By Cole Cusumano
It’s difficult trying to remember a more highly touted rookie group than the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series class. Accounting for 21 victories out of 33 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series the season prior, there’s good reason Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick were aptly named the ‘Big Three.’
Custer became the sole talent to win a race and make the playoffs in his Cup debut, earning him the title of Rookie of the Year. After just two points paying events in 2021, Bell powered his way to a memorable victory, locking himself into the postseason. This now leaves Reddick as the lone driver of the titanic trio without a checkered flag and some hardware at the premier level.
Given the competitive nature of racers, it would be safe to assume the pressure is beginning to mount for the 25-year-old, but that’s hardly the case.
“I knew that they were going to be very capable of winning races,” Reddick told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “Yeah, you want to do as good as the other two that were a part of (The ‘Big Three’), but everyone’s learning curve is different.”
The driver of the No. 8 praised his competitors for their diverse strengths as they pertain to racing. For Bell, he feels he has a great handle at driver dependent facilities, such as road courses and short tracks; Custer runs outstanding at 1.5-mile venues and high-banked surfaces.
Luckily for Reddick, the Cup Series is headed down to south beach to his best track on the circuit — Homestead-Miami Speedway.
At such a young age, some may think it’s premature to use the term “best track,” but Reddick has nearly perfected the art of racing at Homestead. In seven starts throughout NASCAR’s National Series, he hasn’t finished below sixth, including in his Cup debut where he placed fourth. He has an overall average of third at the Miami based facility.
“It’s very important to execute,” Reddick said. “One spot on one re-start or one choice, one decision can really shake-up how the whole race goes. You’ve just got to make the right decisions in those very critical times in a race and that could be the difference between finishing fourth or being up there and battling for the win.”
As noted by the two-time Xfinity Series Champion, it’s all about maximizing your opportunities in the highest form of racing. He knows he’s very capable of winning, especially in the equipment at Richard Childress Racing.
Of course, there was the race at Homestead; the first race at Texas Motor Speedway, where he finished runner-up to teammate Austin Dillon, and multiple superspeedway events he could navigate out of unscathed towards the end. In the end, he realizes it’s all about putting together a complete race and trial-by-error application for every event.
“Through that learning process we’ll find ourselves in more opportunities to capitalize hopefully and go for those wins,” Reddick said.
Reddick will have his work cut out for him in the Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as he’s starting 35th. It should be noted that last year he started from 24th and made his way into the top-five by the competition caution on Lap 20. Tune into Fox at 3:30 p.m. ET and see if the driver of the No. 8 can become the third consecutive first-time winner of 2021.