In February, Tyler Reddick began his NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie season on a dramatic note as he edged out JR Motorsports team-mate Elliott Sadler for the win at Daytona International Speedway. 33 races later, in November, he scored his second win of the season and the most important one as he secured the 2018 Xfinity championship in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Entering Homestead, Reddick’s competition for the title consisted of Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, and Cole Custer. Custer, the defending Homestead race winner, kicked off his title battle on a strong note by winning the pole and leading the entire first stage. Reddick and Bell remained in the top five throughout the opening stage, while Hemric, who started tenth, had to move his way through the field; he eventually finished second in the stage. Reddick finished third, while Bell was sixth behind the three Championship drivers, Justin Allgaier, and John Hunter Nemechek.
Custer continued his domination into Stage #2, leading every lap in an otherwise uneventful stage that saw no cautions until the green-checkered flag to end it. Behind him, Nemechek and Bell improved their runs to finish second and third, respectively, followed by Hemric, Ryan Preece, Allgaier, Austin Cindric, and Reddick.
A slow stop dropped Custer to third as Nemechek took the lead for the final stage. As Custer and Bell battled for the points lead, Reddick overcame hitting the wall to catch up to the leaders.
On lap 141, Bell was the first Championship driver to pit under green, followed by Reddick. Custer later did the same as Reddick stormed to the lead ahead of Bell. Bell took the lead on lap 155 when he capitalised on Reddick brushing the wall again, but his time at the top lasted only nine laps before Reddick reclaimed the position along the outside line.
Various drivers noted Reddick’s racing line near the outside wall, with Monster Energy Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto comparing him to fellow Cup driver Kyle Larson: “Is that @KyleLarsonRacin or @TylerReddick running the wall? You can’t fit a sheet of paper between that 9 car and the wall He’s doin it”.
Erik Jones tweeted, “Think the top[‘]s only going to get better as it cools down for the @NASCAR_Xfinity race”.
Reddick drove off to clinch his second win of the year and the 2018 championship. He is the second consecutive JR Motorsports driver to win an Xfinity title after William Byron did so in 2017, and the third in the last five years (Chase Elliott won in 2015); coincidentally, all three drivers were in the #9 car and were in their first full-time Xfinity seasons. As such, Reddick also secured Rookie of the Year honors.
Despite coming up short in the Driver’s Championship, Custer won the Owner’s Championship for Stewart-Haas Racing with his second-place finish.
“Came up just a little short…Congrats to @TylerReddick,” Custer tweeted. “My guys gave me a great car just couldn’t rip the top like Tyler at the end. Still unbelievable we won an owners championship in our second year!”
Hemric finished fourth to end his final full-time Xfinity season third in points; he will be moving to Richard Childress Racing‘s #31 Cup car in 2019. With an eleventh-place day, Bell finished fourth in the standings, but will have another chance to fight for the Xfinity title next season.
Other finishers of note include Sadler, who is running his final full-time NASCAR race before retiring, in fourteenth. Carl Long finished thirty-third in the #40 MBM Motorsports Dodge Challenger; due to the series’ switch to composite bodies in 2019, the so-called Zombie Dodges are ineligible to compete beyond the 2018 season.
The championship caps off not only a successful season for Reddick, but also a strong one-year tenure at JRM. In 2019, he will join RCR for the 2019 Xfinity season.