From the season’s beginning on the Daytona high banks to Saturday night’s very final laps of racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway the 2019 Xfinity Series championship battle was intense; ultimately coming down to a contest of speed, skill and bravado among a familiar lineup of drivers who combined to win 22 of the season’s 33 races.
And for the second consecutive year, it was Californian Tyler Reddick who hoisted a hard-earned Homestead race trophy and celebrated his second straight Xfinity Series championship. He led a race best 84 of the 200 laps Saturday and ultimately prevailed in a good ole NASCAR “slingshot” move that decided an exciting nail-biting lap-by-lap duel in the closing minutes with title challenger Cole Custer.
Reddick took the lead for good with 19 laps remaining and the checkered flag 1.038-seconds ahead of Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Custer and rookie Chase Briscoe. The other two championship eligible drivers - eight race-winner Christopher Bell and Justin Allgaier finished fifth and 14th, respectively.
Reddick, 23, becomes only the seventh driver to win back-to-back Xfinity Series championships – a list that includes some of the sport’s greatest names such as Sam Ard, Larry Pearson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. And Reddick is the first driver to earn the consecutive titles since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 2011-12.
What also distinguishes Reddick in championship lore is that he is the only driver to earn Xfinity Series titles in back-to-back seasons for two different teams. He earned this season’s championship driving the No. 2 Richard Childress Chevrolet. Last year he drove for the JR Motorsports.
The joy Reddick showed celebrating this impressive accomplishment was honest and exuberant. And it was hard-earned. This year Reddick, Bell and Custer combined for 21 wins. The veteran Allgaier won at Phoenix last week to secure his chance to chase a championship.
Last year Reddick’s championship win was considered by many to be an underdog triumph. Although he had been consistent enough to earn a shot in the Championship 4, he had only two career Xfinity wins when he arrived in South Florida last November. This year – even after switching race teams – Reddick quickly re-established himself as a championship favorite.
His winning performances didn’t take anyone by surprise.
While Bell, who drives the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, quickly showed himself to be a dominant driver again this year. Custer answered the ante all year himself winning seven times. And Reddick came into Homestead with five wins and the regular season championship – his 23 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes were most on the season.
“It was perfect, it came down to us three," Reddick said of his fellow championship contenders. “And that Stage 3 before the caution [flag] we were battling like we have all year long.
“It was just awesome we were able to come out on top of the deal. It’s been a lot of fun racing them and I’m looking forward to racing them and a lot of other talented drivers on Sunday."
That the season finale featured the same kind of competitive zeal that characterized such an ultra-competitive championship run.
“It was on us to give the guy the equipment to contend with," said his crew chief Randall Burnett. “He can elevate a car from third or fifth to a win or at least a pretty good shot at it."
And that’s exactly what happened Saturday night.
The win seems the perfect send-off for Reddick, who will move up into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driving Childress’s No. 8 Chevrolet. He will join both Custer (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) and Bell (No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota) in what will surely be one of the most talented rookie classes.
“I think as a driver I learned a lot about myself," Reddick said of the 2019 season.
It was the fifth series championship for team owner Richard Childress tying Joe Gibbs Racing for the most season titles in Xfinity Series history.
“He’s an amazing talent and I saw that before he won his first championship, his first race," his team owner Richard Childress said. “We’re so excited. I just felt if we could get here we had a great shot at winning the championship and the talent he has I’m excited for next year as I’ve been in a long time."