On his journey from the tiny dirt tracks of Northern California to victory lane at the massive Daytona Int’l Speedway, Tyler Reddick took the road less traveled.

Instead of ascending the traditional career path of Outlaw Karts, mini sprints, midgets and sprint cars, Reddick took a detour and ended up racing something with fenders — a dirt late model.

“It came down to age and what I was able to run at that time. I was racing mini sprints and we were trying to run some midgets and sprint cars, but I wasn’t old enough to race a midget or sprint car,” said Reddick, who is now 22 years old and drives the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports. “So, after running sprint cars for about a summer in Indiana, we shifted to late models.

“Safety also became a thing. My dad (Clarence Reddick) was worried about my well-being in a sprint car, being really young. He was worried about me being in those race cars. My dad still worries about me a lot to this day, so I think it’s just his personality,” Reddick added. “We ended up going the late model route. Those cars are heavy and they weren’t as fast and light as a sprint car. It also helped me get an understanding for a car that weighed more.”

Growing up in Corning, Calif., Reddick’s racing career started when he was only 4 years old.

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“Racing was a passion that came from a love for cars in general. My parents worked in a dealership and my dad raced a little bit as a hobby,” he explained. “No one raced professionally, or no one raced full time, so it just mainly came from a love for cars. I liked to go fast and from there it was a hobby that continued to grow as I got older and turned into a profession.”

Like fellow Northern California native Kyle Larson, Reddick excelled in the various divisions of Outlaw Kart racing and he is a two-time winner of the prestigious Red Bluff Nationals.

“I look back on them, they were a kart that had a wing it and they had a huge motor. The power-to-weight ratio was insane,” Reddick noted. “They had a one-to-one steering box; they were purely a handful. You learn a lot about car control. A lot of things happen really fast in those cars, so when you get in everything else from that point on it just feels a lot slower, whether it’s the speed, the quickness of the steering or any of it. They are great building blocks. I learned a lot about racing in those cars and they got me prepared to race other things.”

Reddick was only 15 years old when he started making noise in the late model ranks, where his accomplishments included beating Scott Bloomquist and Steve Francis to win a Lucas Oil Late Model Series feature during the 2011 Winternationals at Florida’s East Bay Raceway. He was also the youngest driver to earn the pole-starting position for late model racing’s crown jewel event, the World 100, at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.

“One of my favorite things I did racing dirt was win at East Bay, a long time ago in a late model,” Reddick recalled. “But I never had what truly felt like a major highlight when I ran late models. I had a lot of potential to have those moments, but I had a lot of heartbreaks along the way, whether we would break a motor or something would break when we had a shot at winning a big race. That really stunk at the time, but I think it got me prepared for getting into asphalt and understanding how tough racing can actually be.”

[caption id="attachment_257077" align="alignleft" width="300"] Tyler Reddick (9) beats Elliott Sadler (1) to the finish line to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series opener at Daytona Int’l Speedway. (NASCAR Photo)[/caption]

Reddick’s transition to pavement racing started after he caught the attention of NASCAR veteran and fellow dirt racer Ken Schrader. Proving that Schrader has an eye for talent, Reddick drove a Ken Schrader Racing entry to victory in his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series start during the series’ 2012 visit to legendary Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina.

“A couple of opportunities popped up. I had the opportunity to run Ken Schrader’s ARCA car and race for him in the K&N Pro Series,” Reddick said. “At the time, it was just one K&N race at Rockingham, but then it grew to a couple of other races. Winning that race at Rockingham was what got the whole asphalt thing kick-started.

“If you make it in asphalt racing, you can go back and run dirt later in life. The idea was to run a K&N race, run a couple of ARCA races and, hopefully, catch someone’s attention; and it ended up going that way.”

Reddick made a handful of asphalt starts in 2013, including his NASCAR Camping World Truck series debut in one of Schrader’s trucks, before joining forces with Brad Keselowski Racing for the 2014 campaign.