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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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Longtime crew chief Nick Harrison dies at 37, team announces

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LOUDON, N.H. — Kaulig Racing announced Sunday morning that veteran crew chief Nick Harrison died. He was 37.

Harrison was the crew chief for Justin Haley‘s No. 11 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series and had called the car’s 13th-place finish Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In a statement attributed to team owner Matt Kaulig and president Chris Rice, the team said in a tweet that “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Nick Harrison, our beloved crew chief of the No. 11 car at Kaulig Racing. Please keep Nick’s family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.”

No cause of death or information on services was immediately available. A Kaulig Racing spokesperson said “further details would be provided as they come.”

NASCAR released a statement on Harrison’s death: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of longtime crew chief Nick Harrison, and offer our thoughts, prayers and support to his family, friends and Kaulig Racing colleagues.”

According to Racing-Reference.info, Harrison made his debut as an Xfinity crew chief in 2006. He was a crew chief for 184 Xfinity races (including 17 with Haley this year) and had five victories, his first with Kurt Busch in 2012 at Daytona International Speedway with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing.

He also worked 120 races as a crew chief in the Cup Series, including full seasons in 2011-12 with Phoenix Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet. He guided Busch to a third place June 24, 2012 at Sonoma Raceway, marking Harrison’s best finish as a Cup crew chief.

Harrison also won three times in the Xfinity Series with Austin Dillon and once with Paul Menard. He also won with Dillon in the Aug. 2, 2014 truck race at Pocono Raceway, one of three truck races for Harrison as a crew chief.

During a career with several teams including Phoenix, Richard Childress Racing and Kaulig, Harrison worked with more than a dozen Cup and Xfinity drivers. The roster included Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Boris Said, A.J. Allmendinger, Micahel McDowell, Regan Smith, Ryan Truex, Landon Cassill, Jamie McMurray, Ty Dillon, Jeremy Clements, Brandon Jones, Ben Kennedy and Brendan Gaughan.

Today’s Cup race at New Hampshire: Start time, lineup and more

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After a harrowing series of practice sessions for some teams at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s premier series is scheduled for 301 laps Sunday at the Magic Mile.

Five drivers — Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin — will start from the rear in backup cars after crashes the past two days.

Brad Keselowski will start first after capturing his first pole position since October 2017.

Here’s all the info for today’s event:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The green flag is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.

PRERACE: The garage will open at 9:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Driver introductions will begin at 2:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Whitney Doucet at 3:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 301 laps (318.46 miles) around the 1.058-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 75. Stage 2 ends on Lap 150

TV/RADIO: Prerace coverage will begin at 1:30 p.m. with NASCAR America on NBCSN, followed by  Countdown to Green at 2:30 on NBCSN and the race broadcast at 3 on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will broadcast the race. PRN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast, which is also available at goprn.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high of 90 degrees and a 24% chance of scattered thunderstorms for the start of the race. 

LAST TIME: Kevin Harvick bumped Kyle Busch from the lead on Lap 295 of 301. Aric Almirola finished third. 

TO THE REAR: Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin will drop to the back because they are in backup cars.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Harrison Burton, Paul Menard exchange words after trading hits

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LOUDON, N.H. – There’s a 20-year gap between Paul Menard and Harrison Burton and seemingly just as wide a gulf in how they viewed their incident Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Burton, 18, finished 29th in the Xfinity Series race after being wrecked by Menard, 38, with 45 laps remaining.

Parking his No. 18 Toyota after completing 169 of 200 laps, Burton waited for more than 20 minutes until the race ended and then strode purposefully from the entrance of the Xfinity garage to the pits and confronted Menard for a terse but civil conversation.

“I wanted to get across to him that I got wrecked for no reason,” said Burton, who competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series and was making the third start of his Xfinity career and the first on a track at least a mile in length. “I barely touched him. There’s barely a mark on his door. I don’t know if he’s heard of NASCAR before, but this isn’t F1 where if you touch someone, there’s a 5-second penalty.

“I barely touched him, and I got wrecked. He says that I got into him on the restart. I’m on the apron, and he comes down across my nose and then gets mad about it. When he watches the film, I think he’ll see that. I think that we just worked our butts off and didn’t get the result we deserve. We’ll just come back and race harder and beat him next time.”

Menard said he was justified to tap Burton in the left rear and spin the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Turn 1 wall.

“He ran into me a couple of times,” said the driver of the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. “So I voiced my displeasure. He’s a young kid. He’s got a long time in this sport. He’s got to figure that stuff out pretty early. As he races more in Xfinity, and especially if he gets to the Cup level, they don’t put up with that stuff. I felt it was my place to tell him that’s not cool.

“A lot of these kids are good clean racers. He kind of stood out from the crowd. He had a fast enough car he could have been clean. I hate tearing up race cars. I didn’t really want to tear up his race car, that’s for sure. But sometimes enough is enough.”

Menard singled out Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, both in their early to mid-20s, for having raced him cleaner than Burton.

“Some of these kids are really fun to race with, and some of them just don’t get it,” said Menard, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Cup series who was teamed with Burton’s father (and NASCAR on NBC analyst), Jeff, for three seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “So I think you have to cut that shit out at an early age.”

“Some of these kids have a lot of talent and don’t have to run into you to try to pass you. Harrison, I’ve never met the kid before. I know his dad really well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff. Really good man. But the kid ran into me a couple of times, and that was enough of that.”

Though he had the chance to air his grievances, Burton was skeptical it would make any difference with how Menard would race him in the future.

“He doesn’t care,” Burton said. “He doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But I’m going to just go out and beat him on the racetrack like I was going to today. I was driving away from him. I was gone.

“We were going to beat him on the racetrack, and that’s all you can do is just beat people on the racetrack and show them you’re going to outwork them. I’m fired up and ready to go for the next one.”

Results, points after Xfinity race at New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell led 186 of 200 laps on his way to winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell beat Cole Custer to claim his fifth of the year.

The top five was completed by Justin Allgaier, Tyler Reddick and Paul Menard.

Click here for the race results.

Points

Tyler Reddick continues to lead the standings despite having two few wins than Bell and Custer.

He has a 56-point lead over Bell and 76-point advantage over Custer in third.

The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier (-146 points) and Austin Cindric (-163 points).

Click here for the full standings.