By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – Aggressive driving has always been Tyler Reddick’s trademark, but as the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads into Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, the driver of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet is taking a slightly more conservative approach.
With a 37-point advantage over the cut-off line and two races remaining in the penultimate round of the Playoffs, Reddick noted that when Brandon Jones, a non-Playoff driver, won last weekend at Kansas, it has allowed his team to not have to go full-bore on the 1.5-mile track Saturday night.
Though his team would still like to win this weekend and clinch their place in the Championship 4, Reddick added they have options heading into the race.
“With a non-Playoff driver winning at Kansas, it kind of opens the door up for us to be a little more conservative,” Reddick said. “I really thought we were going to have to win one of these races to comfortably make it to Homestead, but with a driver outside the Playoffs already winning, now you’ve got two people that are going to get in on points or three, if someone goes back-to-back.
“So, you know, we’ve got a good cushion. We still want to win this race and not even worry about Phoenix, but we’re in a good enough spot where if we just race smart, I think we can manage what we have. I feel like there’s going to be other people that are going to feel the pressure. They feel like they have to go out there and do something. If we take advantage of their misfortune, we’ll probably be just fine.
“We come here with a plan to win the race. We’ve just got to be smart about it. We don’t need to be reckless. We’ve just got to make sure if we don’t win the race, we finish top-five and get some good stage points.”
Some of the conservatism that Reddick is leaning toward comes as a result of the track spraying traction compound in the upper grooves of the turns and the big unknown that the substance presents with the cold weather expected all weekend and especially during race time.
Though the high lane is the preferred groove for Reddick and others that like to run as close to the fence as possible, he cautioned that how the traction compound reacts to the weather will play a big factor in whether anyone is able to get up there and run on it.
“I want to get up there and see what it’s got, but if it’s as slick as I expect that it will be, it’s not worth the risk, you know?
“It’s a fine line. This track has been so fast, when you lose grip, you normally wreck. That’s what we saw when it was first repaved. This traction compound has allowed us to move around a little bit and find a little bit more speed and grip, but once you lose that grip, it’s even worse. It’s got to be in. If it’s not in, it’s like hitting ice. We all know what happens when you hit ice going around a corner, you normally wreck.”
With five wins on the year and back to back runner-up finishes at Texas, Reddick’s confidence is as high as ever in his first season with RCR. He acknowledged that even though he won the championship last season with JR Motorsports, the bond he has been able to form with the No. 2 team in 2019 has helped to elevate his confidence to its current level with a second title in the crosshairs two weeks from now.
“Confidence wise, I wasn’t where I needed to be last year,” he said. “A lot through the year I was doing things I didn’t need to do in the race car. It came together down at the end of the year. We made that playoff push and we won Homestead and I felt like I was on top of the world.
“Then I went over to RCR with a new team and before we even made our first start, they pumped me up even further than I was coming off a championship. Just how excited they were to have me; how hard they were working on the Xfinity car It’s just been crazy.
“This time last year, I feel like I didn’t know what I was doing and this year I had a lot of confidence. I could go to places that I knew I wasn’t great at and had a good enough team around me that I was going to be able to pump out solid finishes. That’s been our strength this year. We’ve just been really consistent.”