Tyler Reddick started the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season with a win in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Reddick bookended the season with his second series win of the season – and the Xfinity Series championship – on Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 22-year-old series rookie from Corning, California powered around leader Christopher Bell on lap 163, and drove away from the competition en route to this third career series victory.
It marks the second first time NASCAR Champion of the weekend crowned after Brett Moffitt scored the Truck series win and title on Friday night.
“The year wasn’t the smoothest for us, but I knew coming in here if we just made it to Homestead, this is a great track for me, it rewards my aggression” Reddick said. “Tonight, we hit the wall a lot, but the car kept in one piece long enough for me to get to the end.”
Reddick came into the night as the underdog, with many favoring Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell or Cole Custer, who was dominant last year at Homestead, for the title.
But Reddick ran his JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevy high, wide, and handsome, finding speed in the upper groove and would lead 44 laps en route to the win and the Championship.
“This is just a great moment,” said Reddick. “This isn’t going to be the year the best car all year won. We had to fight really, really hard. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of growing pains, but my guys just never gave up on me, this whole No. 9 group. We dug down deep when it mattered most and when the Playoffs came around, we dug down and got it done. We had to run well and we were consistent and got to Homestead. I knew if we got here, we had a good shot at getting this championship done.”
It gives JR Motorsports their third series championship, winning last year with William Byron and in 2014 with Chase Elliott.
“(Crew chief) Dave (Elenz) had a great strategy tonight that cycled Tyler into the lead, and Tyler had the speed and the nerve to run the laps he needed to keep the lead," said team co-owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. “I’m telling you, to run on that fence like he did at the end of that race, that takes some precision. He did such an amazing job doing that, and he earned the victory tonight, he earned the victory tonight, he earned this championship. Dave and those guys put him in position to make it happen. So, team effort.”
Custer, who started the race on the pole and led 92 laps on the night, saw his shot at the Championship go away with a pit strategy that left him out on the track while Reddick and Bell pitted earlier for fresh tires. That move put him well behind the leaders over the final stint of the race, which saw no on-track caution flags.
Custer finished second, which was good enough for Stewart-Haas Racing to secure the series owner’s championship.
“First off, congrats to Tyler. I’m happy for him,” said Custer. “He could run the wall better than I could at the end there and we were so far back from our pit stop with their strategy that once I got to him it seemed like our tires kind of equaled out and then he started running the top and I couldn’t keep up with him. It is what it is. It was a solid day. We had a fast car, we just didn’t have it play out right at the end.”
Fellow title contender Daniel Hemric, whose team used a similar pit strategy to Custer, finished in fourth.
“You know, I applaud (crew chief) Danny Stockman for at least making a gutsy call to try to stretch it as long as we could, hoping a caution would come out,” Hemric said. “It never did, and we got to a point where we had to pit, and by that point we had lost, I don’t know the numbers exactly, but probably at least nine to 12 seconds to the leaders as early as they pitted.
“Just not ideal. Just cautions and stuff didn’t fall the way we needed them to to give ourselves a shot, but I thought we did a good job of making our race car the best we could throughout the night, and just didn’t have enough.”
Bell saw his title hopes go away with a flat tire with 10 laps to go. He had contacted the wall a few laps earlier while racing with John Hunter Nemechek. The flat tire brought Bell to pit road under green, relegating him to an 11th place finish, on lap down.
“Not the night we wanted for the Gamestop Camry, that’s for sure,” said Bell. “But overall, the season was excellent. We had a really fast Camrys week in and week out. Unfortunately tonight, I wasn’t good enough. Hats off to everyone on this team 20 for Joe Gibbs Racing and everyone at the shop. Thank you for building fast race cars.
“Congratulations to Tyler Reddick. He did a great job and went out to attack all night. It paid off for him.”
Nemechek finished the race in third, with Austin Cindric in fifth.
Ryan Preece, Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Michael Annett and Matt Tifft rounded out the top ten.
Elliott Sadler, competing in the final race of his NASCAR career, ran in the top 10 all night, but a pit stop due to a vibration with a handful of laps to go, left him in 14th, one lap down.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Homestead-Miami Speedway – Homestead, FL
Ford EcoBoost 300 – November 17, 2018
1. (4) Tyler Reddick (P), Chevrolet, 200.
2. (1) Cole Custer (P), Ford, 200.
3. (3) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 200.
4. (10) Daniel Hemric (P), Chevrolet, 200.
5. (5) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 200.
6. (12) Ryan Preece, Toyota, 200.
7. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (8) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 199.
9. (14) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199.
10. (9) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 199.
11. (2) Christopher Bell # (P), Toyota, 199.
12. (11) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199.
13. (13) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 199.
14. (7) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199.
15. (15) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 199.
16. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.
17. (17) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 198.
18. (18) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 198.
19. (16) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198.
20. (21) Shane Lee, Chevrolet, 198.
21. (20) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 197.
22. (19) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 197.
23. (26) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 196.
24. (27) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 196.
25. (22) Max Tullman, Ford, 195.
26. (30) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 195.
27. (29) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 194.
28. (34) David Starr, Chevrolet, 194.
29. (35) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 191.
30. (36) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 189.
31. (25) Chad Finchum #, Toyota, Handling, 187.
32. (32) B.J. McLeod, Chevrolet, 185.
33. (38) Carl Long, Dodge, 180.
34. (33) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, Overheating, 161.
35. (31) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Brakes, 54.
36. (28) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 46.
37. (39) Angela Ruch, Chevrolet, Parked, 36.
38. (24) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Suspension, 16.
39. (40) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Brakes, 14.
40. (37) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, Clutch, 10.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.515 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 08 Mins, 06 Secs. Margin of Victory: 6.902 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 2 for 10 laps.
Lead Changes: 5 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: C. Custer (P) 1-93; J. Nemechek 94-145; C. Custer (P) 146-147; T. Reddick (P) 148-154; C. Bell # (P) 155-163; T. Reddick (P) 164-200.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) C. Custer (P) 2 times for 95 laps; J. Nemechek 1 time for 52 laps; T. Reddick (P) 2 times for 44 laps; C. Bell # (P) 1 time for 9 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 00,21,9,7,42,20,22,18,1,16
Stage #2 Top Ten: 00,42,20,21,18,7,22,9,1,19
Top 10 in Points: 1. Tyler Reddick – 4040 (2 Wins)*; 2. Cole Custer – 4035 (1 Win)*; 3. Daniel Hemric – 4033*; 4. Christopher Bell – 4026 (7 Wins)*; 5. Elliott Sadler – 2255; 6. Matt Tifft – 2254; 7. Justin Allgaier – 2251 (5 Wins); 8. Austin Cindric – 2231; 9. Brandon Jones – 2186; 10. Ross Chastain – 2184 (1 Win)
*Championship 4 Contender