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27 Sorenson
Taken on February 9, 2020 during Daytona 500 qualifying. Image from Joel Bray.

Reed Sorenson talks about making the Daytona 500

THE MODERATOR:  We are joined by Reed Sorenson, driver of the No. 27 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet, who is now in the Daytona 500 this year.  We will open it up to questions for Reed.

Reed, you’ve run the gamut, been through this a couple of times with a couple of small teams, and to race your way in with this team which might be one of the smallest teams you’ve been a part of here at the Daytona 500, how big is this for Premium and how emotional a night is this for you?

REED SORENSON:  Well, it is a big deal.  The money that comes in from this race for a small team is a big deal, and it helps us kind of get the ball rolling financially.  Yeah, I mean, these guys worked really hard over the winter.  I have a good motor in the car.  This is probably the best motor I’ve had to try to race my way in, so I was excited about that, that we were able to put the effort in to have a good engine here.

Just proud of everybody, and looking forward to Sunday.  I think it’ll be fun.

You’ve been in this game for a long time.  How amazing is it to make this one compared to all the other ones?  And if J.J. makes it to the 500, how great is it that two guys that were part of that 2006 rookie class to make it, considering both of your circumstances and your careers?

REED SORENSON:  Yeah, we’ll have to wait and see who makes it, but a lot of times smaller team guys can work together in the 500, too, so I’ll be paying attention just to know we’ll have some options and people to work with on Sunday.

Yeah, I mean, anytime you try to make this race, it’s very nerve‑racking, not only for the driver, for the team owners.  I don’t think my crew chief has slept in a week.  He said he’s finally going to get to sleep tonight.

Yeah, I mean, it’s something we think about for a month and a half in the off‑season, then we finally ‑‑ when you get here, and I’ve been on the other side of it where I’ve missed it, and it’s very disappointing, and it takes a while to get over.  This was nice to come down here this year and get in.

Compared to other races in which you compete, given the challenges of racing for a smaller team, what is the comparison?  I imagine the optimism of knowing anything can happen at Daytona gives you that sort of optimism, maybe not necessarily that you’re gunning for a win but if the right circumstances play out, who knows?

REED SORENSON:  Oh, for sure.  As you know, as you just said, anything can happen here, and this is the best engine I’ve probably had here in years.  Trying to think when I’ve even had one this good.  Probably seven or eight years ago.  And it drove pretty good tonight.  It’s the first time I was in the draft and I was pretty happy with it, and there’s a few things we can fix to make it even better.

Yeah, you can win; it can happen.  I think we’ll be cautious, like a lot of people say they’re going to be the first 80 percent of the race, try to stay on the lead lap, and at the end I think I’m going to have the green light to go race.  We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.  A lot of ‑‑ anything can happen, and especially here and Talladega for a small team like us with a chance to win.

You’ve raced with the big teams.  You were with Chip Ganassi, started your career with them.  As you get along in your career in the latter years, is it a lot more satisfying when you do something like you did tonight?

REED SORENSON:  Yeah, and a lot of people haven’t been through the position of having to race your way in and it meaning so much to your race team.  Like I said, not only just financially, but it motivates the guys at the shop and the guys on the race team to keep working hard.  Not only financially but motivates everybody.

Yeah, I mean, it ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s more satisfying being with a smaller team making it or being part of a big team and doing something well.  I think they’re both satisfying.

I mean, I’ve been kind of on the other side of the garage for a few years now, so I guess I’ve kind of gotten used to the challenges that we face each and every week.  It’s okay.  It’s part of it, and I still enjoy it and love working for this race team and this car owner, and I’m glad he gave me the chance to race.

What was the reaction on your radio when Suárez did wreck out?

REED SORENSON:  My spotter was high‑pitched to say the least.  I didn’t really have much emotion about it because I was still trying to concentrate on what we might or might not have to do to get in.  But yeah, he started screaming at me.  Nobody was around me so I didn’t know what he was screaming about, and it was because the 96 was in it.

I don’t know what happened in that wreck.  I’ll have to go back and look at it, but obviously he wrecked hard enough to take him out.  That put us in a position to stay ahead of the 49 car, and as long as the 16 was in front of us, then we would get in on speed, so we knew what we had to do, and from that point on, we stayed away from the pack because there was no reason for me to be near them and having a chance of tearing the car up.

Once that happened we were kind of just taking it easy and making sure we didn’t screw anything up.

Reed, do you know what the plan of attack is on Sunday?  Do you have permission to race?  Do you have the funding to race the whole race?  What’s the plan?

REED SORENSON:  Yeah, we’re racing.  Yeah, like I said, I keep saying this, but we have a leased engine, and it’s been running really good.  We’ll be smart about it, and I think everybody kind of has that same approach to keep your car in one piece, and then usually we figure out how to all wreck at the end together.

We’ll see what happens, but yeah, we’re definitely racing.  I do have the green light.  That’s why we put the effort into trying to have a fast race car, so we could make the race for one, and then once we made the race we could be aggressive.  We’ll see how the race plays out, and I think you’ve still got to be smart here and not get too anxious at the beginning of the race and keep your nose clean, and we’ll race hard at the end.

I’ve known you since you were a smug teenager from Georgia, and I have yet to see you come into a media center and be this emotional.  Why is this milestone hitting you so hard?

REED SORENSON:  Well, you never know when you’re going to not get another chance to run the Daytona 500, and it’s such a big race.  You know, I didn’t know for sure if I was going to be driving or spotting.  I don’t know if a lot of people know, but a lot of times when I’m not driving, I’m spotting.  So I wanted to drive, of course.  I enjoy spotting, but not as much as driving.

You know, just not knowing when the next time ‑‑ this might be your last Daytona 500, and there’s no guarantees on when you’re going to get that next opportunity.  Just to get the opportunity was very exciting for me, and then now that we’re in, I can enjoy the moment and the weekend.

You keep talking about the engine.  Who’s your engine supplier this year?

REED SORENSON:  ECR.  Yeah, that’s what we’ve ran last year and this year.  I’ve been impressed with it so far.  We thought we would qualify a little bit better.  We didn’t get a chance to heat the oil up just because we were struggling to get through tech, so I think that had something to do with it, but Saturday it showed pretty good speed, and we just didn’t quite have that in qualifying.  It was still good enough to get us in the race if the 16 raced his way in.  Just being third instead of fourth was a big deal and gave us a couple ways to get in this race.