News & Media

Year in Review: Sorenson goes from penthouse to outhouse

December 24, 2011, Mark Aumann,

Sorenson was a title contender at Turner, but fired with five races remaining

To say Reed Sorenson's 2011 was a season of change would be understating it nicely. Sorenson knew he'd begin the year with a new owner -- switching from Todd Braun to Steve Turner -- and a new manufacturer -- going from Toyotas to Chevrolets.

With that in mind, Sorenson correctly assumed he'd be in the thick of the championship battle all season. And that was the case, as he led the points for six weeks in four stretches, including as late as the 20th race of the year.

2011 statistics

Laps Led85
Avg. Start13.8
Avg. Finish13.0

But what he didn't count on was being released from his ride with five races remaining, despite being third in the points at the time. He was able to finish out the season in Randy MacDonald's Dodges and wound up fifth in the points.

It was his best Nationwide finish since he burst onto the scene in 2005 as a 19-year-old future star with Chip Ganassi. That season, Sorenson won twice and finished fourth in the points -- earning him a promotion to the Cup Series the following year.

But despite a win at Road America and 18 top-10 finishes, Sorenson's short-term future seems anything but clear.

Things to smile about

Sorenson kicked off the year with back-to-back fifth-place finishes at Daytona and Phoenix, giving him an early points lead. Even after he slipped to fifth following an engine failure at Bristol and a 14th at Fontana, Sorenson strung together nine top-10s in a 10-race stretch to regain the top spot.

But the key moment of the year for Sorenson had to be the shocking victory at Road America, when he had just enough fuel left in the car to take the victory seconds after teammate Justin Allgaier ran out of gas. Sorenson was able to maintain a cautious pace back to the checkered -- even though runner-up Ron Fellows thought otherwise.

"Trent [Owens] made the right calls on pit road for us to come away with this win," Sorenson said. "I knew it was going to be close on gas for all of us, but we had a good car all day. This is the last place I thought I could win, but we will take it for sure."

Sorenson's first Nationwide win in six years put him back atop the points lead -- and he'd be a factor in the championship until Atlanta.

Reasons to frown

After finishing sixth at Iowa, Sorenson's season suddenly veered into chaos. He finished 13th at Watkins Glen, 25th at Montreal and 12th at Bristol, dropping to third in the points.

But his title hopes came crashing to a halt, literally and figuratively, at Atlanta. Running in a group of cars, Sorenson was tapped from behind by Allgaier, setting off a chain-reaction accident that left Sorenson with a 32nd-place finish.

Allgaier apologized for getting loose underneath Sorenson, but the damage was done.

"He just ran into us," Sorenson said. "I don't know what to say. It's not good, I tell you that. We're running for the championship. He knows that. It's pretty ridiculous. ... It's hard to beat the other guys alone much less beat ourselves. That's exactly what he did."

Three races later, Sorenson was released by Turner Motorsports. Owner Steve Turner said it was a matter of unrealized expectations.

"The feedback between the crew chief and the driver, we weren't improving the car," Turner told ESPN after letting Sorenson go. "The car was staying the same. You've got to start changing somewhere."

Looking into the crystal ball

Sorenson finished out the season with MacDonald Motorsports, but his future is currently up in the air. He's not listed on the team's website as a candidate for their open ride. And Sorenson's own personal website thanks his fans for their support in 2011 with the comment, "We'll see you in 2012."

Where that may be is unknown. But a driver with Sorenson's credentials -- particularly coming off a season like he had in 2011 -- usually finds his way back behind the wheel.