NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2014 NASCAR Driver Review: Ryan Reed

Ryan Reed

2014 Ride: No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
2014 Crew Chief: Seth Barbour
2014 Points Finish: Ninth
2014 Nationwide Series Stats: 33 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 1 top 10, 0 poles, 29 laps led, 2 DNFs, 16.3 average start, 17.1 average finish
2014 Best Finish: Fourth (Daytona II)

High Point: For Reed, the restrictor-plate races brought Roush Fenway equipment back to even par when they spent most of the year handicapped, lagging far behind the speed shown by rivals JR Motorsports, Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing. At Talladega, Reed led each of his 29 laps on the year, muscling the No. 16 Ford out front before a mid-race Big One blew up his chances.

At Daytona though, in midsummer Reed made the most of his opportunity to run up front. Starting fourth, he remained there for most of the race and survived a green-white-checkered finish to post a career best.

Low Point: Virtually the entire season? Reed’s rookie year was filled with bumps and bruises as his No. 16 car, despite being well-funded never found the speed to be successful. A wreck following the finish at Daytona battering his Ford was the first of three in the first four races, reminding longtime fans of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.‘s rocky start in the series. It was a deep hole to dig in the points, one which Reed never recovered from; he finished the year more than 300 points behind champion Chase Elliott.

Summary: Ryan Reed’s first full year in the Nationwide Series was defined by two words: learning curve. Both diabetes sufferer and advocate, his goals reach beyond the track, teaching young men and women a health diagnosis doesn’t mean a death sentence when it comes to sports. Just 20 years old, he entered NASCAR’s second-tier division filled with energy and the support of powerhouse Roush Fenway Racing.

What it didn’t translate to, unfortunately in 2014 was potential. Reed’s inexperience in stock cars, punctuated by just one top-five finish during an ARCA schedule in 2012 shone through in a difficult transition into Nationwide. At times, his No. 16 Ford wound up several laps down, competing with teams that had one-tenth the funding while Reed was forced into survival mode, simply trying to log laps and get acquainted with the series’ larger tracks. RFR’s down year overall, poor chassis and engineering having an effect on both its Cup and Nationwide programs certainly didn’t help matters much.

Overall, Reed has to be disappointed with the way his rookie season unraveled. The second half of the season produced no better finish than 11th; that’s the time a freshman driver should be getting better, not worse. While teammate Chris Buescher showed marked improvement, challenging for wins down the stretch Reed simply stalled out; the No. 16 team ended the year a clear step behind at RFR.

2015 Outlook: One thing Reed has on his side is time. Sponsor American Diabetes Association has re-upped with a multi-year extension, paired with Reed’s driver contract and owner Jack Roush has preached patience. After all, Stenhouse recovered from a rough rookie year to win two Nationwide Series titles before his jump up to Cup. The crew has not been officially announced, but all signs point to RFR working on improving their equipment this offseason, shuffling overtime inside the shop rather than shuffling up Nationwide Series personnel.

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