By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
With Road America being the final road course race of the season for the NASCAR Xfinity Series, many were looking for a shot to solidify their spot in the first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series Chase. One of those drivers was Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed. Reed came into Road America 10th in points, just 60 points ahead of the Chase cut-off.
The weekend started off promising, as Reed and his No.16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang was 11th fastest in the first practice session. In the final practice, Reed was only 19th fastest. Reed bounced back and qualified seventh for the race.
The race started fast as many jockeyed for position from lap one. The race was slowed almost immediately. Garrett Smithley crashed hard after a mechanical issue with his Chervolet Camaro on the front straightaway just two laps into the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville.
On the restart, Reed fought hard to stay in the top 10. Only a few turns later, Reed made contact with his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. Both drivers slid wide in turn five in a mirror image of a similar incident between the two drivers at Mid-Ohio two weeks ago. Reed slid back, just outside of the top 10.
Reed slowly moved back up as drivers ahead of him elected to take a different strategy and peel off to pit. As Reed moved up on track, his cushion over 13th in points grew as some around him in points had their own issues.
A caution for weather just passed halfway brought many, including Reed, onto the same pit strategy. The rain was not enough to convince anyone to switch to the wet-weather tires. Luckily, the weather moved out, allowing the race to continue under dry conditions.
As the race continued, Reed slowly and quietly worked his way back into the top 10. With just under 15 laps to go, Reed was riding comfortably in the ninth position. However, the caution waved just three laps later as Nic Hammann’s No.74 Dodge Challenger slowed to a stop on track.
While under caution, Reed joined many others who ducked onto pit road for fresh fuel and tires. Reed left pit road in the 18th position on the grid as some ahead and behind stayed on track.
On the restart, Reed followed Brendan Gaughan who also had pitted. As drivers beat and banged for position, Reed was able to avoid a melee that included J.J. Yeley and Justin Allgaier among others. Reed also missed a separate melee that included Chervolets of Ty Dillon and Kenny Habul just a few turns later.
Just one lap after the restart, Reed had been able to gain seven positions. Reed continued his march up through the field. Just after passing Erik Jones for ninth with five laps to go, the caution waved for debris. The caution set up a restart with just three laps to the finish.
On the restart, Reed bounced up and down as chaos unfolded. Brand Jones spun behind him as Tagliani locked up his tires ahead. Tagliani slowed with a flat spotted tire, holding up Reed, allowing Allgaier and Elliott Sadler to jump by. The chaos subsided when the caution waved with two laps to go for Alon Day, whose No. 13 Dodge Challenger was stranded in the dirt.
Reed restarted in overtime in the ninth position. Reed slid into the grass as he tried to hold off Erik Jones and pass Allgaier. Reed made quick work of both Allgaier and Sadler just two turns later. Reed then set his sights on Owen Kelly, just ahead of him in sixth.
On the final lap, Reed nudged Kelly several times entering turn two. The movement was enough to move Kelly over and send him into the corner at a higher rate of speed. Kelly in turn made contact with Justin Marks, sending Marks spinning. Reed inherited the fifth position after the misfortune of both Kelly and Marks.
Reed was able to hold off a hard charging Sadler and Allgaier to finish in fifth. This was Reed’s first top five of 2016. This is also the first top five for Reed since his victory at Daytona in 2015, 56 races ago.
An excited and proud Reed wrote this Tweet after the race:
Reed is now just 69 points ahead of Dakoda Armstrong, who is in the 13th position, just outside of the Chase. Reed will try to carry this momentum into Darlington Raceway’s Throwback Weekend.