NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Reed Sorenson “Trying to Survive” in NASCAR

Reed Sorenson is one of those boys who’s done this game for awhile.

Sorenson, the once colorful Sprint Cup Series rookie for the 2006 season, kept with legendary car owner Chip Ganassi for three years, compiling five top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes. His largest achievement came in 2007 when he won the pole for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, finishing fifth in one of the year’s biggest events.

Kicking off his final year with Ganassi in 2008 by scoring a top 5 in the Daytona 500, Sorenson was handed the keys to the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 for the 2009 season. All the while, the now 30-year-old was a regular in the XFINITY Series, winning four times between 2005 and 2011 while collecting 38 top-5 finishes.

The 2010 season saw Sorenson take over the reins of the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota for 13 races when Brian Vickers was taken out with blood clots. Following the run, Sorenson raced for four teams in two seasons before returning back to full-time Sprint Cup Series competition with Tommy Baldwin Racing in 2014.

When the charter system was announced for the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season, the focus turned to drivers like Sorenson who quickly found paths toward Mike Hillman for the Daytona 500 before joining Premium Motorsports for Round No. 6 in Martinsville. He now has two starts in the No. 55 Chevrolet entry this season and the team has finished both events while learning the ropes within a difficult 40-car grid.

We sat down with Sorenson at Martinsville Speedway to discuss his current endeavors with Premium, his past experiences in Sprint Cup along with some fun facts about his life outside the track.

Zach Catanzareti: Let’s start with Martinsville, a track where you’ve raced many times. What are your thoughts on this track and how it’s changed the past 10 years?

Reed Sorenson: It hasn’t changed much. Every once in a while, they’ll bring a different tire here that rubbers up differently on the track throughout the race. As far as the track itself, it hasn’t changed much and if you look, the lap times haven’t changed much either. It’s very consistent.

There’s no new bumps or anything like that. I feel like all that is the same. Out of all the tracks we go to, this is definitely one of the more consistent ones.

Catanzareti: When it came to getting this deal together with Premium, how did it get put together? Is this partnership a long-term thing?

Sorenson: I worked with Premium last year and this opportunity came about. They asked me if I wanted to do it and it’s something that made sense. We’re going to run this race and hopefully more here in the near future. Do the best we can to try and find sponsorship. It will definitely help this team grow if we can get some sponsorship.

Catanzareti: Is Mike Hillman involved in getting this together?

Sorenson: Hillman and his guys that worked on his team all work on this race team. So, he’s a part of this race team.

sorenson
Unsponsored, Sorenson made his first start of 2016 at Martinsville, finishing 37th. (Photo: Zach Catanzareti)

Catanzareti: How is the mindset different? You’ve come here with RPM, Ganassi and now with a smaller team. Does it even change your mindset?

Sorenson: Not really. I mean, I came here in 2014 with Tommy Baldwin Racing, a small team. Your goals and what you try to get the car to do are pretty much the same; it just might be a little tougher with a smaller team.

You have to stay out of trouble here. It’s 500 laps, a long race. Trying to get the car to turn is the hardest thing to do here.

Catanzareti: Go back to your days with Ganassi. What did you take from those few years driving with a well-funded, major team?

Sorenson: That team was going through a lot of change at that point. That was when the CoT [Car of Tomorrow] cars came and a lot of teams were scrambling, trying to figure out how to get those cars to work.

I’d say, through those years, I learned a lot. It was my first experience in Cup and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed everything I did there. Like I said, that was a time in NASCAR when they were transferring over to the CoT so there was a lot going on.

Catanzareti: You had a lot of open-wheel talent on that team: Dario Franchitti, Casey Mears. Did you find yourself more as a teacher during that time?

Sorenson: Casey had been there before I was. He had two or three years of Cup under his belt. Dario came over and he had a lot to learn. I know he really enjoyed it. Obviously, he went back to IndyCar and did very well. He felt like he was better off in IndyCar.

 

Catanzareti: When you first got into racecar driving, did you except this celebrity-like atmosphere? Signing autographs, taking pictures.

Sorenson: I’ve raced since I was six years old and your goal is to be able to make it to the top. I think once it all comes, you’re so focused on racing that, obviously, there is more fanbase at the bigger levels. You have access to those fans so that’s what makes our sport so good.

Catanzareti: You took a picture with Dale Sr. when you were a little kid. Do you remember that moment or is that too long ago?

Sorenson: It’s too long ago because I couldn’t have been more than five years old. I remember being in the garages and things like that but I don’t remember that exact moment.

Catanzareti: What was your first Sprint Cup race?

Sorenson: Probably that one. That was at Atlanta Motor Speedway and I think that was 1992 or something like that, I can’t remember [laughs].

Catanzareti: Where do you think you’re at in your racing career? You’ve seen a lot of high moments, you almost won the Daytona 500 in 2008. Now, you’re with Premium.

ELKHART LAKE, WI - JUNE 25: during the NASCAR Nationwide series Bucyrus 200 at Road America on June 25, 2011 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Sorenson’s last of four XFINITY wins came at Road America in 2011. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Sorenson: Just trying to survive. This sport is tough. The field has shrunk with this new charter system and it makes it harder on some of us that are at the backside of the field. You just have to keep digging. I’m not giving up. I still enjoy getting in the racecar each week. Trying to do the best I can to make a living.

Catanzareti: You have a new baby daughter whose picture is posted often on social media. How has that changed you as a person?

Sorenson: It changes things. I think if you talk to anybody that has their first kid, it changes their whole life. And maybe some of your perspectives on life: what’s important, what’s not. She’s definitely the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed.

Just changes your mental aspect. Now, your job is to take care of another person. That’s your number one job.

Catanzareti: Have you brought her to the track yet? Is she here this weekend?

Sorenson: She came to Charlotte last year and it rained out the race. She missed the next day, she didn’t come the next day. She came and watched it rain.

Catanzareti: Who were your favorite drivers growing up?

Sorenson: Dale Sr., Jeff Gordon, Davey Allison; most of the normal ones that everybody liked. I watched all those guys. I had T-Shirts of all of them. I had Rusty Wallace T-shirts, too. I had them all.

Catanzareti: Was there ever anybody you raced in your career that while you’re racing them, maybe you pass them, and you look over and can’t believe you’re racing them?

Sorenson: I think that racing against people like Tony Stewart, Gordon and all of those guys. There’s not just one in particular but just to be on the track with those guys for four or five years has been pretty neat. Growing up watching those guys and wanting to be like them, and then actually being able to race against them is pretty cool.

Catanzareti: You have a lot of starts in the XFINITY Series. Do you have any plans for that this season?

Sorenson: Just kind of playing it by ear right now. I think we have a Truck Series race at Talladega lined up and other than that we don’t really know yet.

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