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In the Hot Seat with Tyler Reddick

All things considered, Tyler Reddick continually brings it in 2021. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

All things considered, Tyler Reddick continually brings it in 2021. (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Altogether, Tyler Reddick continually impresses with his refreshing personality and raw racing talent. Generally speaking, the Corning, Calif. native understands the give and take nature of NASCAR.

Moreover, the 25-year-old racer proves his worth each week as a NASCAR Cup Series competitor. To summarize, after a rough start, Reddick climbed from 33rd to 15th in points in 11 weeks.

Still, Tyler Reddick does not seek the honors of top midfield racer. Instead, the two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion desires Cup glory and wins. By all means, those goals prove attainable with strong, consistent performances.

Comparatively, Tyler Reddick’s escape from the high speed stock car arenas may prove relatable. However, Reddick keeps things at Warp 8 or 9 when it comes to one of his favorite TV show series.

Earlier this season, I caught up with Tyler Reddick ahead of his hot streak this spring. As always, Reddick’s trademark wit, candor and sense of calm prove quite illustrative in this latest interview. So without further ado, let’s all get “In the Hot Seat with Tyler Reddick” here on The Podium Finish!

Rob Tiongson :  All right. So Tyler, first of all, it’s your second season in the Cup Series after a respectable rookie campaign in 2020. What do you look forward to in 2021 in terms of maximizing results on the track with your No. 8 team?

Above all else, Tyler Reddick and his No. 8 team weathered through a stormy start. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Above all else, Tyler Reddick and his No. 8 team weathered through a stormy start. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Tyler Reddick :  Well, the first thing that we needed to do is… or me and my team needed to do was turn around the unfortunate slump that we kind of started this year off in. There really wasn’t much to really dive into or really understand on the Daytona 500, being crashed out 12, 13 laps in. But looking at the second race, the Daytona road course, the speed was there.

The car was even better than what we had in the Clash. And the simple thing that was missing was just putting together the entire race. At the Clash, we just executed. We made mistakes that we did on that second race there at the road course. But we never recovered from it, and ultimately took ourselves out. I took myself out of it completely and got us a very poor finish.

Just gotta… it’s been talked about. It’s been said. We’ve gotta be able to overcome the adversity that comes our way in these races, whether it’s at the beginning or the midway point, and just finish these races. I can’t be trying to be a hero and finish tail of the field, crashing out going for one or two more spots. We’ve got to finish these races and rack these points up.

Tiongson :  Certainly. Now, we’ve got a bevy of road courses coming up with stops here in Austin and the road course at Road America. And of course, the one at Indianapolis will be joining the fray with Watkins Glen, Sonoma and Charlotte. What’s your take on these particular tracks? And how have you prepared for these road courses?

Reddick :  I would say the things that we’ve worked really hard on this off-season applies to all road courses. It applies to Martinsville. It applies to the short tracks. Anywhere that you really use brakes. And you can really argue that you can apply this anywhere.

In a lot of these Cup races, we have green flag pit stops. Green flat pit stops in a superspeedway race are where the race can be won or lost. So I feel like the gains that us as a team have made to get better is going to really be… we’re going to be able to apply it everywhere. So that’s the big thing, in my mind.

When I look ahead to COTA and these other road courses, I’m very excited about COTA specifically just because of how fun that road course is, how many different sets of corners there really are that make up that course. I mean, you can really break this track down into… I don’t know how many true sectors it actually has built in.

But I mean, each section of the track is a lot different from the others. I mean, you could argue that, coming off of the carousel for 19 and 20, going into Turn 1, those corners are kind of similar, in a sense, where you’ve really gotta get the car stopped and get out of the corner for a good launch. The two hairpins at 11 and 12, very important corners for lap time.

Then you have the esses, and then on top of that, you have the stadium section. I mean, there’s just so many areas of opportunity for making up lap time, and I think you’re going to see a lot of positioning going on throughout the lap in a lot of different areas. With all the runoff that this track has, drivers will be able to get aggressive and race really hard and not feel like they have to crowd each other for racetrack space because there is so much runoff here, and you don’t leave the racing surface and immediately find grass.

You find more paved surface that hopefully we aren’t using, but is going to be there to keep the racing very interesting and keep these cars from finding the grass quick or finding the sand traps quick.

Tiongson :  Yeah, I’m really excited about the race down here just because of the fact that it’s always put on a good show for the Formula One cars. And I think you and Austin and Kaz raced in the WRL event last year. So you’ve got a bit of that foreknowledge of things. And I’m sure that should be an asset, especially when that’s a regular race weekend with practice and qualifying.

And speaking of your teammate Austin, he is one of the most charismatic and outspoken drivers in NASCAR. How is your relationship with him like in terms of being able to pick his brain for ideas, and just overall as a person?

Of course, Tyler Reddick enjoys the challenging races at Darlington. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Of course, Tyler Reddick enjoys the challenging races at Darlington. (Photo: Luis Torres/The Podium Finish)

Tyler Reddick :  Yeah, we have a lot of similarities in ways, but we are very different in ways too. But that’s what makes teammates work really good together. We both kind of played around and came from a dirt racing background, so we share that. Our approach to the weekends and how we look at attacking restarts, how we look at progressing through the race, we look at that completely differently. So it’s always good to be able to bounce ideas off each other.

It’s great to be able to just understand how he goes about it. He understands how I do. And a lot of times, because of how different we drive our racecars, we can find things in each other that they’re doing better than the other is, and then apply that to our own car or to our own race, and a lot of that we have access through SMT and tools like that as well.

So, yeah, definitely getting ready for the race. There’s things that they’ll find in preparation that’s better that we’ll apply, and vice versa, so it works really good.

If me and Austin were basically twins in how we drive and how we operate, we wouldn’t really be able to help push each other to get better, because we’d be the same person. So having some differences there really allows two different thought processes to kind of go off in their own directions, but come back and meet in the middle and have an understanding of what was good for them.

And then we have an understanding of what was good for us. Mix and match, and apply, and then go into the race weekend with our approaches.

Tiongson :  Absolutely. And I have to imagine having those different approaches also… like you said, if you guys were identical, there’d be no new ideas. It would just be kind of a group think mentality, whereas you guys can kind of meet in the middle, but also work with what makes sense for you guys as individuals. So I think that’s kind of the unique thing about you guys as a whole with RCR and why you’ve been kind of the team to watch in terms of progress and growth in the past few years.

I have to ask, because I’m also a chicken tender person, you’ve got a neat promotion this season with your sponsor Cheddar’s. Particularly if you win a race this year, I know my Monday night dinner’s going to be fun. But tell the fans more about this promotion and what awesome meal they’ll enjoy.

All in all, who doesn't like chicken tenders as much as Tyler Reddick? (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

All in all, who doesn’t like chicken tenders as much as Tyler Reddick? (Photo: Sean Folsom/The Podium Finish)

Reddick :  Yeah, so pretty straightforward. If I can win a race this year with Cheddar’s on the car, you better run on down to Cheddar’s on Monday night because it’s going to be free chicken tender platters for everybody. The No. 8 special, as it’s also called, will be free for everybody the Monday night after winning the race, so. We’ve got a lot… can’t put all our eggs in one basket. We’re going to have other opportunities, I hope, to win.

It would be really, really cool to be able to have all the Cheddar’s across America just overloaded with people coming in and getting the No. 8 special Monday night. So it’s an additional driving factor for me.

I mean, heck, I’m gonna try and find a way to get home Monday night and go to a Cheddar’s myself. Heck, if I win, I better get in on the action too, right? So it’s really cool, and I hope I can pull that off sometime this year and have free chicken tenders, No. 8 specials for everybody on Monday night.

Tiongson :  Well, I’m always about free chicken any time. It’s my favorite meal, no matter where I’m at or what I’m doing. So not to show any favoritism about food, but I’ll just say it anyway. If you win on Sunday, that’s probably my dinner plan already, so.

Reddick :  No favoritism in that at all. I understand.

Tiongson :  What’s your take on the potential for more normalcy within sight in our world and NASCAR?

Reddick :  It’s exciting to see guests tapped to come back into the garage. The last few weeks, I’ve found myself looking in the stands and enjoying seeing the fans pointing, standing and cheering us on from the stands. I hope to get back to signing autographs and making memories with the fans inside the track soon.

Tiongson :  Now, can you tell me about a time in which you felt welcomed by your peers in NASCAR, whether it’s a funny story or something serious, something that made you feel initiated in the sport?

Reddick :  I don’t really know. It’s hard to say if that’s happened yet, because pretty much since I’ve been running in the Cup Series, I’ve been running under the circumstances that we have been to continue to race with our COVID protocols, all the social distancing guidelines that we’re following. There’s really not a lot of interaction of any kind, I mean, quite literally at all, to be honest. So yeah, that piece of it is currently gone away from the sport, which is tough.

The drivers don’t interact, I feel like, as much as they used to. With all the technology and data there is in racing, they’re able to kind of see what they’re doing on their computers, or on their laptops, or on their tablets.

Or on their Lenovo equipment like we have at RCR. So that personal interaction, going up and asking a guy what he’s doing and trying to see if he’s telling you the truth or not, has kind of gone away in the day and age of technology as it comes into the sport more and more. So I don’t really know, because of the unique circumstances that we’ve been going through more than the last year now. 

Tiongson :  That’s kind of a shame, but yeah. You brought up a good point about how personal interactions and one-on-one levels have kind of all but gone away, mostly because of the pandemic. And even before so, I think that’s how most people have interacted is through electronic means. While that can be great for convenience, it kind of takes away from what makes people unique is our curiosity or that desire to interact in person.

Speaking of technology, I know we’ve talked about this in the past. But much like me, you are a huge fan of the Star Trek franchise. I think last year I asked if you watched Picard, which I think you said yes. But what spurred your interest with Star Trek? And have you ever met, whether in person or virtually, anybody from the Star Trek franchise?

On the whole, Tyler Reddick sets his No. 8 car always on Warp 8 or 9. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

On the whole, Tyler Reddick sets his No. 8 car always on Warp 8 or 9. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Reddick :  I don’t believe that I have. What sparked my interest… I don’t know if it actually sparked my interest or not, but I knew that my dad had watched it growing up. But I didn’t get into Star Trek because my dad was playing it, or had it on TV and I watched it because of him.

I was aware that he watched it growing up and was very familiar with it. But I would say, I mean, what probably got me going and watching it was it becoming available on a streaming service, years and years ago now that it was, and we were traveling down the road.

So I kind of got tired of watching TV, and I would just watch it on my phone or on my laptop as we would travel. I just was able to kind of binge-watch first The Next Generation. And then I kind of branched out, and then kind of… I think I watched The Next Generation, then I think I backtracked and then watched The Original Series.

I bounced around, and tried to kind of watch the series in the order in which they were released. And then I finally got caught up to the last one they had before CBS All Access and everything like that, with Enterprise.

Then, I kind of finished, and I was like, “Well, dang. This sucks. Now what do I do?” I heard they were announcing Discovery, and then Picard, and then these other things came about through CBS.

It was really good timing, because I was kind of bummed out. I’d seen it all, watched it all. And then more content, more new series popped up, and it’s been keeping me going.

Tiongson :  It’s such a huge world that I don’t think… you can watch it all, but I feel like you have to watch it multiple times to really grasp it.

Reddick :  Absolutely.

Tiongson :  I watch TNG. I saw it when it first ran back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to show you how old I’ve gotten. But there are things I’ve noticed now and I’m like, “Oh, my God, that’s pretty clever.”

Reddick :  Yeah. No, for sure.

Tiongson :  My Trek series has to be Deep Space Nine, for some reason, just because I feel like no matter what walk of life you come from, no matter what belief you hold, it seems to be the show that for some reason really speaks to today, even though it was made in 1993. So it’s really cool.

And if you ever get a chance to meet any of the people who did Star Trek, they’re really cool. I did a virtual Comic-Con earlier this year. And I met the actress who played Jadzia Dax, Terry Farrell. She was an absolutely disarming person, just so charming and so cool. So if you ever get a chance, you should do it. It’s a life-changing kind of situation, to say the least.

Reddick :  Yeah, I would love to. No, what you say about going back and watching it a second time once you’ve seen it all the first time, it’s crazy, especially in regards to Star Trek, how many details you see. But you don’t understand the first time through than when you see them the second time through, if you watch it a second time through.

I think I’ve done that quite a bit with The Original Series. But you notice more of those details in The Next Generation and those other series that came, so. I know what you’re saying. I’ve noticed that in the times I’ve caught an episode or two on TV. But it definitely spurs my interest to go back and watch them all again one day, whenever I have a little bit more time.

Tiongson :  Yeah. During NASCAR season time, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to be quite often. Yeah, it’s such a great world to get lost in once in a while. Bringing us back on track, but in a fun way, if NASCAR put you in charge to revise the Cup schedule, what tracks would you personally choose that would be a win-win for everybody?

Surely, Tyler Reddick and his No. 8 team turned their year around in rocksteady fashion. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Surely, Tyler Reddick and his No. 8 team turned their year around in rocksteady fashion. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Tyler Reddick :  I don’t know if there is a win-win for everybody. That’s tough. But I feel like, in the efforts of trying to keep everybody happy, the more that you can do to add different forms of racing to NASCAR I think is great.

I don’t know how this endeavor into the dirt racing on the Cup side’s gonna go, but I do like the idea of more road courses. I love that we’re getting back to a track like Nashville. But I think we need to keep going further than that. I think we need to revisit old tracks, older facilities that we’ve been to.

I think we’ve proven that we can make the model work of not needing a facility that can hold us for three, four, five days. We can show up and race. And I believe that very easily we could make some of these tracks that we used to run in the ‘80s and ‘90s… we can bring them back pretty quick. It would just be a matter of updating pit road a little bit, and that’s all I think we’d need to do.

Obviously, they’d probably need to put timing lines and some of the stuff in. But I think the more we can get out of our comfort zone and go back to some of these tracks that are just beyond rough, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. You hear it in Formula One, and I understand that. Some of these tracks are just too rough for us to race at.

Well, a lot of these tracks that are deemed almost too rough for the Cup Series standard weren’t too rough for those cars back in the day because they had to run more compliance in their cars. They couldn’t be as stiff. So we can race these tracks that are rough, that are old. So I’d love to see us try that and get back to some of these older short tracks, just because I think it would be… the level of nostalgia it would bring, and just the unknown it would bring, having these cars come back that are just so much more technologically advanced than anything that’s been there since we were last there.

I think it’s a great idea. But we’ll see what happens.

I’d add more short tracks at places we used to go. I wouldn’t say it needs to be a mainstay. We need to go and try it. If it works, it’s great. If we don’t like it, we try something else the next year.

But I think trying new things and going to new tracks is never a bad idea. And I think making use of some of these older tracks that are still barely hanging on, or still around, I think there’s nothing wrong with going and revisiting them again and taking our Cup Series show into these smaller venues to open the door for some excitement, especially if you have the Xfinity and the Truck series there.

The local hero will throw together a Truck or an Xfinity car and go out there and try and race with the big teams. I think it could be great.

Tiongson :  Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s been the consensus from those I’ve talked to is y’all want to see more short tracks, and I do too, just because it’s a great equalizer. It’s not always aerodynamic dependent, and not to use a Rick Allen phrase, it puts the driving back in your hands, the driver’s hands. So I would be absolutely game to see that again.

Now, if there’s a song from any music genre that best serves as the Tyler Reddick theme song, what would that be, and why?

Reddick :  Oh, man. I’m thinking. I messed up, now I’m thinking. Oh, God. Give me a second. I’ll come up with something.

Tiongson :  Take your time.

Reddick :  Wow, I can’t think of anything. Gosh, this is killing me!

Tiongson :  Don’t tell me this is going to be something that bothers you during the race on Sunday. I would hate to be…

Reddick :  Oh, no, no, no.

Tiongson :  I could imagine an interview you do with FOX and you saying, “Well, I could have won the race, but some journalist had to ask me about a theme song.” (laughs)

Reddick :  No, no, no. We’re all good. I’m trying to go through pictures of songs or something. I’m trying to spark my memory. This is killing me, I got desperate.

I’m literally… I hit shuffle on my music and I’m just rolling through till I see something that I remember, or… it is tough, because if it’s a theme song, I feel like it’s not like an aggressive song. It’s like a happy, or happier song. It’s not something that you use to get crazy pumped up. You know what I mean?

Oh, man. This is killing me. I’m going with this because I can’t think of anything else. It’s not really a theme song. But I don’t know.

It’s not a theme song. But, we’re going to roll with it. It’s going to be “Starboy” by The Weeknd. I don’t know what else to come up with.

In this case, Tyler Reddick may be listening to The Weeknd. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

In this case, Tyler Reddick may be listening to The Weeknd. (Photo: Justin Whapham/Richard Childress Racing)

Tiongson :  I love The Weeknd, so that’s a great choice right then and there. That’s a good choice. That’s five bonus points to you on the interview championship standings I’m writing in my head right now, so you have taken the lead from your teammate Austin on that. Good choice. Don’t tell him I told you that, because he might get a little upset.

Reddick :  I don’t know what you’re talking about. Secret’s safe here.

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Tyler Reddick for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Kayla Whapham, and Richard Childress Racing for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Tyler Reddick on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his official website and here on TPF!

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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