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Reddick Gives Earnhardt Another Xfinity Series Championship

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 18 2018

Tyler Reddick continued JR Motorsports’ championship-winning ways in the Xfinity Series on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – JR Motorsports has a knack for transforming young rookie drivers into NASCAR Xfinity Series champions. Anyone who doubts it need only look at Tyler Reddick, William Byron and Chase Elliott.

All three earned their Xfinity Series titles with the Mooresville, N.C.-based team as rookies. Reddick, who shunned the underdog label during this year’s championship battle, and Byron earned their championships under the stern guidance of crew chief Dave Elenz.

“(Dave) just has a real confidence about what he’s doing with these kids,” team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday after Reddick won the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the series championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

“I don’t know a lot of people that can take these kids and turn them into men so quickly … have them so mentally strong. That’s what Tyler had to be running the wall like (he did tonight). He had to be really sharp mentally and tough mentally and disciplined to himself.”

In winning JR Motorsports’ third Xfinity Series championship in the last five years, Reddick defied the odds. Not only did he cast off the underdog status, he accomplished the feat by running the high groove, occasionally smacking the wall with his car’s composite body. Reddick led twice for 44 of the 200 laps, but it was Elenz’s strategy that put the 22-year-old California native into position to lead the final 37 laps and take a 6.902-second victory over title contender Cole Custer.

“At the start of the race, we definitely weren’t where we needed to be, so we were playing from behind at that point when we got to the green flag pit stop (in the final stage),” Elenz said. “The 20 (Christopher Bell) took the opportunity to short pit, and we had a pretty good gap to him, but I was really assuming the other guys were going to play that pretty hard, especially based off what we did last year. I wanted to be on pit road right away. I was actually a lap late from what I wanted. But the other guys didn’t follow suit. That gave us, I think, a four-and-a-half-second lead when everybody came back out.

“Our car did not go on a short run, so that was part of the reason to try to pit early, so we had that gap in front of them, so when it came in, we would be in a good spot.”

Earnhardt said Elenz coaches his driver throughout the year.

“As they progress throughout the year, you let them make their mistakes, try to be easy on them and just when they’re down, try to bring them up a little bit,” Elenz said.

Reddick book ended his season with victories, but none between. He did, however, produce five top-five and nine top-10 finishes in the final 12 races.

“It’s been a rough road at times,” Reddick said. “I know I’ve given a lot of people that are on my team more gray hairs than they’ve ever had, but I told them if we can just get to Homestead that it would be worth every ounce of stress, and they believed that.”

Reddick said winning the championship was something he knew was possible throughout the season.

“Maybe not everybody in the garage believed it, but our team believed it, and that’s all we need,” Reddick said.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 18 2018
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