Among those who started the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs poorly last Sunday at Darlington Raceway, many could point a finger at a crash or a loose wheel or a pit road penalty.
Tyler Reddick, who salvaged an 18th-place finish in his playoff debut, was different.
He, crew chief Randall Burnett, and the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team simply just missed.
“We had a lot of motivation to come out of the gate well … But unfortunately, because Randall and myself were so busy and so focused on a number of things, that we just kind of got away from the basics,” Reddick said in a Friday media teleconference.
“Like, just being on the same page about where we’re going to be throughout the night and what adjustments we need to make. We started off the race with a really good car. We just didn’t have that game plan or the approach that we normally are pretty good about staying on through the path of the race.”
But Reddick says that what went wrong in Darlington was correctable, which leaves him feeling more optimistic about Saturday night at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).
Reddick enters the second race of the Round of 16 tied on the cutline with Alex Bowman, with Reddick holding the tiebreaker of better Round of 16 finish. Two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch (-2), William Byron (-9) and Michael McDowell (-20) are below them.
Bowman won in April at Richmond. Kyle Busch has won at Richmond six times. Byron notched his first Richmond top-10 finish in April, finishing seventh during a run of 11 consecutive top 10s in the spring.
Reddick is aware of all of this. But he thinks looking behind him does him no good.
“It’s all about running your own race,” Reddick said, “and for us to win, you’ve got to run up front all day. You can’t drive through the field. You’re not going to get a magic adjustment, if you will, to get the car perfect.
“You’ve got to be up there all night long, working on it, if it needs it, and maintaining that track position.”
In the April Richmond race, Reddick and the No. 8 team were unable to nail down the balance on their race car and finished 20th.
That race took place in the day time, and Reddick believes it could be easier to find and stay on top of the car’s balance during the night. However, he’s not expecting the 3/4-mile short track to change too much over the course of 400 laps.
At any rate, he says what was learned by him and his team at Darlington will be valuable going forward.
“Having what we went through last weekend was kind of a good reminder, so we have a game plan in place for what we’re going to do throughout the race, adjustment-wise,” Reddick said.
“We don’t expect a lot though. We just hope that what we changed, the little tweaks that we’ve changed, are as expected; and the balance remains really close to where it was when we ran there last fall.”
Both RCR cars ran well in last year’s playoff race at Richmond. Austin Dillon led 55 laps on his way to finishing fourth, while Reddick improved throughout the night to finish 11th.
Last year, Dillon was in the playoffs, and his Richmond run was key in him advancing to the second round. Reddick, a Cup rookie, was not in the post-season.
Now, the situation has reversed. Reddick beat out Dillon for the final playoff spot. But he’s hoping to follow the path Dillon took in 2020 to stay in the race for the championship.