Reed Sorenson gets Back to basics
Hopes ‘little step back’ to partial schedule leads to ‘big step forward’
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
For most of his 23 years, Reed Sorenson’s story was a textbook lesson on how to groom an aspiring young race driver and propel him to a ride on the elite Sprint Cup Series. But the latest chapter in his career, one in which he’s having to step back to the Nationwide Series, may be the most interesting yet.
The story started when Sorenson was just six years old and began racing Quarter Midgets. His father, Brad, a top Late Model driver in the Southeast at the time, parked his own driving ambitions to steer his son’s career. Reed’s mom, Becky, cranked up a public relations machine that spread news of the youngster’s progress far and wide, especially to the movers and shakers around the NASCAR hub in Charlotte.
Young Reed excelled in Quarter Midgets then moved to Legends cars as soon as he reached the minimum age. He continued right on winning races and championships. He took the step to Late Models as soon as he was allowed to race them and then was on to the ASA circuit, then the highest profile stock car circuit short of ARCA and NASCAR.
By the time he was old enough to race in NASCAR, teams were lining up to court him. He chose Chip Ganassi and rewarded him with two wins in the Nationwide Series in 2005, his first full season out.
By 2006, at age 20, he was a Sprint Cup regular. But the upward career movement stalled out there. In 145 career Cup starts, Sorenson’s best result has been five top-five finishes. His best points finish has been 22nd in 2007. Sensing his career at Ganassi had reached a plateau after the 2008 season, Sorenson moved to the Gillett Evernham team that soon morphed into Richard Petty Motorsports. That turned out to be not the best choice. By the middle of the 2009 season, he was a lame duck there. He finished the season 29th in the standings, with just one top-10 finish.
Now, just a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday, he’s preparing to run a partial, 23-race schedule for Braun Racing in the Nationwide Series, sharing the ride with Cup driver Brian Vickers.
In a phone interview last week, he sounded upbeat and confident about taking a job that some might look on as a demotion.
“I look at it as taking a little step back so I can make a big step forward,” he said, explaining that he believes the Braun team and promising young crew chief Trent Owens are plenty capable of providing him cars that can carry him to Victory Lane and build back his stock’s value.
“It’ll be nice to get back that feeling of being one of the cars to beat every time out,” Sorenson said. “I haven’t had that in a few years.”
Sorenson said that after working with Owens at Gateway International Raceway and at Phoenix last year, where he finished second and third respectively, he believes he and Owens can be a winning duo.
“He’s dedicated,” Sorenson said. “He gives all he’s got to make the car the best it can be.”
Sorenson said that he’s found his new team to be hungry to show the Cup-affiliated competitors in the Nationwide garage that they’re as good as any other outfit.
“Most of the guys at Braun have been together a few years, and they feel like they have something to prove. They’re the best stand-alone team.”
But Sorenson’s enthusiasm about his upcoming Nationwide schedule isn’t a sign that he’s surrendered any hope of returning to the Cup circuit full-time. He said the timing may have worked out just right as far as he’s concerned. He believes that the current economic woes are making it tough for any driver to get a good Cup deal right now. But he doesn’t believe that will still be the case a year from now.
“If we run good this year, I’ll be in a better position next year, especially if we can win some races,” he said.
And he’s pretty sure that he’ll get a few chances in Cup this year.
“We’re working hard on it,” he said.