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Spotlight: Consistent Sorenson striving to be picture-perfect

September 28, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

There was a time -- not that long ago in his case -- when Reed Sorenson thought race car drivers were larger than life. So when he sees a young fan at the track, Sorenson makes sure he spends a little extra time with them, just like Dale Earnhardt did with him when he was 4.

Sorenson doesn't remember much about his encounter with the Intimidator, but he's heard the stories. The native of Peachtree City, Ga., was at nearby Atlanta Motor Speedway one time with his father, Brad.

Dale Earnhardt poses with young fan Reed Sorenson. (Courtesy Sorenson family)

"I think I snuck into the garage area when I probably wasn't supposed to be in there," Sorenson said. "My dad was a racer and I was a race fan as a little kid.

'[Earnhardt] was who I liked when I was 4. So I was fortunate enough to get a picture with him. It was pretty cool. Not a lot of people got to experience that. He took the time to take a picture with me, so that was cool in itself."

However, that brush with greatness wasn't enough to immediately sway Sorenson into a motorsports career. There was a time when the 25-year-old dreamed of swinging a bat at Turner Field rather than swinging onto the concrete oval at Dover this weekend.

"I played a little bit of everything until I was about 12, and that's when I did racing only," Sorenson said. "I did baseball, football, indoor soccer, all that good stuff. I took baseball pretty seriously. That was my best sport other than racing.

"I went to a lot of Braves games as a kid. I don't really follow baseball very much any more. I'm a big Falcons fan right now."

But once he made up his mind, Sorenson was hooked on racing. He won nine regional quarter midget championships, won 84 Legends races during a five-year span and was a three-time AMS track champion in that division, all before he graduated from high school.

In fact, his early graduation present was a driver development deal with Chip Ganassi Racing. He made three ARCA starts as an 18-year-old, winning one and recording three top-10s. Flush with success, Sorenson advanced to the then-Busch Series, qualifying third and finishing 13th in his debut at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Sorenson finished fourth in the points the next season, then had four full years at the Cup level before returning to Nationwide on a full-time basis this season. So far, the transition has been a successful one for Sorenson.

"We've been consistent and not made many mistakes," Sorenson said. "Our two worst finishes this year were blowing an engine at Bristol and getting wrecked by a teammate at Atlanta. That's really the only two bad finishes we've had.

"Consistency has been on our side. We just need to be faster. The way the Roush cars are running, they seem to be pretty fast, week in and week out. We just need to be up there with them."

And one of the places where Sorenson has been consistently quick is the concrete Monster Mile. In 10 Nationwide starts at Dover, Sorenson has nine top-10 finishes.

"It's a little bit different than most places we go, because of the banking and the concrete," Sorenson said. "I've liked it since the first one I went there. And I've always seemed to have pretty good success there. I don't know what about it suits my driving style or if it's just a place I enjoy racing at. I've had pretty good cars there in the past so I definitely look forward to going there."

The key to Dover, according to Sorenson, is getting settled into a groove.

"It's a really fast race track, so getting into a rhythm is pretty key to having success there," Sorenson said. "You have to run the same every lap and a little mistake there can cost you a lot of time. That track seems to be a little bit different each time we go there, as far as what line seems to be good.

"Some people are able to run really high, and some run down on the bottom. I've done both before to be successful. A lot of time, you've got to move around to help your car and make it better, but I think rhythm is probably the biggest thing there."

"We've been consistent and not made many mistakes. ... We just need to be faster."

--REED SORENSON

It's a track where cautions seem to breed cautions. And at the same time, the race can settle into long periods of green-flag laps.

"A good car on a long run there can make a pretty big difference versus a car that's not," Sorenson said. "You can gain a lot of time on people if your car's good on long runs there.

"It's a place where if your car is good, you can run fast and consistent. And if it's not, it's a handful. It's definitely a huge help at that track to unload well, and the first race this year we unloaded pretty good, made some changes that made the car better, and we had a good race car during the race."

Sorenson finished third at Dover in the spring. And he credits much of that to the way crew chief Trent Owens and he communicate.

"Trent used to race himself, and that helps me," Sorenson said. "There have been times in the past where I've tried to explain things to a crew chief as to what's going on. And they might not fully understand what you're saying.

"I feel like Trent and I really understand each other. A lot of times I can tell him what the car's doing and explain it in a way that he understands, mainly because he's driven before."

It's knowledge that's passed down from generation to generation. Just like Sorenson idolized Dale Earnhardt, he understands that there may be a kid pressed against the chain-link fence at the track this weekend, dreaming of becoming the next Reed Sorenson.

"That's one of the best things about our sport," Sorenson said. "I always try to go over and take some extra time with them and get a picture with them, if they want. It's cool to see how excited they are, just to be at the race track. I remember when I was a little kid and felt the same way."