Tyler Reddick on his family’s Michael Jordan connection and son Beau’s fandom: 12 Questions

Each week, The Athletic asks the same 12 questions to a different race car driver. Up next: 23XI Racing driver Tyler Reddick. This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed, but the full version is available on the 12 Questions podcast.

1. What is currently the No. 1 thing on your bucket list?

Going to Japan. I almost did last January. … I’ve always been wanting to go to Japan, see Tokyo, travel around a little bit, but as it worked out, when I was gonna be able to go, it was during Tokyo Auto Salon. So we would have primarily been able to go down and see Tokyo Auto Salon.

2. How much media coverage of NASCAR do you consume?

Just because they’re a bunch of hooligans, I like listening to (“Door Bumper Clear” podcast hosts) Freddie (Kraft), Brett (Griffin) and TJ (Majors) all the time. When I go on the show, you’re like, “Oh no, there’s like an hour and a half or two hours of driving to and from work podcast consumption that I now don’t have.”

I do like to listen to some of the podcasts post-weekend to catch up on what I may have missed. It’s a great way to hit some of those things. I’m not always on top of it. But I genuinely like to be checking in and seeing what’s going on as a fan of racing.

3. Beyond winning, what is the best way to measure success in racing?

We’re getting back to the point with these cars where everyone is so close, it’s hard to win and go on a stretch and win a bunch of races. Running good still matters when you’re chasing a championship. Being consistent, getting those top-fives, top-10s. Winning is really cool, but there are days when you have to settle for a little bit safer finish if you’re really trying to set yourself up to have a shot at the championship at the end of the year.

4. What is an opinion you have about NASCAR you don’t think is shared by the fans?

These cars are really, really tricky to drive, and I feel like that is really hard to see from the naked eye sitting in the stands or watching it from the broadcast. I’ve even had situations where I’ve had to talk to my crew chief, Billy Scott, because he’s thought my balance is on the real tight side based on my steering trace and my throttle trace. And I’ll come in and plug in and talk to him on the radio and it’s like, “Dude, no. I am on edge. The reason you’re not seeing any quick inputs in the steering or quick inputs in the throttle is because I’m hanging on for dear life. If I do anything, I’m gonna crash.”

In the old car, you could really see people have the slides, have the moments, have the saves. In the Next Gen car, it happens so quick and that window is so small. It’s very challenging to see it from the stands and from TV. You can only see it somewhat on the racetrack when you’re closely battling or following a car.

5. What is the biggest thing fans don’t realize about what you do for a living?

The amount of energy and effort and commitment you have to have to be good on a week-to-week basis. But I’m starting to feel (the Fox Sports booth is) really doing a good job of trying to convey that message to the fans.

6. This next question is the hot topic of the week where I’m just changing it up for each person. Recently, you won Talladega, and there was this big moment with (23XI co-owner) Michael Jordan and your family. One thing you mentioned that I want to follow up: Your fiancée, Alexa DeLeon, recently had her father (former Major League Baseball pitcher Jose DeLeon) pass away. But you said her dad once played with Jordan during his baseball days? Is that correct?

I think they spent some time together in spring training. I wish I knew all the details of it. I’ve seen a couple photos Alexa and her mom have. But they did get to spend some time together during her dad’s time at the (Chicago) White Sox when Michael was a part of the White Sox spring training. They got to know each other through that. I think there’s even a picture — I could be wrong — of MJ holding Alexa as a baby. I feel like that’s a story I heard years ago.

But they had some interaction. I’ve never actually asked Michael about it. I’ve wanted to, but I just haven’t.

Has Alexa talked to Michael about it? Does he know that at all?

I don’t think she’s asked him about it. Why we haven’t asked him about it? I don’t know. Probably because it’s a weird, obscure thing from a long, long time ago. But maybe one of these days, I’ll ask him about it.

7. The next one is a wild-card question. You’ve mentioned over the last couple years about your son Beau’s Chase Elliott fandom. Is Chase still his favorite driver, or is he coming around to cheering for his dad a bit more?

Chase was the favorite, no questions asked, but it certainly feels like now it’s more of a 50-50 split. He used to say Chase, then Dad, then it was either Denny (Hamlin) or Bubba (Wallace). Sometimes he’d say Kyle Larson. But now he’s always saying “Dad and Chase” or “Chase and Dad.” Then Bubba has moved into the third slot.

As kids get older, they get smarter. Last night, before he went to bed, he was really, really tired. But he said, “How did practice go? Where were you in practice? How did you qualify?” And I told him we were second in Group B and he was really excited about that. And he asked me how I ended up qualifying in Round 2. I said, “I messed up, I was fourth in Round 2.” And he’s like, “Well, you did a really good job, Daddy.” I was like, “Well OK, thanks, buddy.” He said, “You can win tomorrow.” I was like, “OK, cool. I’ll do my best, buddy.”

8. What do you like about the place you grew up? Corning, which is in very northern California.

The wide open spaces. We didn’t have a lot of grass. We didn’t have quite enough rain for the grass to turn green. It was always yellow and just a little bit dead. But it was great for straw. I could turn around and look behind me at the mountains to my east (the Cascades), 20 or 30 miles away. They were always really pretty to look at in the mornings.

… And at any point when you’re driving down the road or the interstate, you can look around in each direction and you’re surrounded by mountains and it’s all really, really beautiful. Lake Shasta has had some rougher days these days, but you could go camping out there during the summer months when that lake was still really prominent and filled up. And during the winter months, you go skiing up there and snowboarding. So it was just a really cool area for me to grow up.

Beau and Tyler Reddick

Tyler Reddick’s son, Beau, raves to his dad about the latest cool thing he saw Chase Elliott do. (Logan Riely / Getty Images)

9. What personality trait are you the most proud of?

I can’t always with everything, but to be fully committed. When I get there, I can lock in and get the right mindset. It’s like I’m fully committed to figuring out how to get better at this or I’m fully committed to running this line or I’m fully committed to taking risks all day. My commitment is a trait that helps me in a lot of ways.

It’s hard for a lot of people to find that extra gear to fully go all in and truly commit to whatever they’re doing. Have you always been that way?

I’d say so. I was pretty much that way from Day 1 in racing. I always remember my dad would have to be like, “Alright, you’re doing good, but let’s bring it back just a little bit.” He never had to ask me to go faster and I was pretty much that way in anything I got into. It was always like, “Alright, that’s really, really aggressive. Just pull it back a little bit and you’ll go a little bit faster.”

10. Which driver would you least like to be stuck with on an elevator?

I actually ran into him, but just for the fun of it and with the recency of things, I’ll go with Michael McDowell — just because of how Talladega played out (with McDowell’s wreck enabling Reddick to pass for the win). There’s nothing bad between us. But on the Thursday (after the race), I picked my son up from school and had to do a couple of things and we got all wrapped up and we grabbed a bite to eat before we headed home. And we’re sitting there eating and in walks Michael and his whole family — all his kids, his wife and (the journalist) Lee Spencer. They were doing a little piece.

Michael was like, “Oh man, not you again.” And I’m just sitting there eating with Beau and we started talking about the race and how it all played out. He’s like, “Man, you’re just soaking this all in, aren’t you? I can’t get away from you.” We were just joking about it.

So I feel like I’ll just go with Michael (for the answer). Because we’ll probably end up talking about the end of the race again. And I know that definitely stings for him.

11. What is a run-in you’ve had with a driver that TV or the media missed?

I had quite a few of those that would go under the radar, and they wouldn’t end up being a big wreck or an incident, but I would just get put in a spot to where if I don’t lift, we’re both wrecking. I’d get used up and I’d lose a couple more spots or a couple seconds. And more times than not, that would happen with Aric Almirola.

Thankfully, he’s not in a Cup car right now, so I don’t have to worry about that anymore.

12. Each week I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. The last one was with Parker Kligerman. He says: “What do you think is more impressive, being the youngest Cup champion ever or being the oldest Cup champion ever, and why?”

I’d have to say oldest in the current era we’re in, just because all the drivers are so close and the cars are physical to drive. You’ve really got to have a super high level of commitment, like we talked about earlier. And the older you get, you have a family, you have other things in life that go on. So being able to do it for a long period of time, in this era, if we have someone kick that over to the side and become the oldest Cup champion ever, that would be really impressive. Just because of the amount of work you have to put in, the hits you take in this car, it takes a toll on your body.

The next interview I’m doing is with Conor Daly. Do you have a question I could ask him?

Which sport do you enjoy more: IndyCar or NASCAR, and why is it NASCAR?



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(Top photo of Tyler Reddick: Logan Riely / Getty Images)

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