Going into the new season, Tyler Reddick said recovering from poor runs during races was key to improved results and improved hopes for a playoff berth in his second Cup season.
It appears Reddick and his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team are figuring it out.
Reddick was 28th in points through the season’s first six races. But over the last six races, Reddick has posted four top-10 finishes. That has him tied on points with Matt DiBenedetto for the 16th and final playoff spot going into Sunday at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, FS1).
“I’d say the biggest difference is just staying in the race, not necessarily mentally, but still allowing ourselves to have a shot and rebound,” Reddick said Wednesday in a media teleconference.
“We, unfortunately, didn’t get off to a good start, so we were starting back in 30th or worse at some of these races and it wasn’t really allowing us a chance to score stage points. It was a grind at a lot of these races just to get to 15th, and then we would have something happen that would set us all the way (back).
“So, we just did a better job of taking some of those things out. And then, on top of that, when we have things go wrong, we’re doing a better job right now of bouncing back from that and getting at least a 10th or a 12th out of it.”
The uptick has led to better starting positions and a better opportunity to gain stage points.
Over the past two weeks, Reddick started 11th and finished seventh at Kansas, then started 10th and finished 12th at Darlington. He earned 11 stage points in each race.
“That’s helped our points situation a lot,” Reddick said. “But definitely when you get on a good roll and finish top 10, top 10, top 10, you’re starting around 10th, 11th, 12th and, all of a sudden, stage points become a lot more realistic in stage one and stage two. Where, before in our races, they were pretty much out the window; it was going to be very difficult to get there.”
Reddick hopes to continue his run Sunday at the Monster Mile, where he won a Camping World Truck Series race for Brad Keselowski‘s former team in 2015.
He finished 13th and 18th in his initial Dover Cup races last year.
Coming from a dirt racing background, Reddick said that a lot of the sensations he felt racing at Dover early in his career weren’t new to him. With competitive cars, he can still lean on that knowledge base to get around.
“I think for me, if I can find that feel even in a Cup car and make it work to get around the bottom, stay low, and in the cleanest air possible throughout the race, I think that’s the right direction even with this car,” he said. “Other than that, you just have to know when to push and when to hold back a little bit, save some tire and not burn your stuff up.”
But Reddick admits balancing that aggression is always tough on Dover’s narrow, high-banked layout. Surrounded by walls on both sides, a clip off the outside can lead to much worse on the inside.
And as he seeks to gain a better hold on a playoff spot, that’s something he can’t afford.
“There’s no room for error here,” Reddick said. “It’s not like a Daytona, Talladega, Kansas or any of those tracks where you have all that room to save the race car and get your day going back in a better direction. You bounce off that inside wall and, more times than not, that’ll end your day.”