A year ago, Georgia native Reed Sorenson was a rookie in the NASCAR Busch Series, scoring his first victory in just his sixth Busch start. By season’s end, the talented young driver had notched two wins, 12 Top 5s, and 19 Top 10s, ending the season fourth in the point standings.
After such resounding success, last July Reed was offered a full-time Cup ride in the No. 41 car with Chip Ganassi Racing, and he is now vying for Rookie of the Year honors in NEXTEL Cup, all while still competing full-time in the Busch Series. Recently, I had an opportunity to ask Reed about the challenges of competing in both series, his experiences as a rookie Cup driver, and even a little about his personal life.
Becca Gladden: Reed, you have recovered nicely from a slow start in NEXTEL Cup, but you recently got a new car chief, Jeff Vandermoss, who was previously car chief for Matt Kenseth’s championship winning team. What prompted that change, and what do you think he will bring to your team and to you as a driver?
Reed Sorenson: As far as what led to the change, I don’t really know. I just drive the car and leave all of the other decisions to everyone else. I am glad to have him join us though. You say we struggled in the beginning of the year, but we really haven’t. We’ve actually had some good runs going, and then we’ll lose a tire or something like that will happen to get us off track. But we’ve definitely gotten it more together over the last few weeks and we keep improving more and more every week. Jeff will hopefully be able to help us keep building from there.
Gladden: Overall, what has been your biggest challenge so far this year as a rookie in the NEXTEL Cup series?
Sorenson: Really, I am facing the same challenges I have in the past. You are constantly learning, and a lot of it is through trial and error. That just goes with the territory. Probably the biggest challenge is running full-time in both series. You have a lot more sponsor obligations and media to do. It results in sometimes not really being home for two or three weeks at a time, because when you aren’t racing you are testing, going to appearances or interviews. So that has probably been the biggest challenge for me so far this year – the management of my time away from the track.
Gladden: Some of the rookies have complained about a lack of respect from veterans on the track. Has that been your experience as well?
Sorenson: I really don’t see it that way. I haven’t really had any problems. We all should respect each other out there on the track, regardless of how many years we’ve been out there. But you definitely have to earn respect, too. You can’t just expect to come into the game and have everyone look up to you or anything like that. You do have to prove yourself and prove you are capable and worthy, and then the same (respect) will be returned to you. It kind of goes back to what your mom always taught you I guess – about treating others the way you would want to be treated.
Gladden: Not much is said about “Rookie of the Race” honors, which you have won twice so far this year, at Atlanta and Martinsville. What do you receive for being named Rookie of the Race, and does it help you in vying for Rookie of the Year?
Sorenson: “Rookie of the Race” means you posted the best finish in the rookie class that race. You don’t really win anything, but you get the most points that week, which if you continue to get the most rookie points at the end of each race, you are going to eventually take the top rookie seat and win the Rookie of the Year Award. So in that respect, it does help you in vying for the Rookie of the Year.
Gladden: Which tracks or kinds of tracks have been the biggest challenge for you as a driver, and who do you turn to for help on those tracks?
Sorenson: Probably the superspeedways. I’m still learning how to work the draft, and being a rookie, that is difficult at times because you don’t have a lot of help out there. It’s just the way it is. There are also a few tracks on the Cup schedule that I haven’t been to yet, and I expect those to be challenging. I’ll definitely look to my teammate Casey Mears for some guidance on those and some of the other drivers from time to time at the track.
Gladden: Since you’re attempting double duty this year, trying to win both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series championships, what do you think is the hardest part about running full-time in both series?
Sorenson: I guess I kind of answered this already, but it is definitely time management away from the track and even at the track. You just have to surround yourself with good people, and I feel like my parents and the team have done that.
Gladden: The number of Cup drivers competing in the Busch races (“Buschwhackers”) is a growing controversy. What is your take on the subject as both a Cup and Busch competitor?
Sorenson: I am not really sure, because although I am a rookie in the Cup series, I am running full-time in both, and I know it is helping me on both sides. As far as veterans running both series, if it is who the sponsor wants to put in the car and the driver is willing to do it, there isn’t too much to say about it. I do feel bad for the new guys who are trying to get more seat time and get noticed. They are competing against past champions and notable drivers.
Gladden: One of your sponsors, Target, has a reputation for giving back to the community. What sorts of things have you been asked to do away from the track as a driver of the Target Dodge this year?
Sorenson: We haven’t done that much, yet. Target is a big supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and they’ve helped build Target House, which is an extended stay establishment for families that have children at the hospital. I plan on making a few trips there later in the year. Target is also a big supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness, and I’ll be driving a pink car throughout the month of October recognizing those efforts.
Gladden: Having just turned 20, you have a high pressure job with a lot of expectations. How do you cope with the stress and what do you like to do away from the track when you have little free time?
Sorenson: I just bought a house on Lake Norman, so I have been working around the house a lot, just trying to fix it up and make some home improvements. I also like to hang out with (David) Stremme and other guys on the lake, as well as just playing with my dog, Brutus. Sometimes, it is nice just not doing anything, too. When you keep such a busy schedule, it is nice to just be able to lie down on your couch for 30 minutes and just not think about anything.
Gladden: What’s one thing about you – maybe a quality, an unusual hobby or something from your childhood – that would surprise your fans to learn?
Sorenson: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve been racing since I was six, and that’s about it. I did play other sports while growing up, but it seems racing is the one that suits me best. Other than that, I’m just a normal guy that likes to do everything guys my age do.
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