Ryan Reed will reach the pinnacle of NASCAR racing on Oct. 23 at Talladega Superspeedway when he attempts to make his Sprint Cup Series debut.
For Reed, it’s the highlight of a rewarding journey following a diagnoses with diabetes in 2011 and being told he would never be able to race.
“That’s what it was all about to me,” Reed told NBC Sports. “Getting there, doing it, and in a few short weeks I’ll be able to say I have.”
The third-year Xfinity Series driver for Roush Fenway Racing will drive the No. 99 Ford in the Alabama 500 the organization announced Wednesday afternoon. Reed will be a fourth teammate to Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne.
“It’s certainly a dream come true,” Reed said. “When I dreamt about what I wanted to do as a little kid growing up, it was always to be a Sprint Cup Series driver. It’s been an amazing few years in the Xfinity Series, and I want to continue to grow in that series and continue to cut my teeth and develop, but feel like we’ve had a lot of success on the superspeedways. It’s a great place to transition and to get some experience in the Sprint Cup Series.”
Reed has made 99 starts in the Xfinity Series with Roush Fenway, earning one win in February 2015. It came in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, another superspeedway race. Competing in the Cup Series, however, will have its own set of challenges.
Aside from racing inches apart from the best drivers in the sport, Cup cars have more horsepower than what Reed is used to. Plus, as Reed said, restrictor-plate racing leaves a driver having to make about a thousand decisions, such as when to bump draft and when not to force your nose into a hole.
Talladega is a cutoff race in the Sprint Cup playoffs, leaving many drivers with different agendas. That includes Reed, who will be looking to gain experience while not jeopardizing someone else’s championship opportunity.
“In Xfinity races usually you’re like, ‘OK, let’s get aggressive,’” Reed said. “It’s a short race and we’re all racing for the same goal, which is to win. Now in this scenario, you probably think twice about those decisions. You probably lift instead of giving somebody a huge push or those sorts of things. But I got the call to go run this race and I said OK. The powers that be make the decisions and plan the races and I’m just fortunate to say yes to drive the car.”
And Reed plans on putting his best foot forward for Roush Fenway and his sponsors, Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association. Their belief in him and this opportunity isn’t lost on the 22-year-old, who hopes the basics of what have made him successful at restrictor-plate races in the past will carry over to Talladega.
“Number one is be smart and be there at the end,” Reed said. “There’s a lot of things to consider. Got to be respectful to all the Chase guys – I’m out there to gain some experience and to learn and if I can get a great finish, great. But my goal number one is to go out there, gain experience and run all the laps.
“Not always the easiest thing to do at Talladega but that’s the goal and so I’m going to go in there and I don’t feel like this is my only shot to prove myself, that I got one race and then I’m done. I feel like this is a great time to gain some experience and learn for the next time.”