Even with his move to 23XI Racing looming, Tyler Reddick took the next step in his development on Sunday at The Brickyard.
Tyler Reddick took his seat at the podium in the media center at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a half-empty bottle of champagne. Moments before, he finished taking multiple victory lane photos with his crew and different sponsor hats (often referred to as the “hat dance”). Along with a few TV hits, the last item on his itinerary as the race winner was to take questions from the press.
He answered questions ranging from what he thought when Ross Chastain appeared right behind him with two laps to go to how that champagne compared to his boss’s vineyard products (FULL DISCLOSURE: That one was from me).
“His is way better by far,” he said.
Then I asked a more serious question: Did he ever feel like he didn’t have that race in check?
“Every single restart.”
Humble, indeed, but considering he had the race won just before the end of Stage 2, Reddick took the next step in his development at The Brickyard.
A generational talent emerges in the Cup Series
From his entry into NASCAR in the Truck Series with Brad Keselowski Racing to his back-to-back XFINITY Series championships, Reddick was a generational talent in the making.
Then came his breakout race at Phoenix Raceway in 2020. While the final result doesn’t show it, he had a winning car, that day.
COVID and the lack of practice set back his development. So as Cole Custer and Christopher Bell visited victory lane, until this season, Reddick remained the sole driver from the 2020 Cup Series rookie class without a victory. That changed at Road America.
Since then, he’s finished on the podium in three of the last five races. Sunday, he won the pole, led the most laps, and beat Bell off pit road by three-tenths of a second. Where he ultimately won the race, because barring a mechanical failure or wreck, nobody had anything for Reddick. Even if he thinks otherwise.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I knew I was going to have to work really, really hard on every single restart to win this race.”
Sure, Chastain is no slouch on road courses, either, but he won the battle against arguably the championship favorite, at the moment.
The elephant in the room
Mind you, he did all of this just weeks after he announced his future move to 23XI Racing. A move that many — myself, included — thought would overshadow any hopes Richard Childress Racing had to win the 2022 championship.
“I mean, nothing had really changed from the announcement other than knowing where I’m going to be in the next year and a half,” he said. “My commitment level, if anything, probably is a little bit higher, but I mean, we’re not talking like it’s a significant amount higher.”
If any doubt hovered about Reddick, before Indianapolis, Sunday’s Verizon 200 put those to rest.