Burnett. “With the Gen 6 car, we were behind on it. It’s nice with this Next Gen car, we’ve kind of closed the door to that, right? I think that’s been a big help.
“We’ve done a whole lot of work. There’s been a lot of effort at RCR to learn as much as possible about this car. We got some great people up there that push really hard.
“It’s great to see that we’re winning races and being in the championship hunt. Obviously we got knocked out, missed it by two points. Had two bad races, and that’s all it takes. It’s unfortunate the 8 car is not going deeper into the playoffs. I felt like we had a really good shot at going pretty far in it. Just came up a little short last week.”
Reddick said he and his team, which he’s been paired with since his 2019 Xfinity Series championship campaign, intend to “make the most” of their remaining time together.
With races remaining on the Charlotte Roval, Homestead-Miami Speedway (where Reddick has two Xfinity wins) and Phoenix Raceway, Burnett said “I don’t think we’re done winning with this 8 car yet.”
Reddick, who is supposed to joins 23XI Racing in 2024, still has “no regrets” about his decision to move on.
“Unfortunately the decision that was made, my choice to move on, had nothing really to do with my team. It was just circumstances with myself and RCR,” Reddick said. “I love my team. I’ve never been as close as I am as I have been with this group as anyone else. It’s a type of bond. The friendship that we have will outlive our tenure together as a driver and as a team.”