Tyler Reddick knew that Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway would be his shot to win a NASCAR Cup Series race. But, he also knew that he’d have some problems too.
See, a rookie hasn’t scored a top 10 finish on this 1.5-mile track in 13 years. Plus, Reddick rolled off 24th in the race itself. Could he come through the field?
His advantage at Homestead in Xfinity Series and Truck competition was to rim ride the SAFER barriers in the corners. Would that translate well over to a Cup ride?
He questioned that on Thursday.
“With how Atlanta went, it’s very important to manage the expectations,” Reddick said in his pre race weekend media availability. “We’re racing Cup cars, not Xfinity cars, against Cup drivers. So, it’s very important to remember that and understand that we may feel really good about our chances, but we just have to make the most of our day. With the X factor, if you will, the fence, finding speed along the race and steel bodies that don’t bounce back out like the Xfinity composite body, you just have to be really smart and just make sure that we have a solid car there at the end for the final run.
“One of the biggest things that will be difficult is the way you get around the fence will be a lot different in a Cup car. With more downforce, less horsepower, you have a moment in the middle of the corner in the Xfinity car that you can drive it out of it with power and still run within a tenth or two of what you want to.
“In a Cup car, if you have a moment in the middle of one and two up by the fence that you check up, you’re losing a half of a second maybe even a second. So, you have zero room for error. On top of that, you hit the fence and you’re really going to hinder your day if you have to pit and you go down a lap or two trying to fix the damage and get tires. That’s a track that’s very sensitive – kind of like Martinsville in a way, kind of like Atlanta – so you just have to really pay attention to what the better cars are doing around you. And if you can’t run that line that seems to be the best on-track, then what can we do to help our car get there.
“With the hot conditions, slicker track, I think it’s going to have everybody kind of wondering what the cars are going to do over the course of a run. And obviously everyone is curious how well the fence is going to work in the heat of the day. It’s normally tough in the Xfinity car, just because you’re uncomfortable and the back of the car is dancing around. With that, on top of the steel body, you just tap the wall a little bit, it’s just going to take away the performance of the car.”
Reddick noted that he also took a lot of things that he has learned from other NASCAR series’ on his way to Cup, and tried to apply them to certain areas this season and that it didn’t work.
“I had a lot of things that I took from my Xfinity races at Atlanta, Truck races at Atlanta, that I brought to the Cup side and they didn’t work out for me very good. So, I just have to stay on my toes. We’re working really hard to just bring the best car that we can and, from there, it’s going to be important to keep on top of the balance. The track is going to lay rubber, it’s going to change – just staying on top of those things are important. I think keeping on top of the balance, staying ahead of the curve of the race track as it changes will be very important. The veterans of our sport understand that very well, so we’re just going to have to dig down deep and really make sure that we don’t go too far or go to little on the adjustments we need to make when the track does change.”
Still, he found his way to the front. Reddick, was third and second respectively in the two stages and would bring his No. 8 Chevrolet home in fourth, his best career finish.
“I’m really proud of my Chevy Cares Chevrolet team and the effort we showed today,” the rookie driver said. “We had really good speed and were able to run up front pretty much all night long. The men and women of RCR and ECR did a great job preparing us with a fast race car to bring down to my favorite track on the circuit.
“We were able to use that speed to our advantage and race into the top 10 within the first 30 laps, and we were able maintain that track position. We fined tuned our car from then on out for the rest of the race and tried to make it better to run the fence.
“It was tough, though, because sometimes the top seam worked better instead of the fence, so figuring out which lane was the best to use at what time was tricky.
“We got a little too tight by the end of the night to really make the fence work like I wanted, but all in all, it was a solid effort. I’ve won the past two times I’ve come here, granted in the Xfinity Series, but it was so fun to be ripping the fence with three of the best tonight in the NASCAR Cup Series. It was a hard-fought battle and one we can build momentum off of.”