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.”
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.
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.
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