A victory on Sunday at Kansas Speedway was not only a relief for Tyler Reddick as it locked him into the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but it might have finally eased the pain of last year’s disappointment.
Reddick is advancing into the Round of 12 for the first time in his career. In his previous two postseason appearances, Reddick was left frustrated by early ends to his championship hopes. Both times, it was two points that Reddick missed advancing by.
“Really, last year was the heartbreaker,” Reddick said. “Two years ago, we just weren’t great, and we went into Bristol and missed it by a couple. But last year, we had those wins, we came to this race … and had a flat while leading and fell out very early. So, we went into Bristol in a bad spot and then got caught up in a wreck.”
Entering the postseason last year, Reddick looked primed for a deep run. Reddick, then driving for Richard Childress Racing, had won two races during the regular season and was seeded eighth. He started the first round with a third-place finish at Darlington Raceway, but a 35th place at Kansas – from the blown tire while leading – put him on the bubble going into the elimination race.
Collected in a multicar crash on lap 277 at Bristol last season, Reddick finished the race but behind those he was racing with for the final transfer spot. He eventually finished 14th in the championship standings.
Reddick began the 2023 postseason in the 10th seed with a win at Circuit of the Americas in March. He finished second at Darlington, which placed him well above the cutline before Sunday’s race.
“I’m sure even if we didn’t win today and finished second or third, we would have had a lot of points to lean on going into Bristol, so that was just the goal all along,” Reddick said. “I want to win races, but we don’t need to take the risks in the first round.
“I think as we keep going along and we get further in, and we don’t have the points to start that some of the cars at the very front of the leaderboard do, we’ll have to get more aggressive. But it was very nice to get five playoff points today and gain a few more as we go on to the next round.”
Bristol has not been one of Reddick’s best racetracks. In four starts on the asphalt, Reddick has one top-10 finish (fourth in 2020). Having a win in his pocket this weekend, Reddick and crew chief Billy Scott said nothing will change for the team aside from trying to bag more points and playoff points.
“I guess nothing really changes,” he said. “We’re going to go into Bristol preparing this week coming up, trying to make our car as fast as possible, for me obviously, but for also trying to get everything we can to help the 23 team [Bubba Wallace] out. Hopefully, we can go in there with a lot of speed and contend.”