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Cody Kluge Cody Kluge BVM Sports Journalist/Editor

Tyler Reddick’s emotional first win with 23XI was ‘stressful’

RICHMOND, Va. (BVM) – Last season, Tyler Reddick was at the center of some controversy in NASCAR, as he announced he was leaving Richard Childress Racing (RCR), who he had been a full-time Cup Series driver with the past three seasons, to drive for 23XI Racing. 

While the move was originally expected to happen in 2024, RCR brought in Kyle Busch to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet, allowing Reddick to transition to 23XI earlier than expected. Taking over the Monster Energy No. 45 Toyota previously driven by Kurt Busch, Reddick knew he would have his work cut out for him.

“It made for a busy offseason but it was well worth it,” Reddick said during an interview on BVM Sports’ Cup Connection. “It’s never guaranteed that hard work will ultimately mean success. But I was fully committed to work on it because I knew it was going to help us become better prepared for the following year. That whole transition was a lot of fun.”

Early on this season, it seemed like it would take a while for Reddick to see results in the No. 45. Disappointingly, he finished just 39th at the Daytona 500, and 34th a week later at Fontana.

However, a 15th-place finish at Las Vegas after starting 34th allowed the No. 45 team to build momentum. Back-to-back top-five finishes at Phoenix and Atlanta followed, leading into the first road course race of the year at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

For a large portion of his career, racing at a road course only seemed to spell trouble for the driver of the No. 45 Toyota. As a result, Reddick has sought to improve at road courses over the past few years.

“I was very unpleased and dissatisfied with how bad I was at the road courses,” Reddick said. “On the Xfinity side, with good cars, I could manage to put together a perfect day every now and again, and run top five. Never could really contend for the win. Then we got to the Cup side, and the depth of competition is so much more. Instead of running fifth in an Xfinity car, I’m running 25th in a Cup car. They were just our worst track by far.”

However, it didn’t take long for Reddick to see better results. At a rain-soaked race at Circuit of the Americas in 2021, he finished ninth. At Charlotte later that year, Reddick nearly scored his first Cup Series win with a runner-up finish. 

By last season, Reddick became one of the top drivers on road courses, finishing eighth at Charlotte and fifth at Circuit of the Americas, while taking home wins at Road America and Indianapolis.

“I just really took it upon myself and the team at the time to put a lot of work in in the offseason, figure out what it is that I need to find as a driver to help me be more consistent,” Reddick said. “That really showed its rewards really quickly.”

With budding success at road courses, momentum building, and starting last week’s race in second, the stars seemed to align for Reddick to get his first win with his new team, which he did in a caution-filled race that ended up going to three overtimes.

As with most wins, it certainly wasn’t easy, particularly with wrecks happening frequently during restarts on a difficult turn one. However, Reddick credits his team’s strategy, as well as being able to avoid those wrecks, for the success.

“They were very chaotic,” Reddick said about the restarts. “We chose to pit there at the second caution of the race and came out of the lead. We knew we were going to give up some Stage 1 points, but our ultimate goal was to still get the points in Stage 2 which we did. And then just have better tires which we did as well.

“Really avoided the big disasters and the big contacts, kept the car clean. Then we started to knife our way through the field and just as it was kind of unfolding, we were able to get ourselves back into a good range positioning wise.”

Ultimately, Reddick was having problems on turn one as well.

However, his best run through the turn came when it mattered most, allowing him to pull away for the win after the third overtime restart.

“It was stressful,” Reddick said. “I wasn’t doing the best of jobs getting through turn one, I was overshooting it. It wasn’t the best strategy at the time, but honestly, maybe it was the right thing to do … In the end it all worked out. The final overtime attempt, I kind of did the best job I had on any of the restarts getting through turn one. We were able to kind of separate and get away, and we were in a good spot to be able to close that one out.”

Not only was the race stressful, but it was also more grueling than usual for Reddick, as the cooling system in the No. 45 car was not working, creating an awfully warm car for the 27-year-old throughout the race.

“Road courses are normally the toughest races that we have physically in these Next Gen cars,” Reddick said. “But Sunday was even worse than normal … I was pretty much out of gas, physically and mentally, by the time that race was over.”

While tiring, the win was well worth it, and more special than most. Not only was it Reddick’s first victory with 23XI, but he did it with Kurt Busch, the former driver of the Monster Energy No. 45, in the broadcast booth calling the race on FOX.

“I was able to go back and watch the broadcast, see that moment, and you can just hear it in his voice,” Reddick said. “The fans and the viewers got to hear it in his voice, see his emotion, but I’ve seen it from his presence here in the shop ever since I’ve started driving here.”

While Busch has had to step away from the track due to lingering concussion symptoms after a wreck at Pocono last July, he has not stopped his involvement with the No. 45 team, or 23XI Racing, whatsoever.

“With what happened to Kurt, it was obviously a really difficult thing to go through,” Reddick added. “I can’t praise him enough for how he’s continued to stay involved … This guy is a Cup champion, he’s won a lot of races, and his perspective on a lot of things that happen at the race weekend, or how we prepare, is very useful, very beneficial to have.

“I’m just really glad to have him a part of our group. It’s not just my team, it’s Kurt’s team, it’s everyone’s team. We really back that, we really believe that. We really operate as one team.”

Busch, who Reddick notes now deems himself as “coordinator of the fun department” lived up to that title by throwing Reddick and his team a party back at his shop earlier this week.

For the No. 45 team, they hope it’s one of many this year. After the early-season races on the West Coast and in the South, the NASCAR schedule will now see a run of short-track races, beginning this week at Richmond.

Similar to some of the road courses, Richmond Raceway was not always a place Reddick was fond of. However, he has been able to take in a lot from his experiences there which could set himself up for success once again.

“When I started very early on, it was probably one of the most difficult tracks that I drove at,” Reddick said. “That was a track that took a lot of time to figure out. Still don’t have everything figured out there, but we’ve had some weekends that have went well, found things that are important, and I’ve really learned a lot about this place over the years.”

With four Cup Series wins now under his belt, it would not be surprising to see Reddick back in victory lane again sooner than later. He’s one of the best young talents in NASCAR, and as he continues to figure things out at more and more tracks, the sky’s the limit for the driver of the No. 45.