Austin Reed Shines in the Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown
Dave Reed Racing made their first SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series start, without long-time veteran driver Craig Raudman behind the wheel. It had been decades since the last occurrence, when the team arrived at Irwindale Speedway for the $25,000-to-win "Sunrise Ford All-Star Showdown presented by the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame." The Approved Memory, Lucas Oil, Fluidyne High-Performance Toyota Camry was in good hands, however, as the 2019 winner of the PASS National Championship Super Late Model "Commonwealth Classic 75", from Richmond Raceway, was at the controls. Dave's son Austin made the cross-country trip from Mooresville, NC to Irwindale, to take the wheel of the #14 Super Late Model.
The weekend began with an optional Thursday practice session, for the rebirth of the Showdown event. The team struggled in Thursday's session with an ill-handling car. The team ended the day 24th of the 25 teams on hand. Car owner Dave Reed recalled the frustrating day.
"We struggled with two sets of tires being out of balance on Thursday's test, and that put us behind going into Friday."
Friday's practice day didn't start any better. It could be argued that it began worse. Austin once again posted the 24th quickest lap, this time of 32 competitors. But the team only turned 10 laps, as Austin brushed the outside wall during the 45-minute-long session. The Dave Reed Racing Team immediately went to work, making repairs to the car while at the same time adjusting to make the car better.
"We scraped the wall from running the top groove," team owner Dave Reed stated. "We just got into the grey area a little, and we hit the rear and then the right front. These guys worked hard to get it repaired to make some laps, and by the time the day was over, we had some good lap times."
The second practice session saw the team climb to 19th, with the final session of the day a similar 18th. Overall, they placed 21st in Friday’s sessions.
"We felt like the set-up line was going in the right direction," the elder Reed recalled. "We never bolted on new tires on Thursday. The car began to come to life on Friday, with the changes (Crew Chief) Craig Raudman, and the crew made."
Saturday's final one-hour Final Practice session found the team making significant strides, with changes made early in the morning. Austin climbed the charts to the number four position, behind powerhouse competitors Derek Thorn, Preston Peltier, and Irwindale Speedway SRL Track Record holder Dylan Lupton. He slotted in the right in front of 2019 SRL Champion Cole Moore, with his 17.437-second lap, his best of the weekend thus far.
Qualifying began with Reed going out 23rd in the qualifying order. He turned a lap of 17.335, which placed him just outside the top-10, in 11th. The time was only 0.032 seconds out of the top-five, in the extremely tight field. That result placed Austin on the inside of row six, to roll-off 11th.
Reed began the 200-lap affair battling for position, just outside the top-10. He fell back a few positions, in the initial laps, but worked his way forward to battle just inside the top-10. Reed would finish the first 100 laps in seventh, after a 79-lap green-flag run. The crew, led by Craig Raudman, went to work on the car, but decided to leave the set-up unchanged, putting on four fresh Hoosier tires.
"At the halfway break, I told Craig that the car was a little free off the corner, but I felt it was due to tire wear, and running the bottom for most of the first 100 laps", Austin stated. "He made the educated choice, from his experience at Irwindale, to not make any adjustments on the chassis, and spend the time bleeding the brakes and changing tires. At the Halfway Break, it gave us time for me to get out of the car and help the guys change tires, before hopping back in for the final 100 laps!
Reed began the second half of the event, battling in the lower half of the top-10. A caution came out on lap 147, and that is when Reed's car began to advance through the field. By lap 160, Reed was battling in the sixth position and remained there for a good portion of the event. Another long run, of 51 laps, found Reed battling with Jack Wood for the fourth position, late in the race. The resulting battle would knock Reed from the top-five, and back to the ninth position, as the final lead lap car. It was a somewhat mood dampening incident, for a near incredible day.
"The last few laps of the race, Jack Wood and I were having a great race, battling for the fourth position," Austin began. "With two laps to go, he was able to slide in front of me, coming out of Turn 2. While he ran the bottom, in Turn 1&2, he didn't have as much momentum down the backstretch. Talking to him after the race, he spun the tires as well. Having a run on the top, I misjudged how fast I would get to him. When I went to turn under him, I caught his rear bumper, that led to driving over his LR (Left Rear). Looking back, it was primarily my fault, and a racing deal. But ultimately, it took away the chance of an excellent finish for our team, and everyone a part of it."
The team owner, and patriarch of the family, recalled the incident in an otherwise impressive effort.
"The car got about five feet of air. When he came down hard, the hood pins came off, allowing the hood to come up and cover the complete front windshield for the white flag lap. We limped around with no visibility, relegating us to a ninth-place finish. We raced all night long, hard and clean, and passed a lot of cars, with a ton of great racing. It was just really fun out there, all over the racetrack."
Other than the penultimate lap glitch, Dave was very impressed with his son's effort over the weekend. He was also impressed with how the team worked together throughout the weekend, overcoming several obstacles thrown in their path.
“I thought Austin ran one of the best races he has in a while", Dave began. And that is especially true, with the minimal seat time he has had. Craig and Austin had good chemistry. The things Craig communicated, not only about set up, but all the adversities that come out on the racetrack under race conditions, is second to none. He has lived them on the track for many years. And with the notes and help from Bond Suss, the BSR (Bond Suss Racing) built car came to life."
Austin was also very pleased with the effort in general. He felt the team showed its potential to their fellow competitors. He also enjoyed the competition, the series and the tracks conditions that led to the great racing, exhibited throughout the weekend.
"As a whole, I feel that the weekend was very successful," Austin exclaimed! "Although we didn't have the finish the team deserved, we made a statement coming out to race with some of the best racers in the country, at an incredible facility that used to be my home track. Everyone knew we were there, and understands that this team can compete with the best!"
Reed continued, "The race was some of the most fun I have ever had behind the wheel! Tim Huddleston, the SRL series and everyone at Irwindale Speedway did an incredible job making sure the track was perfect for the race! We were able to run all over the track, all race, to battle for positions."
Dave Reed Racing will now move to the second event on their 2020 schedule, the Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway. Austin will be back in the #14 SLM, while the team will be looking for a fully funded driver for former Raudman #2 car. The event will be held on March 21st.
Dave Reed Racing is supported by Approved Memory, Ringers Gloves, Peters Racing Engines, Fluidyne Performance, @OfficialLucasOil, K&N Filters, Eibach, JDA BRE, Coleman Powersports and Bubba's Rear Ends.