Ryan Reed’s 2015 season started exactly how he dreamt: in victory lane.
Despite starting 2016 without a win, Reed feels that his team is off to a stronger start.
“Obviously, last year getting the win at Daytona was an awesome start, but we still felt like we had room to grow, especially on our mile-and-a-half program,” Reed told POPULAR SPEED.
After shocking the racing world at Daytona, Reed failed to crack the top 10 for the rest of the season, posting just 16 top-15 finishes by years end. Reed’s numbers, combined with Roush Fenway Racing not placing a driver in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, resulted in the organization making a slew of changes during the offseason.
One of the biggest changes is the XFINITY team now works in the same shop as the Cup team, which Reed says is beneficial in sharing notes across the teams to improve.
The other change for Reed was new crew chief Phil Gould. Gould worked with Elliott Sadler last year, leading him to four top fives and 17 top 10s.
“He [Gould] really takes a whole different approach and taught me a lot from his approach,” Reed said. “It’s really different and more relaxing. I feel we approach each weekend very relaxed and methodically, and there are a lot of smiles on everyone’s faces.”
While he has yet to post a top 10 in five races, Reed feels the changes are paying off. Reed spent the majority of the race at Auto Club Speedway inside of the top 10 before finishing 14th thanks to a pit road speeding penalty.
The No. 16 team has shown speed this year that they didn’t have in 2015, which makes Reed optimistic.
“We’ve had really strong runs, and just had some bad luck – some of it self-infused,” Reed said. “I slid through my (pit) box at Daytona and had a pit road speeding penalty at Atlanta, and then we had a penalty at Fontana two weeks ago. In all those, we battled back to get a top-15 finish.”
When asked to grade himself, he feels he’s at a B- after five races. When it comes to a team effort, it’s a perfect A+ through hard work and determination.
“There’s been no shortage of hours worked in the shop, and everyone is just really passionate and has each other’s backs right now,” Reed said. “That’s one of the things that I really look for on a race team; your guys are there for each other, and are one big team, and have that right now.”
Moving forward, Reed feels if the team’s luck and execution improve, they can break into the top 10 more than once this season. He added the other key, so far, at least, is the team is having fun each weekend at the track.
“I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “Everyone is having a lot more fun, and I feel like when you’re having fun like that, it makes it more enjoyable and more successful on track.”
Reed admits that they need to continue to get better beyond that, as their performance hasn’t matched that of Joe Gibbs Racing. The big difference between the organizations has been how well JGR has adapted to the new rules package that allows teams to use bump stops.
“I just feel like JGR has a really good feel and handle on it. They’ve just done a really good job on capitalizing on the rule change,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard during the offseason, and I felt like we did a pretty good job, but they did an amazing job to switching over. I just felt like they have it right now. They’re also extremely good on the Cup side, so their organization as a whole is really strong right now.”
After a two-week break, Reed’s next opportunity for success will come at Texas Motor Speedway, where his best finish is 15th. The driver of the No. 16 Lilly’s Diabetes Ford Mustang feels they will be stronger this year, citing his team’s speed at tracks with significant tire falloff. A little help from 2015 XFINITY Series champion Chris Buescher doesn’t hurt, either.
“We may have given up a bit of raw speed, but we made up for it as the tires fall off and have a good balance with our racecars,” he said. “I think we have a really good shot at having a good run at Texas. We have some strong notes from last year with Chris Buescher. So I think that we’re feeling pretty good going into it.”
As he looks to improve his performance, Reed promises to keep having fun, realizing how fortunate he is to get the opportunity he has with Roush Fenway.
“I’m driving racecars for a living and it’s pretty amazing to get to do what I love to do,” Reed said. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a great race team and great partners like Lilly Diabetes and American Diabetes Association. I’m just trying to enjoy myself and enjoy the work process and trying to get better each week and spend time at the shop with the guys, and just try to have a lot of fun.
“Like I said, appreciate the whole process a little more rather than focusing just on the end goal.”
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