Some people would think that driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.. would carry a certain amount of pressure. And it does.
But his work with the biggest names in the sport started much earlier. In 2011, his family team began building its dirt late-model cars out of one of the shops of dirt late-model ace Scott Bloomquist.
And that is where his racing career blossomed, a road that now includes a permanent notch as the 2018 Xfinity Series champion. NASCAR will honor its Xfinity and truck champions Saturday night in Charlotte, and Reddick and truck series champ Brett Moffitt will be center stage.
Bloomquist, a super-talented renegade in those days whose career has been mired in a swirl of controversy over the past year, probably wouldn’t be the choice of role model for many parents of a 15-year-old driver. But Reddick’s family knew that to beat the best, they had to learn from the best, even if the California driver certainly heard from people that he shouldn’t hang out with Bloomquist.
“We heard a lot of that,” Reddick said, “but the stuff that Scott was teaching me and my dad about race cars was invaluable. … He was great.
“He would take stuff off his own hauler and give it to me to put on my car when I was missing stuff. He did things for me that he didn’t do for anybody.”
Reddick said as Bloomquist and his team would drink at night, he would sit and listen about race cars.
“The first couple of times [with him] is so damn intimidating,” Reddick said. “The more I got to know him, he’s so much of fun. A group would stay up until 5 in the morning. I wasn’t drinking — I would just sit there and take it all in, like, ‘These guys are crazy.’
“We’d talk about stuff on race cars. My dad would be with me sometimes. He’d go to bed around 3. Scott, when he starts drinking and hanging out in the shop, that’s when he goes to working on shocks and this and that.”
Bloomquist certainly didn’t treat Reddick with kid gloves. Reddick remembers a time when he left a right rear shock loose and it came off just before a race, ruining any chance he had to win.
“He was so mad at me. … He got mad at me a lot, but that’s natural,” Reddick said.
What Reddick takes from those days is one thing Bloomquist hammered into him: The tightest race car that still turns wins the race every time.
Although many asphalt drivers want a loose race car, Reddick wants a tight one.
“I’ve tried many times to have the loosest car out there by 5, 6 percent and it doesn’t work, because I wreck it every time,” Reddick said.
At 15 and 16 years old and winning dirt late-model races, Reddick received his fair share of attention, especially as a Bloomquist protege. But he doesn’t remember it that way, as his small family team had to scrap to get things done on time.
“I never even processed it, because those days were so simple,” Reddick said. “I’d wake up whenever we got close to the track, unload and get everything out as fast as I can and maintenance it because it would take all the time that I had to get the car ready.
“I didn’t have time to think about much else. It was pretty simple times.”
And now, as a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver, times maybe aren’t as simple. Or maybe they are as simple, just in a different way.
“It took me a minute to get used to getting up in the morning,” Reddick said. “Being up until 5 in the morning with Scott for almost 2, 3 years really messes your body up and your mind, just your mental clock. So just getting up at 6 in the morning when I ran ARCA was, like, impossible. I couldn’t wake up.
“NASCAR is a way different [than dirt]. I never had so much time to get practice. Everything is structured so well — it’s not chaos like dirt racing.”