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Ryan Reed Making Strides for Strong Finish in 2015

Ryan Reed is all smiles about the upcoming races in 2015. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

At age 21, Ryan Reed has been more than a talented young racer who’s showing flashes of brilliance in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  He’s emerged as a fan favorite at the races and on social media with his approachable personality and genuinely down to earth demeanor.

When walking around the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage area on most weekends, Ryan Reed is as focused and determined as every member of the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford Mustang brigade towards making it a great race weekend, be it at Loudon, Daytona, or this weekend at Indianapolis.

For some racing enthusiasts, Reed is an inspiration to those who are afflicted with diabetes, as he’s battled this disease since 2011.  Originally given a bleak diagnosis in which he was told that he’d never race again, this Bakersfield, CA native has defied the odds.   Although he’s been a role model for those who fight diabetes, it’s a two-way street in terms of positive reinforcement.

Ryan Reed's journey in NASCAR racing has inspired more than just race fans. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

Ryan Reed’s journey in NASCAR racing has inspired more than just race fans. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

“To me, especially when I get the opportunity to meet some kids with the disease, you hang out with them, and they’re playing sports,” Reed said last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  “I mean, a lot of them are playing three or four sports a year.  They never miss a beat.

If you look at them from the outside looking in, they don’t have diabetes.  They’re normal kids doing everything that they love to do.  Behind the scenes, they’re taking insulin shots, checking their blood sugar, and managing diabetes which is no easy task.  I’m definitely inspired by them as I look up to them a lot.”

In his second full-time NASCAR XFINTIY Series season with the Roush-Fenway Racing unit, he enjoyed one of his breakthrough moments with a win at Daytona in February, which resulted in one of the most emotional and sentimental scenes from Speedweeks 2015.

To say the least, while the win has given Reed a somewhat different look with the sport, he can reflect back to the moment in which he felt welcomed to NASCAR with pride and with a sense of appreciation.

"You know that not a lot of people get to race in NASCAR, much less to win." - Ryan Reed (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

“You know that not a lot of people get to race in NASCAR, much less to win.” – Ryan Reed (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

“Daytona was a definitely a winning in NASCAR moment,” Reed recalled.  “Once you’ve won in one of the top three series, it changes your perspective on the sport a little bit.  You know that not a lot of people get to race in NASCAR, much less to win.  I think my first time in Richmond when I went there with Roush-Fenway was my biggest welcome to NASCAR moment.”

Sitting ninth in the points standings heading into this weekend’s Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Reed has been enjoying the progress of his No. 16 team, realizing that each race provides valuable experience for him behind the wheel and for his crew in the garage and pits led by crew chief Seth Barbour.

“What I’m most encouraged by is the work ethic,” Reed said.  “All of these guys put in so much hours and effort that they need to get these cars on the racetrack and make sure they’re ready to win.  We’re learning and I’m starting as a driver and we’re learning as a team on what we need to do to get better and better each week.  I feel like throughout the whole race weekend, we’re learning and putting 100 percent in.  I feel like we’re improving throughout every single race so I’m optimistic (by our progress).”

For eight of the past nine races, Reed has compiled top-15 results, including four straight finishes of 14th or better.  Last weekend, the No. 16 team scored a solid 13th at Loudon, NH, which may have been a reflection of that total team effort towards getting the balance right on race day.

Ryan Reed is encouraged by his team's progress heading down the home stretch of 2015. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

Ryan Reed is encouraged by his team’s progress heading down the home stretch of 2015. (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

“I think that this place is definitely one that I look forward to coming to,” Reed said last Friday at Loudon.  “We struggled there in first practice but last year, we ran in the top-10 all race and took two tires.  I didn’t get a good restart and it cost us a good finish.  Regardless, we had a fast racecar last year and I feel like these flat tracks, you have to do a really good job in practice getting these things dialed in.  It’ll make for a long day if you don’t do a good job in practice and get the balance right.”

Reed’s commitment to excellence with his team is paying off every weekend.  Surrounded by teammates Elliott Sadler, Bubba Wallace, and points leader Chris Buescher, he has plentiful resources to turn to for advice or suggestions during the weekend in addition to his hardy No. 16 crew.

Much like some athletes who turn to a pickup game off the field or track to maintain or strengthen their competitiveness, Reed is no different when it comes to turning up his competitive fire, even if it’s with friends on the go-kart track.

“Oh yea, for sure!” Reed said with a laugh.  “If you get a bunch of our friends out there, you might get even more competitive.  It’s a lot of fun.  It’s kind of like pickup basketball for basketball players.  It’s just out there, hopping in a go-kart and having some fun.  We all feel like we’re better than the next one so we get to go out there, beat and bang, and try to beat each other.”

As competitive as Reed is in a go-kart or his regular XFINITY Series drive, when asked if he would change anything about racing, he offered a thoughtful response in relation to a recent TV marathon earlier in the month.

Maybe Ryan's watching those old NASCAR races....or reading our next article on TPF! (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

Maybe Ryan’s watching those old NASCAR races….or reading our next article on TPF! (Photo Courtesy of Roush Fenway)

“A lot of drivers have their own opinions on what’s going to make the racing better, whether it is with tires, drag, or lower downforce,” Reed pointed out.  “I think that NASCAR’s heading in the right direction and I don’t have the engineering background to know exactly what we need to do to improve the racing.  All I know is that as I’ve watched the past few weeks, NBC has aired some rebroadcasts some races from ’03, ’04 and it’d be pretty cool to try out that racing.”

No matter how the racing packages are like for the drivers or how much the times have changed in the past 12 years, Reed is a driver who gives his absolute 100 percent effort on the track for a team that’s on the upward trend.  Most of all, this young gun racer is making a strong case to battle door to door with the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson.

Taking his battle with diabetes by the horns with courage, confidence, and determination, this is a driver with all of the makings for long-term success as a future NASCAR Sprint Cup star.  For now, he’s making the grade as a budding stock car sensation who’s showing his peers and fans that he’s more than just a Daytona winner but as a bonafide NASCAR XFINITY Series competitor.

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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