Ryan Reed, a driver who grew up racing in the “Golden State” of California, recently made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut just over two weekends ago at Talladega Superspeedway. The young driver, who also races full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, also finds himself racing for a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship with two races remaining.
Reed spoke about the stress and emotions he felt leading up to the big day at Talladega. “Leading up to the race, and that whole week, it was just a lot of nerves,” Reed told SpeedwayDigest.com over the phone. “I think when you go into something like that, especially at times where a lot of guys are there in an elimination race, it was a lot of pressure on me. Not only to go out there and perform and do well – but also the pressure of not making a mistake because guys you looked up to your entire life are around you in an elimination race.”
He also had the pressure of making the field as Roush Fenway Racing only has three Charters. NASCAR introduced the Charter system over in the offseason that guarantees 36 entries into the race. NASCAR reserves 36 spots for Charter teams while non-charter teams have just four spots. This is certainly a challenge on any non-charter driver to make it into the big show.
Reed applauds the team for all their hard work throughout the race weekend. He would give them a B+ while giving himself a C. The problem for Reed, since he was making his Sprint Cup debut, is that nobody would work with him. This is typical among drivers who are making their first ever start.
He eventually took his No. 99 Lilly Diabetes Ford to a 26th-place finish. Despite a clean day, it wasn’t a finish he was looking for.
“I didn’t put myself in a bad position, but the things that I could’ve done differently were being more aggressive and try to force other people to work with me,” continued Reed. I got hung out a lot there at the end and the team gave me really good track position at the end that got me into the top 15. Other than that, I think I would’ve been happy with a top 20.”
The week leading up to his debut was a really good one for Reed as he signed a multi-year extension to pilot the No. 16 Ford Mustang in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The contract extension also included an extension with sponsor Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association.
“I think it was just a really cool week in general after an up and down season,” Reed added. “I’m really starting to feel like the team is starting to get honed in and finding its place. We’ve dug in and did what we can to earn a few top 10s in the Chase. To come off with that and go right into the Lilly renewal and to see a partner like that stay invested in our team is just really cool.”
Reed currently finds himself in a heavy battle for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship with one race remaining in the ‘Round of Eight’ this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. He feels calm going into this weekend’s activities.
“I feel great. I feel very calm and relaxed as a race team and we know what we have to do,” said Reed. “It’s definitely not gonna be easy to get ourselves into the final four as there are things we’re gonna have to do right. We’re not gonna be able to make any mistakes when you have two JRM and Gibbs cars that we’re gonna have to beat. We’re gonna have to beat at least one of them to get ourselves into the final four. That is no easy feat. So we’re gonna have to dig in and find a little more speed than what we had the entire year and even a little extra. We have made some changes and we feel like we have done the right things going into the next race. We just have never given up, even if the car isn’t where we wanted it, and that is what has gotten us to this point.”
Reed leaves Texas Motor Speedway sitting five points outside of the top four. Blake Koch, driving for a first-year Richard Childress Racing satellite team, currently holds the final transfer spot. Justin Allgaier, who pilots the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, sits one point outside of the top four.
“When we get to Homestead, everyone will be laying it all on the line and you gotta give the teams and fans an opportunity to see that type of performance,” said Reed on the new Chase format. “I think that in the past, the traditional sense of points racing, a lot of guys would go in there and conserve and get through the weekend. Now, with this style of championship, you have to go into the event to try and win the race. I think it’s a great thing for the sport and the series.”
If Reed can score the championship – he would also be sharing the experience with one lucky fan. That is because every XFINITY Series race weekend – Ryan Reed and Lilly Diabetes selects a fan struggling with diabetes to “ride” along with him. The special guest receives passes for the race and has their name featured above the door of the No. 16 Ford Mustang. For Reed, having this promotion is important to him.
“I’ve been so blessed and so fortunate to have great partners with Lilly and ADA (American Diabetes Association). To be able to share the experience with other people living with diabetes is really cool and rewarding as they get to come to the races and have their picture taken with the car. It makes them feel like their apart of the program as well.”
Reed shares an incredible story of not letting diabetes keep him from racing in NASCAR. When first diagnosed, doctors told him that he would never step into a racecar again. But recent medical advances, and the work and dedication of doctors, it has kept his hopes of racing alive. And not only racing, but also dreams of other people as well.
“For me, I think making my Sprint Cup Series debut was an accomplishment of all of those things. It was a lot of hard work for me and my doctor and a lot of great medical equipment that has come out in the past decade or so. To be able to share my journey over the last few years – I feel like people have become more invested in the program and became more of a personal connection of watching where we have grown all while managing diabetes.”
Ryan Reed has 103 career starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series over the last four years. His one and only victory so far came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in 2015. He also has three top five and nine top 10 finishes in the series. In 18 ARCA starts – Reed holds two career victories along with four top five and nine top 10’s.