HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Providing the perfect cap to Richard Childress’ 50th anniversary season in racing, Tyler Reddick delivered the venerable owner a fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series championship on Saturday.
It marked a full return to prominence for Childress, whose NASCAR Cup Series program has struggled in recent years to regain its footing among the sport’s elite organizations.
The infusion of defending series champion Reddick, who joined RCR after winning his first crown last year with JR Motorsports, has breathed new life into the team which began with Childress in 1969.
It was a feeling that Childress was quick to nod to in talking to the media after celebrating at the championship stage on Saturday night.
“I think Tyler is an amazing talent. I saw that before he even won his first championship, just watching him race,” Childress explained. “He drove some loose race cars that year for (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and those guys. That gets you in trouble, so the first thing I told Randall was, ‘if you keep him tight enough, he’ll go out and win a lot of races for us.’ And he’s done exactly that.
“I felt if we could get here, we’d have a great shot of winning the championship, and the talent that he’s got is going to raise RCR to another level next year,” Childress added. “We’ve changed so much this year, but I’m as excited about next year as I have been in a long time, with having Tyler in the Cup car and the things we know he can do and what he’ll bring to RCR. We’re really looking forward to it.”
RCR started with humble beginnings five decades ago, when Childress was called in by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. to take part in the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series (then Grand National Series) event at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
A 23rd-place finish after an axle issue forced an early retirement that day wasn’t indicative of what RCR would build into through the decades to come.
Six Cup Series titles with the driving talents of late NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt came in the 1980s and 1990s, but after Earnhardt’s passing in 2001 and then the departure of his replacement – Kevin Harvick – RCR has been a team that has struggled in finding its way throughout the past few years.
Now, however, it has forward motion again thanks to a red-headed California young gun who has brought aggression, fun and fierce passion for the sport to the table since joining Childress’ operation.
“I think you’re going to see a different RCR next year,” Childress stressed. “Tyler is going to put everybody to work over there because he’s going to bring some speed and some talent with it.
“I’ve said it a couple other times, but the great Cale Yarborough … Cale was a great friend of mine and watching how Tyler drives a race car, there’s nothing that shakes him, and Cale is who he reminds me so much of,” Childress added. “Cale would drive that car sideways, whatever it took. He was a three‑time champion and won a lot of races, and I think Tyler brings a lot of those same attributes to the track.”
Saturday’s result gave RCR its fifth driver’s (2001, ’06, ’08, ’13, ’19) and owner’s (2001, ’03, ’06, ’07, ’19) titles in team history, both of which are series records to go along with the team’s 85 series victories.
And as he looked back on the past, though he briefly struggled to find words, Childress found his smile in talking again about the future with Reddick going into the 2020 season at the Cup Series level.
In Childress’ mind, though the memories are great, what’s to come may be even greater still.
“It’s really special to win a championship with Tyler 50 years later,” he said. “It just blows my mind to even think I lived to be 50. But to win a race and a championship and have a great driver like Tyler be right there with us, you live for those moments and we appreciate what he’s brought to us so much.
“I’ll say it again, I am so excited about next year because I’m letting these crew chiefs on the 3 and the 8 cars next year build what they need. Tyler will drive the 8 and he’s going to bring his whole team up,” Childress added. “That gives us a lot of optimism on that side and we’re ready to get started.”