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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Q&A with Ryan Reed

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Growing up, one of Ryan Reed‘s favorite NASCAR drivers was Dale Earnhardt Jr.

That’s why years ago, a young Reed “waited for hours” outside the driver’s lot at Auto Club Speedway with his dad, Mark Reed, a racer himself.

A native of Bakersfield, California, that day is Ryan Reed’s earliest memory of attending a NASCAR race weekend. He had a simple mission.

“I had gotten his diecast earlier that day,” Reed told NBC Sports, remembering the Budweiser car he held. “I was going to get it signed no matter what.”

Years before he would become one of them, Reed learned an important lesson about the lives of NASCAR drivers.

“Drivers don’t stop when they sign autographs,” Reed said. “They’ve got places to be.”

(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Eventually, Earnhardt made his way past the Reeds.

“I thought he was going to stop and sign it and my dad was standing next to me and he’s like ‘You better keep walking, son.’ I looked up and he was about 20 feet in front of me so I was running next to him.”

Reed would get to run next to Earnhardt again about a decade later, albeit significantly faster. The two have competed in 10 Xfinity Series races together since 2014 and Reed remembers the first time they were on-track together.

“It was like 10 seconds of racing door-to-door with Dale Jr.,” Reed said. “It was pretty amazing and then it was like, ‘Oh man, now I want to beat him.'”

Reed satisfied that desire in February 2015.  The Roush Fenway Racing driver won his first career Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway while Earnhardt finished 10th. Last month, Reed became just the fourth Xfinity driver since 2000 to repeat as a winner at Daytona. The others? Tony Stewart (seven wins), Matt Kenseth (two wins) and Earnhardt (six wins).

Reed is the first since Kenseth in July 2013.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: Do you remember the first time you saw your face or name on merchandise?

Reed: No, I’m trying to think. I know the first time I saw my face on my hard card and it was a terrible picture. My face was all red, but it was so cool because it was my first NASCAR hard card and that’s actually still my picture today, I’ve never changed it. So it’s an absolute awful picture of me. … I was probably 19 years old, (so it was taken) about four years ago.

NBC Sports: That’s like walking around with your senior high school photo.

Reed: Actually I changed my driver’s license a couple years ago to a North Carolina one and it was (the photo) I had from when I took my permit picture at 15 and half. So I definitely put off for awhile sometimes on changing my picture.

Ryan Reed celebrates his February 2017 win at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: What was your first car?

Reed: My first car was a diesel pickup truck and it had two uses. One, to get me to and from school and the race shop. The other, pull the trailer to the race track every weekend. I was running late models at the time so I was in charge of getting the late model and all the other supplies to the race track. So I learned how to drive a pickup and a trailer pretty much from the time I could drive. … It was definitely not easy to park in my high school parking lot.

NBC Sports: Have you ever named a car, either a street car or a race car?

Reed: No, I don’t think so. We never named it. The deal was that we couldn’t name the car until we won with it. When we won my first late model race we sold that car immediately. From then on, no matter what we won with we never really named it. We never got in the business of naming race cars.

NBC Sports: If you were to race in the Bristol Cup night race, what would be your introductory song?

Reed: That’s a tough one. I’ve actually thought a lot about that. I love music, but I like the heavy screamo def metal kind of music. I don’t know man. I grew up listening to Metallica with my dad at 5, 6 years old going to go-kart races. So I gotta go with a Metallica song, I just don’t know which one.

NBC Sports: How did you get into scream death metal music?

Reed: In high school I started listening to it. In high school I was long hair and band tees, not high school but like junior high. I started listening to screamo music and my parents hated it. I’ve just loved it ever since. I was a total band freak when I was in middle school. There’s some pretty stellar pictures out there that I try to hide.

NBC Sports: I know Darrell Wallace Jr. is also into that kind of music.

Reed: It’s funny that we’re teammates, because we’re some of the few NASCAR drivers that are into it. If we’re ever going to an appearance or something, it’s death metal the entire time we’re in the rental car together.

NBC Sports: What was the hardest you’ve ever laughed?

Reed: I think the hardest I’ve ever laughed is the first time I ever saw Step Brothers, it’s one of my favorite movies and the first time I saw it I was in tears in the move theater the whole time. I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan. Obviously that one is a classic.

NC Sports: What’s on your bucket race that’s not related to racing?

Reed: I have a lot on my bucket list. I would say to probably meet Dez Bryant. I’m a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. If I had to pick one player to meet right now, it would probably be Dez Bryant.

NBC Sports: What’s the most emotional reaction to a sporting even you’ve had that wasn’t auto racing?

Reed: It’s definitely going to be the Dallas Cowboys. I was pretty upset when they lost their playoff game last year, but I think when the whole, was it a catch, was it not a catch (against Green Bay in 2015) I was pretty fired up on that one. … I’m just over the Cowboys playing Green Bay in the playoffs. That just doesn’t need to happen anymore.

Previous Xfinity Q&A’s

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

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Atlanta Motor Speedway accepting lucky charms to help Chase Elliott earn first Cup win

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The president of Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping history will repeat.

Ed Clark is doing whatever he can to get Georgia-native Chase Elliott to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.

To do that, he’s using the same marketing scheme he executed in 1983 in the weeks before Bill Elliott’s first Cup victory.

AMS is asking for fans to send lucky charms to the track, which will be presented to Chase Elliott during a special event there Feb. 13.

There’s no restrictions on what can be sent.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winless after 77 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

Bill Elliott in 1983. (Atlanta Motor Speedway).

His father went winless in his first 155 starts from 1976-83.

Clark put together the original lucky charm drive ahead of the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he served as public relations director.

“The promotion we came up with for Bill in ’83 created an amazing amount of interest and support from fans all over the country,” said Clark in a press release. “We received package after package full of good-luck charms, and it seemed like everybody was pulling for him to get that first win.”

Three races later, in the season finale at Riverside International Raceway, the 28-year-old Bill Elliott claimed his first of 44 Cup victories.

Fans can send their lucky charms to Elliott by shipping them to AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to “Good Luck, Chase.” Fans can also participate by using the hashtag #GoodLuckChase across the various social media platforms with pictures and messages to Elliott.

The Cup season begins Feb. 18 with the 60th Daytona 500. The following weekend, the series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Go Fas Racing secures charter by partnering with Circle Sport Racing

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Go Fas Racing has secured a charter for Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 32 Ford by partnering with Circle Sport Racing.

The move comes after Go Fas Racing’s owner Archie St. Hilaire entered into a partnership with the Wood Brothers that allowed the Wood Brothers to retain the charter they leased last year from Go Fas Racing.

That move left Go Fas Racing without a charter. That matter was resolved with the partnership with Circle Sport Racing car owner Joe Falk, who recently split with TMG.

“This deal pretty much fills our plate for the 2018 season,” St. Hilaire said in a statement from the team. “We decided that the best long-term strategy for GFR’s original charter was to strike a deal with our good friends at Wood Brothers Racing, which left us seeking a charter for our own No. 32 car. I think this partnership with Joe Falk is mutually beneficial for both Joe and ourselves going into the future. Joe has been in the business for a long time and will add a wealth of knowledge to our programs in 2018 and beyond.”

Said Falk in a statement: “We have been talking about doing this for over a year and it was a big decision to switch to Ford, but we believe it will pay off. This is a performance business and we have not had the team to get good finishes. We are also working on running the No. 33 car in select events with young drivers such as Joey Gase to help get them prepared for a full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season going forward.”

CHARTERS THAT HAVE CHANGED TEAMS FOR 2018

— Furniture Row Racing #77 charter sold to JTG Daugherty for No. 37 car

— Roush Fenway Racing #16 charter sold to Team Penske for No. 12 car

— Richard Petty Motorsports #43 charter leased to Rick Ware Racing for No. 51 car

— Wood Brothers Racing forms long-term partnership with Go Fas Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire that grants Wood Brothers full operating control of the No. 32 team’s charter it leased last year.

— Go Fas Racing forms partnership with Circle Sport Racing owner Joe Falk for his charter for the No. 32 team.

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Kasey Kahne looks to run 20-30 races outside NASCAR this year

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Kasey Kahne, who competed in last week’s Chili Bowl Nationals, says he plans to run two dozen or more races outside of NASCAR this season.

Kahne, who is in his first season with Leavine Family Racing, made the comments Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’

“I’ve always tried to stay close to the type of racing that I learned how to race in and the type of cars that I learned how to race in and those fans and race tracks that I’ve spent a ton of time at and have really enjoyed over the years,’’ Kahne said of racing sprint and midget cars on dirt. “I’m still a huge fan of that type of racing because that’s where I came from and want to be for a long, long time.

“We have two (World of) Outlaw teams again this year, Daryn Pittman and Brad Sweet, and I feel like I can run 20 to 30 races depending on the schedules and how everything works out. I’m really looking forward to that because that’s something that I wanted to do for a long time and I could do it and then I couldn’t do it.’’

Kahne, who was with Hendrick Motorsports the previous six seasons, was asked if he was prohibited from racing such cars.

“When I signed up, I wasn’t at all and they said I could do whatever I wanted and enjoy it,” Kahne said. “A year later, I was restricted from everything and wasn’t able to do that anymore and then the last year they were pretty cool about it, but it was always kind of feeling like you were making somebody mad. I won’t have that because Leavine … they know that that’s what I love to do and that’s what I want to do. I don’t want it to affect the No. 95 in anyway. That’s the first priority to me. When we’re not doing that, it’s OK, nobody is going to be mad if I go and try to do a little racing. It makes me feel pretty good to be in that situation again.’’

Kahne is just one of a few NASCAR drivers expected to run in other series this year. Kyle Larson, who raced a midget car in New Zealand before competing in Chili Bowl Nationals, has said he’s allowed to run 25 such events a year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says he plans to run some midget races this summer.

Kahne also has been busy getting prepared for his new ride. He has a one-year deal with Leavine Family Racing, which is aligned with Richard Childress Racing. Travis Mack, who had been at Hendrick Motorsports, will be Kahne’s crew chief.

Kahne cited performance — he had one win and nine top-five finishes in the past three seasons with Hendrick — and business as a reason for the change.

“I’m perfectly fine with it because I’m glad I’ve moved on and am doing something different at this point and really looking forward to Leavine and my future and the new things that I have going on,’’ said Kahne, who finished 15th in the points last year after making the playoffs with his Indianapolis victory. “I don’t look back on any of it as a bad thing.’’

Asked if he feels reinvigorated with the changes, Kahne told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “I feel just to kind of start over is never a bad thing, especially with our performance. I was never happy the last three years, I haven’t been that happy as far as racing went because we could never really figure it out. Just to have a new group, start over, try to do things together and see how good we can do. To me, that’s exciting and new and fresh and I look forward to that.’’

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Todd Gilliland to drive No. 4 for Kyle Busch Motorsports; father to fill-in at Daytona

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Todd Gilliland will get a helping hand driving Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota this season before he turns 18 on May 15.

The two-time K&N Pro Series West champion will miss four of the first six races to start the year because of NASCAR’s rule that drivers under 18 years old are restricted to tracks 1.25 miles or less in length or road courses.

Gilliland will miss the season-opener at Daytona (Feb. 16), Atlanta (Feb. 24), Las Vegas (March 2) and Kansas (May 11).

After starts at Martinsville (March 24) and Dover (May 4) to begin his Rookie of the Year campaign, his first race on a 1.5-mile track will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18.

Team owner Kyle Busch will drive the No. 4 at Atlanta and Kansas.

In a video released by the team on Twitter, it announced that Gilliland’s dad, David Gilliland, will open the season at Daytona.

The former Cup driver will make his first NASCAR start since 2016 in the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

A veteran of 398 national NASCAR races, David Gilliland’s last Truck Series start was in 2015. He has 10 Truck starts. One of those was at a restrictor-plate track (Daytona, 2015).

That’s not the only race the elder Gilliland will try to be part of that weekend.

He will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Ricky Benton Racing, which has fielded the No. 92 in the Truck Series since 2010.

Gilliland will attempt to qualify the No. 92 Black’s Tire and Auto Service/Carquest Auto Parts Ford into the “Great American Race.” If he’s successful, it will mark the Cup debut for the team.

Gilliland made seven starts for the team in 2015.

“After talking with our partners, we felt the time was right to make a move into the Cup Series,” team owner Ricky Benton said in a press release. “Getting David back on board was also key. Having a veteran driver with his experience and success on restrictor-plate tracks – with whom (crew chief Mike) Hester has familiarity – gives us a leg up as we try to make the race.”
Gilliland has made 16 starts at Daytona in the Cup Series, including seven in the Daytona 500. His best finish was third in the 2011 Daytona 500.

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