In the mid-2000s, Reed Sorenson was an up-and-coming driver, hoping to make a splash in NASCAR.
Since then, it’s been a battle to even remain in the sport.
Sorenson, 33, got his first full-time opportunity in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at age 20 in 2006, driving the No. 41 for Chip Ganassi Racing. In three years with the team, he recorded all five of his top-five finishes in Cup, along with 13 top 10s. In 204 starts since competing at Ganassi, the Georgia native has just a pair of top 10s at the Cup level, most recently coming in 2010 for Red Bull Racing.
In 2011, Sorenson’s career was rejuvenated by winning an Xfinity Series race at Road America for Turner Scott Motorsports. Along with the victory, he scored seven top fives and 18 top 10s en route to finishing fifth in points.
Tommy Baldwin signed Sorenson on as the driver of the No. 36 in 2014, his last full-time Cup season, where he finished 34th in points. But since 2016, he’s made a staple of running for underfunded Premium Motorsports, sometimes start-and-parking at the Cup and Gander Outdoor Truck series levels.
Heading into Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, Sorenson has nine starts in 2019, with a best finish of 18th at Talladega Superspeedway. Recently, he spoke with Frontstretch regarding his relationship with Premium Motorsports team owner Jay Robinson, if he feels like he can still get it done given the opportunity, his career trajectory, racing for a living and much more.
Dustin Albino, Frontstretch: This year, you’ve competed in nine races between Premium Motorsports and Spire Motorsports, overall how would you gauge 2019?
Reed Sorenson: It’s going good. With this third car that we bring to the track, second car for Premium, we really just try to attrition race and make it to the end. If over the race people fall out, like at Charlotte, we were able to finish 30th out of 40 cars. That’s kind of what we do with that car.
Albino: How influential is Jay [Robinson, Premium Motorsports team owner] to you?
Sorenson: I’ve worked for Jay for a few years now. Him and I get along really well. We’re friends, and I think now that he has a charter and the way NASCAR is going, he’s looking forward to being here for a long time.
Albino: What do you consider a successful day running with smaller teams?
Sorenson: We need to stay out of trouble. We get as many tires as we need, but don’t buy any more than what we need, just enough to get by. There’s a handful of cars that we can outrun, so we try to outrun those cars. We try not to get any damage on the car, stay out of trouble and be there at the end. That’s usually a good day for us.
Albino: Why do you feel like Premium Motorsports is the right fit for you?
Sorenson: This industry is tough right now. Whether you’re on the Cup side or the Xfinity side, it’s hard to get a ride. Sponsors are hard to get, not only for the smaller teams but for the bigger teams as well.
We’ve brought some new companies into the sport with Premium. That’s exciting to do and hopefully we can continue down that path.
Albino: What’s the mentality going into a given weekend knowing you’re going to be fighting for 25th or 30th at best?
Sorenson: I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Not really [it wasn’t hard]. I’m still getting to drive a racecar for a living and I enjoy the guys on the race team that I work with. It helps a lot being around people you enjoy being around. It makes it a lot easier.
Albino: How big are the top 20s, like you did at Talladega or Ross Chastain did at Daytona?
Sorenson: It’s huge. Obviously those places – Daytona and Talladega – allow smaller teams to have a better shot of running well. I’m sure it pays better, so that makes Jay happy. We can accumulate as many points as we can. In those particular races, you’ve got to make sure you don’t get in a wreck because you can gain a lot of points by finishing 10th, 18th or wherever.
You have to be aggressive there, but you have to be cautious as well, just so you can miss all of the big stuff.
Albino: We’ve seen what Ross can do in good equipment. Do you feel like you can still get it done given the opportunity?
Sorenson: I think so. It’s just the opportunities are hard to come by. Even looking at Ross (Chastain), he was supposed to be in the (No.) 42 car (Xfinity Series) for Chip Ganassi Racing this year and it fell through. I’m sure he probably would have won a few races already if that hadn’t of happened.
It’s tough out there. It’s hard to get in a good situation with a top team. [Opportunities are] hard to get.
Albino: Racing has always been about money, but how much has it changed since the beginning of your career?
Sorenson: I don’t know if it’s changed. The charter system changed it a little bit, but it’s always been hard to find sponsors. This is an expensive sport. To be competitive and be able to buy 10 sets of tires over the course of a given weekend costs a lot of money.
I think it’s similar. It’s always kind of been like this. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. It’s part of the challenge and has always been like this.
Albino: When that opportunity at Ganassi went away early in your career, you went to Petty for a season. Since then, one full-time Cup season but consistently driving something. How would you summarize your career trajectory?
Sorenson: The last time I was in a good car was in 2011 (competed for Turner Scott Motorsports, won one race at Road America) when I drove the Dollar General car. I drove a couple years for Braun Motorsports and we had a lot of success over those few years. Since then, I’ve been running Cup, a few start-and-parks in Trucks, a few start-and-parks on the Xfinity side. You still get to drive a racecar for a living, and I’m happy to have done it for as long as I have.
This is all I’ve ever done to make a living and I want to keep it that way.
Albino: You were 20 when you got your first shot of going full time in Cup. Reflecting back, how ready were you for that opportunity?
Sorenson: I think so. Those particular years, we weren’t really winning races at the Cup level [at Ganassi], none of us were. The Xfinity cars were really good. At the time, the Cup cars struggled a little bit. But I think I was ready for the opportunity.
Albino: You’ve got 15 top 10s at the Cup level, and four Xfinity victories, but from what I’m gathering, you just want to make a living racing, correct?
Sorenson: Yeah, everybody does that’s here. Most of us grew up racing and hoped one day we’d be able to do it to make a living. That goes for crew guys, mechanics, drivers, team owners, whoever. Your end goal is to be able to do that. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to do this a long time.
Albino: You’re still young. What are your goals and aspirations in racing?
Sorenson: You have to wait and see what kind of opportunities present themselves. I’m still young and plan on being here for a while, so we’ll have to wait and see.
About the author
Dustin joined the Frontstretch team at the beginning of the 2016 season. 2020 marks his sixth full-time season covering the sport that he grew up loving. His dream was to one day be a NASCAR journalist, thus why he attended Ithaca College (Class of 2018) to earn a journalism degree. Since the ripe age of four, he knew he wanted to be a storyteller.
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I feel like for as few winners as we’ve had this year, it would be a kick to get Reed Sorenson his 1st (On Speed) All Star Race Start.