Tyler Reddick was hanging onto the tail of the lead lap by a thread come the end of the opening stage in Sunday’s (May 16) NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway. And in the end, he rebounded for another top-10 finish.
Taking the green flag in 12th position, Reddick hovered outside the top 10 through the opening 35 laps. But on the competition caution, the No. 8 Chevrolet was caught speeding leaving its pit box.
From then until lap 120 — the last lap of stage one — it was a battle for Reddick to stay on the lead lap.
Fortunately for Reddick, Chase Briscoe fenced his No. 14 Ford in Turn 1 on the final lap of the stage, bringing out the caution. Like the No. 8 car, Briscoe was fighting hard to remain on the lead lap.
For the the final two-thirds of the race, Reddick’s goal was to improve the car, finishing the first stage in 18th position.
“It was a never give up, keep fighting mentality type day,” Reddick told Jayski.com following the race. “From the first run of the race to the last run of the race it was pretty much attack, attack and fight for our lives to not go a lap down in the first stage. We just had to claw our way to the front.”
Reddick noted how it was difficult to pass and clean air was king. After all, Hendrick Motorsports led all but 18 laps in the race.
During the second stage, Reddick showed flashes of speed and was able to jump up the scoring pylon to 10th, picking up a stage point. His Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon finished one spot ahead in ninth.
When a caution flew with 86 laps to go, Reddick found himself running just outside the top 10. And while other drivers — Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and others — elected to pit, it was a no-brainer for the No. 8 car to stay out.
“I think it was pretty automatic,” Reddick said of electing not to pit. “Our bed was made: If we pitted we were going to run 18th, 19th and finish back there. Me and Randall [Burnett, crew chief] were on the same page to go for it and stay out and hope we catch some breaks along the way. Honestly, we did. It was still a really good bounce back type day.”
Since finishing seventh in the dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway in late March, Reddick has five top-10 finishes over the last seven races. By far, it’s been the best run of his Cup career, though hasn’t placed above seventh in the final rundown (three times).
In that same timeframe, Reddick has been able to gain 13 positions in the championship standings, currently sitting on the playoff bubble, 17 points ahead of Matt DiBenedetto, who finished a disappointing 24th at Dover.
There’s still room for improvement on the No. 8 team, as the regular season is halfway over.
“I don’t know if our speed has been any better than it was before this stretch,” Reddick added. We’re just doing a better job of making the right adjustments, being realistic and not going for broke every single pit stop.
“It’s about, ‘alright, we’re pretty good, let’s make a small adjustment here, have a good pit stop and let’s see if we can gain a spot or two and with this adjustment gain a spot or two on the racetrack.’ When you make a really big adjustment on the racecar, you’re putting yourself in a box because you have to hit the magic number and if you don’t you’ve given up all this track position.”
NASCAR heads to the Circuit of the Americas next weekend for its inaugural race on the historic road course. Reddick will run the Xfinity Series race on Saturday (May 22) for Jordan Anderson Racing to get more experience on the racetrack.
In three career races on road courses in Cup, Reddick has a best finish of 12th at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (last fall).