HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Tyler Reddick may have been viewed as a long shot coming into Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he proved his worth by driving to victory and securing the series title.
Reddick used his dirt-track background to rip the top side and storm away from the competition following the final pit stop in the Ford EcoBoost 300, taking the lead from Christopher Bell with 37 to go and never looking back.
The Corning, Calif., native was the second of the Championship 4 to take on fresh tires under green, pitting five laps sooner than polesitter Cole Custer, who swept the first two stages and was in the driver’s seat for the championship for the first three-quarters of the event.
However, Reddick leapfrogged Custer by short-pitting and then stayed glued to the wall for the duration of the final run. He drove out to a 6.902-second lead and stayed consistent en route to his first championship in his first full season in the Xfinity Series.
“I knew what we had to do,” said Reddick in victory lane. “The year wasn’t the smoothest for us, but I knew coming in here if we just made it to Homestead, that this is a great track for me and we could make things happen. This place rewards my aggression. Tonight, we hit the wall a lot, but the car kept in one piece long enough for me to get to the end.”
As overjoyed as Reddick was by winning the championship, his one disappointment was that his commemorative flag was shredded by the rear tires during his burnout on the frontstretch.
“I’m really sad. My flag didn’t last very long; I already ripped it apart,” Reddick laughed. “I was determined to get to fourth gear and burn these things down, though.”
Reddick provided the bookends to the Xfinity Series season, winning both the first and last races of the season and scoring seven top-five and 20 top-10 finishes along the way. He led 44 laps Saturday evening.
“These guys worked so hard all year long on the BurgerFi Chevrolet. We had to overcome a lot and just this year was all about learning,” noted Reddick, who also took home Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
“It was an up-and-down year. Everything we had to do, we had to do it in the playoffs and it rewarded us with a championship,” he added. “We can hang our hats on that. People can say we’re consistent, but we won when it mattered most.”
Saturday’s performance by Reddick gave team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. back-to-back driver’s championships in the Xfinity Series. It was also the second-straight title for the No. 9 team, which took home the crown last season with another rookie, William Byron.
“We might need to ask this No. 9 team and (crew chief) Dave Elenz how they do this, because it’s amazing to watch,” said JR Motorsports co-owner Kelley Earnhardt-Miller. “I wish we could bottle up how they do it, because if we could we’d do this every year. I’m proud to be here and proud of Tyler. I don’t think, coming in here, people thought he would be a contender for this and he just drove a smart race and proved them all wrong.”
“Dave told me on the way to this race that if they could get a chance to race for this (championship) here that Tyler would have a shot to win it,” added Earnhardt Jr. “The team had a great strategy and Tyler had the speed and the nerve to run the laps he needed to in order to keep the lead. What he did at the end of that race takes some precision, and he did an amazing job and earned every minute of this.”
Custer tried to run Reddick down in the final laps, to no avail. The sophomore driver and defending race winner came home a distant second in both the race and the season standings after leading a race-high 95 of 200 laps.
John Hunter Nemechek crossed the line third at the checkered flag. Daniel Hemric, the third of the four championship contenders, was fourth ahead of Austin Cindric.
Bell ran inside the top five and was contending for the title before a flat tire with 10 to go took him out of contention. The Oklahoma young gun was scored 12th, one lap down at the finish.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.