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Xfinity Spotlight: Tyler Reddick on being a nervous street driver, his disdain of bootleg hero cards

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There are two “California Kids” driving Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series this year.

When Kyle Larson, a native of Elk Grove, can’t drive it, the duty falls to Tyler Reddick of Corning.

The former Camping World Truck Series driver has been behind the wheel of the No. 42 five times this season and earned his first top 10 two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Larson has won three times this season, but there’s no added pressure for Reddick, 21, as he navigates his part-time Xfinity schedule.

“It gives me a lot of confidence through knowing that car is capable of doing what it has so far this year,” Reddick told NBC Sports. “I would be honest by saying I would feel a little bit pressured if Kyle wasn’t having such a good year on the Cup side (where he is second in points). But he’s just doing really good right now. You can argue he’s one of the best Cup drivers at this point in the year. That makes me feel a little bit better about trying to compare myself to him.”

Reddick, a three-time Truck winner with Brad Keselowski Racing, took a huge stride in his development as a Xfinity driver following an open test at Charlotte last month.

“We were able to … put up on the screen how I drive the car and how he drives the car,” Reddick said. “It really helped me bridge a gap it seemed I was forever away from where I needed to be to run competitive lap times. Having the ability to look at that data brought stuff I needed to work on to full attention, and we were able to work on it really well over the next couple of weeks. How bad we were when we tested at Charlotte to where we ended up being speed wise and everything in the Charlotte race, I feel like we literally jumped over a mountain.”

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

Tyler Reddick drives his No. 42 Chevrolet at Texas Motor Speedway. (Getty Images)

NBC Sports: How did you get interested in racing out in California?

Reddick: Well it all started with automobiles in general. Both my parents worked at a dealership. I grew up at the dealership with them. So I was with them before I was old enough to go to school. So I had an obsession with cars from day one pretty much. My dad raced for a short time when I was really, really young. I don’t remember much of those really young days, but my parents noticed how obsessed I was with racing and cars and this and that, anything with wheels on it. I was just sucked right into it. Dad got the idea one day to kind of take me to a go-kart track and really gauge my interest in it. He set me in a car and kind of pushed me around in it, asked me if I wanted to do it and of course I said yes. I don’t know who would have said no.

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Reddick: I only got my first car a couple of years ago. It was 2011 Ford Mustang GT California Special. They’re still making them now. They brought it back in ’06 or ’07, but way back when in the 1960s they had a Mustang that was called a California Special. At the time, they only built and sold them in California. Now you can get them anywhere they want. I guess you can say it’s the California twist on the Mustang. It’s a little bit nicer interior and the exterior. It’s really just like a trim package now, it’s not really anything performance wise. I still have that car, I love it to death. I don’t think I’m ever going to get rid of it. Can’t ask for more out of a street car, it’s wicked.

NBC Sports: You hit a home run on your first one.

Reddick: Yeah, most people’s first cars are something they had to work on. I mean I got really lucky. I don’t want to sound like a brat by saying this but I didn’t want something very nice for my first car. I didn’t want to trash it, but I wanted to … based on my life, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be driving on the road. There’s a chance I might be the world’s worst driver on the road. I just didn’t want to have something nice. I’m one of those crazy people, if I get one scratch, the world ends and I feel like I’m going to die right there on the spot, so I decided I didn’t want something nice. But it’s still in one piece. I feel it’s survived pretty well.

NBC Sports: Have you ever named a car, whether it be a street car or race car?

Reddick: Quite a few. BKR, this is just BKR’s thing, they didn’t put numbers on the truck, they gave them names. They have a pool to decide what the names will be. What we would do, it kind of depended, sometimes we would come up with a batch of four names if we were having four trucks made. Some of the first trucks we had were ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Clyde.’ We just named the trucks after certain things. We named four trucks after The A Team. … Actually, Clyde is the truck I won at Dover with and BKR at the Christmas party last year gave it to me. It’s now sitting at my parent’s house in Nashville covered up. They gave me ‘Clyde’ and that was my crew chief’s favorite truck. He damn near cried. He’d probably kill me if I told you that, but he cried when he gave it to me. It was his favorite truck, he won multiple races with it and it was my favorite truck too. I wish I could describe it.

NBC Sports: If you were in the Cup race at Bristol, what would you choose as your intro song?

Reddick: These are things I never really think about. You’ve got me on the spot. I feel like it has to be something upbeat … I’m going to have to go with a Sevendust or a Slipknot song, one or the other. They get me pumped up for a race.

Tyler Reddick driving at Eldora Speedway in 2016. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: What’s the most fun race you’ve ever been a part of?

Reddick: Anytime I’m at Eldora (Speedway), it’s just a blast. The late model racing there, it’s hard to duplicate that anywhere else. Probably racing a late model at Eldora is one of the funnest things I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the best luck. We’ve been really faster there. You can go anywhere on that race track. When it slips off, it really widens out. It’s really something else.

NBC Sports: If you could add any track to the Xfinity schedule, what would it be?

Reddick: Unfortunately, a lot of people are going to say what I’m going to say. It’s a track that’s been on the schedule before. I wish they would add Lucas Oil Raceway (located just outside Indianapolis) back to the schedule. If that’s what it’s still called today.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you saw your name or face on merchandise?

Reddick: Yeah, when I was racing go karts at the tail end my mom and dad had shirts made for family and friends and some other people ended up buying them. My dad had a couple of hero cards made for people and fans that wanted them, he was just trying to get my name and face out there a little more. I was so young I didn’t care. … We still got some of those hero cards. What is kind of sad and depressing is people have started … Someone has started copying those hero cards and making a smaller version and selling them on eBay. I’ve been coming across them more and more. That kind of pisses me off, I’m not going to lie. I guess at the end of the day we were giving them out for free, but there’s someone out there printing them and making money off of them and I don’t like that. I wish I knew who that was, but I can’t really do much about that, you now?

 

Previous Xfinity Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

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NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Las Vegas recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at the weekend’s racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Steve Letarte will be joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After Las Vegas incidents, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson look for Richmond rebound

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with a mixed bag of potential strategies to develop heading into the next race, this Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Kurt Busch, the first NASCAR playoff champion in 2004, was involved in a wreck at Vegas with eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 189 that knocked him out of the event, ending with a last-place finish of 39th.

We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done,” Busch told NBCSN after he left the medical center. “It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

As a result of the poor finish, Busch finds himself in 14th place among the 16 playoff contenders, a distant 63 points behind points leader Truex Jr.

How Busch rebounds at Richmond will go a long way toward determining whether he will advance to the Round of 12 following the Roval elimination race at Charlotte in two weeks. Busch is currently 14 points behind 12th-ranked Aric Almirola, but he is also only 12 points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones.

There’s no question Busch is in need of a big comeback at Richmond, a track that he has had decent success at, including two wins (last time was in spring 2015), seven top five and 15 top-10 finishes in 37 career Cup starts there.

A win would immediately wipe out the Las Vegas nightmare and push Busch into Round 2.

And then there’s teammate Kyle Larson, who had a car that looked like it could challenge for the win at Vegas. But a costly pit road penalty — a behind-the-wall crew member trying to grab tires back over the wall slipped, touching the ground on pit road — pushed Larson back and he wound up playing catch-up the rest of the race. He settled for an eighth-place finish that potentially could have been a top five showing had it not been for the penalty.

Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be,” Larson said. “We were able to battle up front there in the second stage. Then, we had the pit road penalty and had to come from the back.

The restarts were crazy and I was just being safe. It probably cost us a little bit, but we still got a top-10 out of the day and some decent stage points. So, all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad day.”

Busch has one win this season, while Larson is still looking for his first.

Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point,” Larson said. “We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

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Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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Brad Keselowski rebounds to ‘steal’ third-place finish in playoff opener

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Usually when you see a race car on pit road with its hood up in the middle of a race, it’s a sign that a team’s race is over or will be soon.

It’s not typically a prelude to a third-place finish.

But that’s what happened to Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The adjustments made to his No. 2 Ford on pit road during the Stage 2 break, including adjustments to the front suspension, helped cure what was a “miserable” first 160 laps for Keselowski.

“Nothing I was doing was working,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his top-five finish. “We were losing spots to everybody out there.”

Keselowski, the race’s defending winner, qualified 18th. But while his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went from 22nd to first in 34 laps, Keselowski was “just kind of bleeding positions.”

“I am disappointed we didn’t start the race any better than we did but very proud that we didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders,” Keselowski said.

After Stage 2, Keselowski pitted from 13th. He would pit twice under the caution before the start of the final stage.

“The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot to where we could kind of almost steal a win,” Keselowski said. “I thought for a minute we might be able to.”

Keselowski thought if he had gained one or two spots on the final restart with 71 laps to go, he might have been the winner instead of Martin Truex Jr.

Instead, “we kind of stole a third place today,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I guess I can’t complain. … Decent recovery, great fight. That’s kind of what these playoffs are about. Minimizing your bad days. That’s what we were able to do.”

Keselowski’s finish is his ninth straight top 10 at Las Vegas. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh on the 1.5-mile track since 2012.