Toyota Racing – Daytona 500 Media Day Quotes – Tyler Reddick – 02.14.24

23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick was made available to the media on Wednesday prior to the Daytona 500.

TYLER REDDICK, No. 45 Nasty Beast Toyota Camry XSE, 23XI Racing

With the addition of the LEGACY MOTOR CLUB cars to Toyota, how does that change the drafting and collaboration strategy here and at other superspeedways?

“Yeah, we have more to work with for sure, but it gets a little more complex from the pit road standpoint. Instead of six cars trying to head onto pit road at the same time, now you need to coordinate nine cars together. It will be more important than in the past to be on the same page with fuel strategy, be in close proximity coming to pit road. And above then all else, with nine cars, you have more chances of someone having an issue along the way too. We’re going to have to execute our strategy pretty well and will have some practice with that in the Duels.”

What was the message from Denny Hamlin heading into this year?

“When you look at it, we had our best year to date. We set the standard for ourselves like ‘Okay, this is what we did last year so now we need to go improve again. We had a lot of information at our disposal to go through to really narrow down what was hurting us the most. I think one thing for me – the obvious one – was just making sure that we capitalize and we close out those races we’re really fast in with a win or top five. But more so than that just trying to understand what it is about like some of these short track. What is it in the short track package that we’re missing, what is it in the speedway package that we’re missing. We think some of that was due to the body so we’ll see if that’s improved. So, just trying to focus on those things and over the course of this year really try and correct those issues along the way.”

Now having a year with 23XI Racing and the No. 45 team under your belt, are you expecting a “breakout year?”

“That’s what we’re aiming for, but do I expect things to come easily? No. I wouldn’t say it’s outright just walking into the year expectation. I know we have to work extremely hard, but I’m excited about the potential in this new car. A lot of the things we were able to do last year, we showed we had a lot of speed. So, I know we’ll be able to come back and should be able to do a lot of those same things, and then capitalize on those days where we’re that fast.”

With the performance of the team in the past at Daytona, what is your confidence level heading into the weekend?

“I don’t know. In the past, I’ve gotten to a few laps to go and I’m feeling pretty good about things and then get wiped out. It’s just the nature of this race. Last year was kind of new to Toyota and then getting into a bad spot with (Kevin) Harvick. In the past, this race has been tough for me, whether the car has not handling well or getting myself in the wrong spot at the wrong time and not properly reading the energy of the pack. So, for me, just trying to learn from Bubba (Wallace) over today, on practice days and the Duels. He does have a tendency to find his way to the front. Last year, he got wiped out in that crash on the last lap. Momentum was on his side, he was going to be right there in the mix at the end. He definitely does a really good job finding his way to the front at the end of these plate races and more times than not, Denny (Hamlin) does as well.”

What were your thoughts on the Netflix series and the impact it could have on NASCAR?

“It was fun honestly. More than anything, they were just following us around with what we were doing, so it wasn’t a lot of like heavy lifting work for me or anything. I just enjoyed the process. I keep telling myself I’m going to finally watch the whole thing. Alexa (DeLeon, fiancé) has. I feel like everyone in my family has, my friends have. I just need to sit down and watch it. Might as well do it while I’m here. I have some free time on Saturday or Sunday if the weather doesn’t get better. Yeah, it seems like it’s all been good feedback so far. Certainly, a number of drivers, including myself, have saw a pretty significant bump in their following on different social channels.”

How hard is it to dig your way out of a hole after having two tough races to start the season?

“It’s very difficult. Daytona was rough, put us in a bad spot going into Vegas. And then, we had our issues at Vegas, even though we had a fast car there. We couldn’t practice or qualify there, so it gave us a bad pit stall and that put us behind at that race. And then at the next race, qualifying got rained out, so we had to start on points. It really put us in a hole for the first three, four weeks there. I don’t know how far into the season it was – it was right around the 600 we were within 30 points out of first. We dug out of it pretty quick, but then had our lull in the summer stretch. You can get out of it, but I would expect as we run more and more in this NextGen car, more teams will be more consistent. It’s going to be harder to dig out of holes that you put yourself in.”

How long do you think it’ll take you to fully adapt to a relatively new car and to a new Toyota race car?

“The chassis itself, I feel like I’ve got a good understanding of it. Certainly, I think teams will just keep finding more and more ways to make them closer to perfect than what they are. I think the biggest thing with the new body this year, is maybe just seeing what it’s tendencies will be in traffic. Racing around other cars, it might be a little different. I expect the short track package to be different in traffic as well. I wouldn’t say it’s better, but dirty air is different, so that’s going to be a learning curve as well. Not necessarily tied to the Camry. Those will be the big things. Just seeing if there’s anything really that stands out when you’re racing other cars in traffic with the new body.”

Drivers are calling Atlanta a hybrid track. Is there anything you take from here to Atlanta?

“Maybe a little bit. Just little details – like the differences from last year’s car to this year’s car on the speedways and if anything hopefully to have more confidence. But Atlanta keeps changing too. Every time we go back, it has less and less grip, so it’s harder to have the pack racing we saw from the very beginning.”

How important will the Duels be in terms of learning how the car will race in traffic and its tendencies?

“Yeah, we’ll be able to learn quite a bit there. My team and probably a lot of teams are going to be screaming at the drivers to not tear this stuff up. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can. I think just running in a line of cars to be able to understand the differences pretty quickly. We’re all pretty optimistic that this car is going to be able to push a lot better so hopefully we can get a pretty good read on that in the Duels.”

Have you guys discussed a strategy for the end of the race if you’re running up front?

“I think all of the Toyota drivers have a pretty good understanding of what we need to do depending on what situation we’re in. We all collectively have a good idea of what we need to do depending on where we’re at and what the circumstances are. Ideally, we want to be up at the front. If we’re not we don’t have a shot.”

How important are those friendships and partnerships in a race like this?

“The goal for myself and the other Toyota drivers is we’re going to work together and have each other’s back. We can try to get to the front. We can trust another fellow Toyota behind us better than we can a Ford or a Chevy. We’ll try and use that to our advantage, but certainly, it’ll be interesting to see how this race plays out. As time has passed, it’s just gotten harder and harder to get to the front unless the whole field is saving fuel, and I feel like they’re getting smarter about how to finish that within those fuel windows as well.”

How many cars does 23XI have built with the new Camry XSE body?

“That’s a good question. Gosh, I’ve been so busy the last couple weeks, I’ve been in and out of there so I haven’t really kept up. I was also in Disney World so I’ve been checked out the last couple days.”

How’s the new 23XI Racing building?

“Yeah, Airspeed is certainly impressive. I got to spend quite a bit of time in that building in early January. Certainly impressed with the layout and size. The atmosphere is just very different from any other race team’s facility that I’ve been in. I think between the layout, the lighting, the windows, just the colors that Denny (Hamlin) and everyone went with, it really sets the tone that it’s a different atmosphere. Honestly, for me, it doesn’t feel as stuffy or as hospital-like if you will that some of the shops do that are all white and super plain. There’s a lot of character to the building and I certainly enjoy it.”

This is the 20th year of the NASCAR Playoffs. What are your thoughts on the Playoff system?

“Yeah, my first two Playoff attempts, they kind of crashed out if you will in the Round of 16 and we had more speed than that. Last year, was kind of the opposite. It wasn’t necessarily the opposite, but we finished where we probably should have. Going all the way back to the Xfinity Series, I won it both ways. I’ve stunk all year long and just showed up at Homestead and was able to win it, and then I’ve also done it the other way where you dominate all year long. Both ways are very fulfilling. I’d say you have more expectations for yourself if you’re a contender all year long. I feel like you kind of have an advantage to a degree if you’re that underdog, and no one is really paying attention to what you’re doing. But you still have to go out there and get the job done at the end of the day. I don’t think one takes away any more than the other with this format we have. You have to show up in those clutch moments and deliver.”

Do you think it’s exciting to have that last race to decide a champion rather than someone clinching it early?

“There’s a lot of pressure involved in this format. In the older one, yeah, you’d face similar pressure over a longer duration more so along the lines of ‘Oh gosh. I hope we don’t break today.’ Or hoping you don’t get caught up in anything. In the Playoff format, the pressure could be instantly on or off based on three or four positions on the race track. It definitely cranks that intensity up.”

Do you ever look at old Daytona 500s to help you prepare?

“Honestly, more for fun these days. It’s a lot different than we race now. I’d say the ones that always make me chuckle are going back and watching these guys race in the late 70s and early 80s on the mile and a halves. Dale (Earnhardt) knew what he was doing I think. He just seemed like he was ahead to a degree. Some of the guys knew how to do it a little bit, but Dale just really took advantage of it. He didn’t care if it made you upset or not. That was always entertaining to watch for sure. I did enjoy watching that. He would do things that we would all want to do, but they would never fly today.”

What does Daytona mean to you?

“A lot of legends of our sport have broken through and won here and we’ve seen a lot of them, it’s taken a lot of their career to win here. Just the history of this trophy — the history of this race is what propelled us to where we are today in and among other major sports in the country. The storylines from this event. A lot of big moments have happened here. I’ve never experienced it for myself, obviously. It just seems like a race, when you win it, it’s kind of game-changing for some. You could say for Ricky (Stenhouse), he’s kind of already established himself as who he is, but it was a big deal for them and their year. I think their performance was better from winning this race. To a lot of these guys, it’s a race that will haunt you for most of your career if you can’t win it. I’d like to get that out of the way early.”

How do you view that the public sees the Daytona 500 as the pinnacle of the sport?

“Certainly, I feel like the whole field, and I’ve been in these crashes — you get to six laps to go, and the whole field stops thinking. We all just wreck. We do some really crazy, dumb stuff. Five to go and everyone just freaks out. I feel like the real smart ones are the ones that can navigate through that and know, ‘Okay, I need to get out of this.’ Or they’re already ahead of it to begin with. I think the ones that win this race are the ones that remain calm. You know the race is approaching its end and they make calm, cool and collected decisions and that puts them in victory lane.”

Do you have to remind yourself to stay calm in the closing laps?

“It’s pretty hard not to get swept up in it. That’s probably why I’ve been in a lot of wrecks. Honestly, though, we saw with Ricky (Stenhouse), he didn’t have the perfect last lap. He made a couple mistakes in a few seconds, but it all still worked out. The moral of the story is if you can be that lead car, you’re kind of afforded that option. You never know if someone is going to wreck behind you or not. Certainly, his path to winning that race last year was pretty interesting. I think all the drivers collectively are doing a very good job complaining how hard it is to move through the field with this Next Gen car. I think it was 18 or 19 (laps) to go, he had his penalty and had to move to the rear, caution came out and he was going to lose a lap and he managed to go right to the front. There’s always a way to get to the front. He gambled probably 20 or 30 times in those final laps on decision making and he kept hitting it and kept saying, ‘Okay, I’ll go all in again.’ And he kept moving his way to the front and it worked out for him.”

What have you learned from Denny Hamlin on how to be successful at the Daytona 500?

“Every year is different, yes. But guys like Denny (Hamlin) and Bubba (Wallace) continue to find their way to the front or at the front of the field. Just understanding their thought process and how they look at it, trying to mold that into something of my own that makes sense for me. If you try to run the race as a completely different driver, I feel like that can be a challenging thing because instead of just doing what you think would be best, you’re like, ‘What would Denny do? What would Bubba do?’ Certainly, over time you can kind of shift your own mindset and certainly the way that Bubba and Denny do it makes the most sense. So, hopefully over time it’s something I can continue to shift more in their direction and think the way they do about certain things. The first year of this Next Gen car when I was with RCR (Richard Childress Racing), I think I ran like half of the speedway laps that were offered up to race on the speedways that first year. I wrecked early in the 500, Atlanta I blew a tire, Talladega I blew up on lap four. I was just very down on experience. When we came into the Daytona 500 last year with 23XI, I just wanted to get some laps and we wrecked early on just from an untimely push, right? We ran okay in Atlanta and then went to Talladega, and I wrecked being stupid on like lap 30. I was just so behind on experience the last two years with what this car drafts like and how much it moves around and getting comfortable with that. It took like Talladega 2 and some of Daytona 2 to kind of catch up on that. I feel like I’ve caught up a little bit, but I’ve still got some learning to do.”

What is the experience like getting better at superspeedway racing compared to getting better at road course racing?

“It’s night and day different. The experiences you have on a road course, you can recreate some of those situations on a simulator and go and run laps and improve. With speedway racing, I’ve done a little bit on iRacing, but it is just not quite the same. The only time you have opportunities to improve your speedway racing ability is by being on the race track and doing it. You can watch film, you can do all these things. Look at data, look at how people race, but again you’re just seeing how people use the draft to their advantage if that makes sense. You’ve got to go out there and gain the experience in real life. So, being a little behind on that made that difficult. I feel like the last two speedway races I’ve gained some good experience. Got a good understanding of what to do and what not to do. I think I’ll be in a better spot for this race.”

Are you ready to win at this type of track with the experience that you have?

“Looking at how these speedway races have been won with this car, I would say yes. Just with how people have found their way to the front, the decisions you’ve got to make.  Certainly, it’s important to be able to push good or be a good lead car, but you look at (Ryan) Blaney and how he won Talladega working well with another car. When you look at Ricky’s (Stenhouse) win at Daytona, when you look at what Denny (Hamlin) did to get from last to fourth – some of the ways that you find your way to the front or put yourself in these positions. It’s not necessarily just about pushing good or being a good pusher. I think there’s multiple ways that you can win this race for sure.”

Toyota Racing PR