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Ryan Reed Buckles Down For Strong Finishes

Sports can be such a great parallel to everyday life in finding that consistency towards enrichment and positive experiences.  Sometimes, there are stormy times but the sunlight often breaks through as rays of hope and promising moments that arrive in fitting fashion.

For 22-year-old Ryan Reed of Bakersfield, CA, he’s certainly contended with the roller coaster ride of racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  He stood tall and proud in the hallowed grounds of Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway last year.  During adversities, he’s kept his head up with the confidence of knowing he’s got a solid crew supporting him and his racing efforts in the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford Mustang.

Earlier in the season, Reed was acclimating himself with crew chief Phil Gould.  Clearly, this combination and this hardy team hit it off immediately with finding speed from their car each weekend.  It was a matter of capitalizing on their race day performances which has been improving as the year has progressed.

Reed raced wisely at Daytona last month to score a solid sixth place finish while he nabbed a strong 10th place result last weekend at Iowa.  Clearly, this is a team that’s righting their ship and getting the pieces together at the most opportune time with the inaugural Chase playoffs arriving next month.

Currently 10th in the points standings heading into this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen, Reed and his team are finding the consistency to battle and score top-10 finishes.  Positive, focused, and most of all, resilient, Reed and his Roush Fenway Racing effort is ready to take on this month’s unique stretch of races at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Bristol, and Road America.

Moreover, he has not been discouraged by the adversities that seemed to follow his team almost as closely as fans of The Beatles.  Like Paul McCartney once sang in 1965, as Reed, Gould, and the No. 16 team have been able to do, through good and bad stretches, “We Can Work It Out.”

We caught up with Reed during the July NASCAR race weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Overcoming a 22nd starting position en route to a respectable 14th place finish, it’s safe to say that this band is on the run towards great things.

Right now, let’s talk racing with Ryan Reed and catch up with this talented young racer!

Rob Tiongson :  We’ve seen some flashes of brilliance this year with nine top-15’s and that solid sixth a few weekends ago at Daytona.  How would you evaluate your season thus far from a performance standpoint and some aspects of your race weekends that you look to improve on in the second half of the year?

Reed has worked on finding the right groove on that track. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

Reed has worked on finding the right groove on that track. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

Ryan Reed :  We definitely have a lot more speed, especially at this point of the year.  At Kentucky, we qualified seventh and we had a really good racecar.  We had a tire come apart and it broke a jack bolt.  It define tely cost us a top-10 finish.  I feel like we’ve been plagued by bad luck.  We broke a wheel at Bristol, we had radio problems at Pocono…it seems like one thing after another.

It kind of seems like we’re never catching a break.  We’ve had good cars at times and we just can’t seem to get on the right side of the luck deal.  Hopefully, that will flip around for us in the second half and get all that behind us so we can go into the Chase and have all that hard work pay off now.

RT :  Do you feel like racing has a way of evening itself out and the bad luck gremlins are out of the way in time for the summer races?

RR :  Oh yea, for sure.  You can only go through it for so long.  If we’re having parts failures, we just have to go and buckle down and make sure that we don’t give ourselves the opportunities to have bad luck.  We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can.

I’ve got to make sure I’m not doing anything on our equipment and we’ll go from there.  If something crazy happens, it happens.  I definitely try to not keep score of the bad luck as I try to go into every weekend with an open, clear mind to get the job done.

RT :  Those are all great points that you’ve brought up because that’s one of the things I wanted to ask you about.  With racing, it’s a tremendously extreme sport as you can have the highs like Daytona and bad luck at times.  How do you balance things where you’re not so discouraged but you’re not too hyped up going to the next weekend?

RR :  You just go into it and focus on the things you can do.  We always have a test plan where we debrief and break things down with the crew chief and engineer and all the guys.  You know what you want to do.  You go and accomplish those goals.  If you don’t, you debrief and figure out why you didn’t accomplish those goals and move on.  You can get caught up and you can dwell in it.  It doesn’t do any good.  Like I said, recognize things that you do right and recognize things you do wrong and move on.

RT :  The New Hampshire Motor Speedway race weekend had a big news story with Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulling himself out of the seat due to concussion-like symptoms.  From a driver’s standpoint, do you keep tabs on what goes on in the racing world and what does it mean for someone like Dale to put their health first over racing?

Reed keeps tabs of the racing world pretty closely. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

Reed keeps tabs of the racing world pretty closely. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

RR :  As a driver, you pay attention to everything that goes in the sport.  It’s your business.  It’s like being a stockbroker who watches the market.  You try to pay attention to everything.  There are some things that slip through the cracks that you’ll miss every once in a while.  You’ll be like, “What?  When did that happen?”

For the most part, with big news like that, you hear about it.  You’ve seen the concussion thing become a bigger deal in all sports over the last few years.  NASCAR has been doing a good job with instituting a concussion protocol.  Dale is at a place in his career where he knows if he continues to injure himself, it’s only going to hurt him down the road.  I think as drivers and athletes realize, there’s life outside your sport.

Dale obviously has family and people that care about him like everyone else.  You’ve got to be right by them as well.  Selfishly, we all want to go out there and compete every single weekend and never give up that seat.  That was a good opportunity for Alex Bowman but I know Dale probably didn’t want to give up that seat.  It’s important to recognize that racing is racing and your health is something else.

RT :  We’ve seen the Roush Fenway Racing team as a whole truly improve with faster cars on the track in both the Cup and XFINITY Series.  How promising is it for you from a driver’s standpoint to know your team is able to unload cars that are capable of strong finishes and contending for race wins on a weekly basis?

RR :  We’ve still got work to do.  The Gibbs cars are still at the front.  We’re not where we need to be but we’ve certainly made a lot of progress.  I feel like we’re heading in the right direction.

We’ve changed a lot of stuff.  Obviously, you always have to work over the offseason but even since the beginning of the year, we’ve changed a lot of stuff.

I definitely see improvement in the speed and the way these cars are driving.  We’ve got to buckle down and finish these things.  If we have a top-10 car, we’ve got to get a top-10 finish.  We can’t let the opportunity slip by and if we do that, we’ll be OK.

RT :  In these upcoming races, is there a track where you feel like you’ve got a solid chance to lock up a Chase seed with a win?

RR :  I feel like there’s been quite a few tracks that have surprised me with how well we’ve ran at them.  We had an extremely fast car at Kentucky, a track that’s been repaved.  At Bristol, we had a pretty solid car.  Roush always bring good stuff at the road courses.

I don’t know if there’s one that’s necessarily circled on the calendar but I always love coming up to a place like New Hampshire.  I’m really looking forward to seeing what we’ve got in practice and getting through practice and into the race.  I feel like this is a track where we can find ourselves in a really good position and be surprised at how much we’ve picked up since the last time we came up here.

RT :  Would you say that New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a track where the driver has more say and impact with the racecar than other places in the schedule?

Ryan Reed enjoys the impact that drivers can have with racing around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

Ryan Reed enjoys the impact that drivers can have with racing around New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

RR :  Yea, I mean there’s a lot of braking.  Anytime you have a track with a lot of braking, you’re going to see driver differences becoming a factor with how much pressure you’re applying, how you apply that pressure, the duration when you’re on the brakes, and corner exit here is not just go full throttle, 100 percent on it.  There’s a lot of playing with the throttle.

This is a track where you can see some driver differences but it is still kind of a one groovish, maybe a groove and a half to two grooves.  For the most part, there’s one preferred groove.

It gets hard to pass here so you definitely know that track position is very important.  As a driver, I like it.  It’s fun.  You’ve got to recognize that this is still a track position venue.  You can’t afford to have any mistakes especially in our short XFINITY race.

RT :  You mentioned in a Reddit session how you would’ve enjoyed racing at Mesa Marin, a unique short track that was in Bakersfield, CA.  Is there a particular track on the XFINITY circuit that has similar characteristics to it in some form or fashion?

RR :  Honestly, probably not.  We don’t really go to that many short tracks.  Mesa was a half-mile and the only half-mile we go to is Bristol.  That’s nothing even close to it.  I’ve heard a lot of people compare certain tracks to Mesa but I feel like Mesa was kind of its own deal.

I think North Wilkesboro has been compared to Mesa a few times.  I raced a late model race years and years ago.  I guess that’d be the closest thing I’ve been on to Mesa.

RT :  It’s interesting how you point out how the XFINITY Series schedule doesn’t have a lot of short tracks.  If you had the power to change up the schedule, would you add more short tracks to the schedule to make it a more physical series?

Ryan Reed would love some racing at Martinsville Speedway if he could change up the XFINITY Series schedule. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

Ryan Reed would love some racing at Martinsville Speedway if he could change up the XFINITY Series schedule. (Photo Credit: Action Sports Inc.)

RR :  I don’t know.  The mile and a half stuff is important.  That’s the bread and butter of our schedule.  There are certain tracks I don’t like and certain tracks I do like.  I would definitely get Martinsville in the schedule if there was one thing I could do tomorrow or one track I could add or take away.

I’d put Martinsville on there.  That’s an awesome racetrack.  I raced a late model race there years ago and had a lot of fun.  That would be my first priority.

RT :  I understand that one of your fans did a neat sketch drawing of you and presented it to you recently.  How humbling is it when a supportive race fan presents you with a gift like this and do you display these gifts to remind yourself of those who appreciate what you do on and off the track?

RR :  You definitely appreciate any support from the fans, even if it’s just someone on Twitter saying they’re supporting you.  To have a fan take the time to draw a picture, I’m sure there were a lot of hours put into that so it was very cool to see.  Very talented artist.  It’s humbling for sure and definitely, if you feel like, we haven’t been getting it done out there or you’re having a tough day or week, that definitely helps keep you motivated.

RT :  How close do you feel like you guys are with turning the tide in not only making the Chase but contending with each round and possibly battle for a championship?

Now Reed this: good things are coming for the No. 16 team. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow)

Now Reed this: good things are coming for the No. 16 team. (Photo Credit: Zach Darrow)

RR :  It’s hard to say.  I think you work on so many different things and each one of those things can make a small difference.  You can hit on one thing that really turns your deal around.  We just have to keep our heads down and keep working.

Even if we find ourselves running in the top-five to top-10 every week, we’re still going to keep pushing because the sport evolves so quickly.  It’s hard to say but we’ll keep on digging and give it 100 percent and see where we’re at down the homestretch.

Author’s Notes :  Special thanks to Ryan Reed and the great folks at Roush Fenway Racing for our latest interview following up on the No. 16 team’s efforts!  Photos accompanying this feature are courtesy of Action Sports, Inc. (including the featured image) and Zach Darrow as noted.

We’d like to thank New Hampshire Motor Speedway as well for allowing us to make interviews like these possible for our readers and race fans alike.

If you’d like to learn more about Ryan, Like his Facebook page and Follow” him on Twitter as well as the No. 16 team’s account as well.  Thanks once again!

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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