Four years ago, a young, brash kid got a full-time opportunity with Roush Fenway Racing. Now, Ryan Reed has turned into one of the organization’s leaders, specifically in the XFINITY Series.
Reed, 24, is in his fifth season with RFR. In his stint with the company, he’s seen it all. Veterans have left the organization, while fresh, youthful talent has been implemented into the system causing an overhaul with the team. Most recently, it’s happened at the Cup level with Matt Kenseth coming in to replace Trevor Bayne over the past month.
Through the opening 13 XFINITY races this season, Reed sits 10th in the championship standings, picking up his second top five of the season last Saturday (June 9) at Michigan International Speedway, finishing fourth.
“Up and down. I feel like we will have a good run and then have a bad run, or maybe a couple bad runs,” Reed told Frontstretch. “I feel like we have had speed, just mistakes. Mistakes by me, mistakes by the pit crew, little mistakes here and there that we’ve got to get cleaned up.”
The solid finish at Michigan, Ford’s backyard, equals the number of top 10s through the first 13 races of the season as last year for the No. 16 team. However, last season Reed won the season-opening race at Daytona, which clinched a spot into the playoffs.
This year, however, is different because of where Reed has run well at. He finished third at Daytona, a place he’s always a contender for the checkered flag. He backed that finish up at Atlanta Motor Speedway, picking up his first top 10 at the track. At the short D-shaped Richmond Raceway, he tied a career-best result at the track of ninth, before finishing fourth with the restrictor plate package at Michigan.
“It’s not like we’re just getting better in one area, we’re finding speed across the board – short tracks, intermediates, superspeedways, we continue to be strong there,” Reed mentioned. “If one thing goes wrong, we’re not able to bounce back like we need to. We need to have those days where things go wrong and you still fight your way back for good finishes.”
Meanwhile, RFR introduced a second full-time car this season, less than one year after Darrell Wallace Jr. had to leave the company due to funding. Implementing Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski into the system has been a lot on the company, with the No. 60 team sitting 30th in the owner standings. Despite the lack of success with that team, Reed enjoys having other drivers to bounce ideas off of.
“I would say the strength of that is having Chase and Austin,” he said. “They are going to different organizations, and really strong organizations with[Team] Penske and Stewart-Haas [Racing] and they are able to give us feedback.
“The side of things that isn’t great right now, but will get better throughout the year is they don’t have that much experience. When they learn about these cars and communicate better, that’s going to help us. I think right now, they are still trying to figure it all out.”
Because Reed is working with three rookie drivers filling out the No. 60 ride, he has transitioned into a mentor role, helping turn the tide with not only his teammates but his No. 16 team.
But it’s weekends like Pocono and Michigan, where NASCAR implemented a new restrictor plate package that he’s able to show his leadership skills.
“They have had some XFINITY experience, but none in this package, so I’m able to tell them ‘hey this is what the racing is going to be like. Here’s what you need to look for and here’s how you can get yourself in trouble with this package’” he said. “I think me and Phil [Gould, crew chief] having that experience, at times the [No.] 60 team can go off and try things and learn their driver and rely on us a little bit to have a safety net.”
Growing up, Reed played football, baseball, soccer and roller hockey, but he admits he didn’t learn much about leadership in those respective sports.
“I was so distracted with racing,” he said. “I think for me, even as I was playing other sports, I was always racing. I missed games and stuff like that, so I never got the chance to find out if I was really any good at any of them. I just did it for fun and wanted to try it and I was a very active and curious child.”
Meanwhile, he has resources such as Jack Roush, two-time championship car owner in the Cup Series. RFR has won 137 races in both the Cup and XFINITY series, as the Class of 2019 NASCAR Hall of Famer has been an owner since 1988 with Mark Martin.
“I think Jack leads by example,” Reed said of his car owner. “He’s not afraid to pull me aside and tell me what he expects out of me, not just on the racetrack, but off the racetrack what he needs out of me to pull the program in the right direction.
“I think what the cool thing is as I’ve developed and matured more and you can see a program making progress and you know you’re a part of that, it’s really cool. I think Roush [Fenway Racing] as a whole is in a really good spot.”
Even with Chris Buescher winning the XFINITY title in 2015, a lot has changed since Reed joined the race team. As a rookie, he would get criticism and get “defensive,” which has been part of growing up at Roush.
“I’ve seen the culture change. When I first got here, it was very if you made a mistake, they were really hard on you and when you had success, it was just expected,” Reed explained. “You didn’t really get compliments, but you did get criticism. I think where I’ve seen that change is Roush knows we need to celebrate our accomplishments and we need to reward that and make sure it doesn’t go unrecognized.”
RFR’s last victory in the series was Reed’s win at Daytona last season. In 45 races since he took the checkers, the company has led a total of 27 laps.
- The series heads to Iowa Speedway this weekend for the 14th race of the season. It’s a standalone race, and there are no Cup Series regulars in the race despite Ross Chastain, who is competing for XFINITY points.
- Riley Herbst (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing) and Justin Haley (No. 23 GMS Racing) will make their series debuts this weekend at Iowa.
- Championship leader Elliott Sadler is the only former winner at Iowa that is racing this weekend. He was victorious in 2012, competing for Richard Childress Racing.