CONCORD, NC – It was almost as if he had a flashback with 36 laps to go in the midst of chasing a NASCAR championship. You can picture Tyler Reddick, right side of his JR Motorsports car mere inches off the fence at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night, blasting around the top to the lead and eventually the crown. Nobody dared to race that high and make it work. For Reddick, though, it was no different than putting a Dirt Late Model on the top at Eldora.
He’s only 22, but just became the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win the championship and top rookie honors in the same season. While he’s quickly acquiring a new fanbase, a large portion of his followers will remember him as a shaggy-haired, even-younger kid walking around the pit areas at World of Outlaws Late Model Series and DIRTcar Summer Nationals events.
A native of Corning, California, Reddick clinched his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship by powering past Christopher Bell, a Dirt Midget and Sprint Car ace who already has four World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series wins under his belt. Who would have thought a NASCAR title would come down to a duel between young dirt racers? In the end it was the kid who paid such close attention to the Dirt Late Model legends who wound up on top.
Of course, “The California Kid” hasn’t forgotten about the friends and fans he’s made from his days in a Late Model, and he takes pride in knowing he was able to make his mark on the big stage from humble beginnings on dirt.
“I’m sure those guys are really excited that I was able to get it done for the dirt guys, if you will,” Reddick said. “I’m really proud to be able to do it for the dirt racing community, as well.”
Before he signed with Brad Keselowski Racing in 2014 to drive full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, Reddick made his Super Late Model debut with the World of Outlaws at the stunning age of 13 on February 12, 2009 at Volusia Speedway Park, where he beat out 37 other drivers overall to finish 24th in the feature. Reddick would go on to compete in 13 more Outlaw events that year, and finished out the season 14th in Series points, ahead of 523 other drivers.
Reddick also embarked on the 2013 DIRTcar Summer Nationals tour. Highland Speedway in Illinois would be the site of his first Summer Nationals win, as he held off past and future World of Outlaws champions Billy Moyer and Brandon Sheppard, and Late Model heavyweights Brian Shirley, Jason Feger and Shannon Babb.
Perhaps one of Reddick’s most shining moments came at Eldora Speedway in 2012, where he became the youngest driver to earn the pole of the World 100 at the age of 16. He led the first three laps of the biggest annual Dirt Late Model race, and clearly banked the knowledge of how to use the fence at Eldora to replicate it six years later in an Xfinity Series car.
The outpouring of love and appreciation from fans on social media has been incredible, to say the least. Reddick also got a text from his former chassis builder and Late Model legend Scott Bloomquist — a DIRTcar Nationals champion and winner of 2004 World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series crown — to put into perspective how much the dirt racing world still appreciates his efforts.
“I’m sure he and I will talk at some point,” Reddick said. “He reached out already, it’s just a matter of when I get some free time to talk to him on the phone.”
Reddick is just the latest dirt racer to have success on NASCAR’s stage. Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart are just a few of the biggest superstars who have formed their own dirt racing teams.
“When I was racing dirt and Kyle [Larson] was running an Xfinity car, or even a Cup car, there was nothing cooler than seeing him get up on the fence and have a really good run,” Reddick said.
Racing on pavement and dirt are two completely different ballgames, as many drivers will say. But despite their differences, there are clearly many transferrable skills that can be learned by racing on both, making every driver who tackles them on their way up the ladder that much better. Reddick’s been through much of that in his teenage years.
“There’s been a lot of really good guys I’ve learned things from racing on dirt,” Reddick said. “I’ve had my fair share of getting stomped in the ground pretty good by some dirt guys, and those things have made me a better driver as I’ve grown. Now, I’ve won an Xfinity championship, so it’s really cool to say that’s where I came from.”
The places people come from are bound to be visited again, and Reddick said the itch to get back on dirt still remains. The details haven’t been worked out just yet, but his fans may not have to wait all that long to see him back behind the wheel at a local track.
“Here in the next couple of weeks, I need to start turning those gears,” Reddick said. “I’d love to get back in a dirt car, just don’t know where, don’t know when, or even what form of dirt racing it will be, but I definitely have the urge to get back in a dirt car and throw it sideways again.”
While Reddick figures out where his next race on dirt will be, fans can see many of the teams owned by NASCAR superstars competing February 5-16 in the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. Click here for tickets and information.