CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When his move to Richard Childress Racing for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season was announced on Halloween, Tyler Reddick was in the midst of the Xfinity Series Playoffs but not the champion.
That hardware came about three weeks later with the 22-year-old‘s impressive run against the wall in the final stage of the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The title gave Reddick‘s 2018 organization — JR Motorsports — its third driver championship in the series in five years.
In 2019, Reddick will look to be the first Xfinity champion to successfully defend his title since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2012. He will also look to be the seventh driver in the series to do so — Sam Ard (’83-84), Larry Pearson (’86-87), Randy LaJoie (’96-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (’98-99), Martin Truex Jr. (’04-05) and Stenhouse (’11-12) — are the others.
The difference for Reddick is he will be doing it with a new team. For the California native, the move to RCR was simply about what he felt was putting himself in a better position for the future.
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“JR Motorsports has a really good Xfinity car program but the goal one day is to hopefully run in the (Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup Series,” Reddick said following Saturday night’s Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center.
“It seemed like there was a clearer path — it’s a very difficult path to get there anyway. With Ryan (Newman) stepping out and Daniel (Hemric) moving in, RCR has the capability if they wanted to, to run more cars than they currently are. I’m not saying they are going to. It just seemed like a good option to possibly pursue and that‘s what we are going to try and do.”
JR Motorsports does not have a Monster Energy Series program of its own, but has clear ties to Hendrick Motorsports given that one of JRM’s owners is Rick Hendrick. JRM has been a pipeline for Hendrick in recent years with drivers — (Chase Elliott and William Byron) — and crew chiefs (Greg Ives, Kevin Meendering) alike.
On the other side, RCR does currently field two Cup cars for Austin Dillon and Hemric. As recently as the 2017 season, the organization fielded three cars in the sport’s top series.
With the next level clearly at the forefront of his mind, Reddick seemed to indicate that there is the potential for a few starts there in 2019.
“Hopefully, next year we get to run a couple Cup races,” Reddick said. “We‘ll just see how it goes.”
Reddick’s Xfinity Series car number at RCR has not yet been announced and additional teammates are not yet known since both of RCR’s full-time drivers from 2018 — Hemric (RCR) and Matt Tifft (Front Row Motorsports) — are both moving up the Monster Energy Series in 2019.
Earnhardt Jr., his championship car owner and a co-owner of JRM, came away from 2018 impressed with Reddick.
“With each race, he handled his business,” Earnhardt said. “He was aggressive and did everything he needed to do. Just really impressed with him. Looking forward to seeing what he can do next year at RCR. It’s going to be fun to race against him.”