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Reed Sorenson’s Career Takes A Step Back

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010
Reed Sorenson led the field to the green flag at Indy in 2007 and it looked like his Sprint Cup career was off and running. (Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Reed Sorenson led the field to the green flag at Indy in 2007 and it looked like his Sprint Cup career was off and running. (Photo by Travis Lindquist/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

For most of his 23 years, Reed Sorenson’s story was a textbook lesson on how to groom an aspiring young race driver and propel him to a ride in the elite Sprint Cup Series. But the latest chapter in his career, one in which he’s having to step back to a partial schedule in the Nationwide Series and in Cup, may be the most interesting yet.

When Sorenson was just six years old, his father Brad Sorenson, a top Late Model driver in the Southeast at the time, parked his own driving ambitions to steer his son’s career.

They started in Quarter Midget. While Brad and Reed worked on race cars, Reed’s mom Becky cranked up a public relations machine that spread news of the youngster’s progress far and wide, especially to the movers and shakers around the NASCAR hub in Charlotte.

Reed excelled in Quarter Midgets then moved to Legends cars as soon as he reached the minimum age. He continued right on winning races and championships. He took the step to Late Models as soon as he was allowed to race them and then was on to the ASA circuit, which was then the highest-profile stock car circuit short of ARCA and NASCAR.

By the time Sorenson was old enough to race in NASCAR, teams were lining up to court him. He and Chip Ganassi chose each other, and in 2005, their first full season together, Reed won two Nationwide Series races.

By 2006, at age 20, he was a Sprint Cup regular. But the upward career movement stalled out there. In 145 career Cup starts, Sorenson’s best result has five top-five finishes.  His best points finish has been a 22nd in 2007. Sensing his career at Ganassi had reached a plateau after the 2008 season, Sorenson moved to the Gillett Evernham team that soon morphed into Richard Petty Motorsports. That turned out to be not the best choice. By the middle of the 2009 season, he was a lame duck there. He finished the season 29th in the standings, with just one top-10 finish.

Now, just a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday, he’s preparing to run a partial, 23-race schedule for Braun Racing in the Nationwide Series, sharing the ride with Cup driver Brian Vickers. And he also plans to enter five Cup races, in a car backed by his current sponsor, Dollar General.

Despite taking a job that some might look upon as a demotion, Sorenson sounds upbeat and positive about his future.

“I look at it as taking a little step back so I can make a big step forward,” he said, explaining that he believes the Braun team and promising young crew chief Trent Owens are plenty capable of providing him cars that can carry him to Victory Lane and build back his stock’s value.

“It’ll be nice to get back that feeling of being one of the cars to beat every time out,” Sorenson said. “I haven’t had that in a few years.”

Sorenson said that after working with Owens at Gateway International Raceway and at Phoenix last year, where he finished second and third respectively, he believes he and Owens can be a winning duo.

“He’s dedicated,” Sorenson said. “He gives all he’s got to make the car the best it can be.”

Sorenson said that he’s found his new team to be hungry to show the Cup-affiliated competitors in the Nationwide garage that they’re as good as any other outfit.

“Most of the guys at Braun have been together a few years, and they feel like they have something to prove. They’re the best stand-alone team.”

But Sorenson’s enthusiasm about his upcoming Nationwide schedule isn’t a sign that he’s surrendered any hope of returning to the Cup circuit full-time. He said the timing may have worked out just right as far as he’s concerned. He believes that the current economic woes are making it tough for any driver to get a good Cup deal right now. But he doesn’t believe that will still be the case a year from now.

“If we run good this year, I’ll be in a better position next year, especially if we can win some races,” he said.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 19 2010
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