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BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
He won the only race he's entered this season -- in a Super Late Model at Irwindale Speedway last month -- but Bakersfield's Ryan Reed takes a big step up the competition ladder today at Richmond International Raceway.
Reed, a Type I diabetic, will be behind the wheel of the Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford Mustang as he makes his Nationwide Series debut for Roush Fenway Racing.
There will be a two-hour practice session this morning on the three-quarter- mile track with another practice session and qualifying on Friday before the start of the Toyota Care 250 (4:30 p.m. ESPNnews).
Another Bakersfield driver -- Derek Thorn -- will also be making his Nationwide debut, in a car owned by Jimmy Means.
"I'm definitely excited," said Reed, 19, who spent much of Wednesday at the American Diabetes Association home office in Alexandria, Va. "We've got a practice early (today) and it will be nice getting back to the race track and driving race cars."
Reed, who had one top-five and six top-10 finishes in 14 ARCA races for Venturini Motorsports last season, tested in the Nationwide car last month at a track in Georgia and said he learned a ton.
"It's quite a bit different" from anything he has driven, he said. "The aero package is a lot more sensitive than even the ARCA car."
Reed learned how to manage his diabetes during races last year but the Roush Fenway team has gone to extra measures, just in case. His drivers suit has a bulls-eye target spot that will show a crewman where to give him an injection of insulin during the race should his blood glucose levels get too high.
Reed is set to run five races for Roush Fenway this season but is working to secure funding to add to that amount. But for now, it's all about Richmond.
"My goal is definitely a top-10 (finish)," he said. "Realistically, running all the laps and getting a top 15 would be good, but I want a top 10."
As for the Roush Fenway operation, Reed said it's impressive.
"It's interesting," he said. "They have so much knowledge. Aside from all the technical support they have, I've gone over to their used parts store for a few things for my Super Late Model that will come in handy.
"I'm trying to use their resources. My crew chief, Mike Munoz, loves it."
Reed will be back in Bakersfield in early May as he was planning to compete in the season-opening race at new Kern County Raceway on May 4. That date is now a practice as the opening has been pushed back to May 18.
"I'll be racing on the 18th," he said. "There's a pretty big gap until my next Nationwide race (Aug. 3) so I'll make a lot of races (at Kern County Raceway).
Thorn is on the opposite end of the resource wagon as Reed as Means' low-budget team has qualified for just three of the seven races thus far.
Thorn, who turns 27 today, moved to Bakersfield in 2009 and is one of the top drivers on the West Coast. He won six Spears SRL Southwest Tour races and the championship last season and won two races and finished third in points on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West circuit. He is 2-for-2 in SRL races this season and finished fourth in his lone K&N West start.
This will be Thorn's biggest challenge yet for a variety of reasons, including the limitations of Means' low budget team.
"It's kind of a Hail Mary," Thorn said of his chances of qualifying. "But Jimmy's been around a long time and they do a damn good job for what they've got. The car they're taking to Richmond is a good one.
"A lot of it is up to me. I haven't tested or ran these cars before and I've never been on Goodyear (radial tires) before. It will be up to me getting up to speed right away so I can give them good feedback."
Thorn said the deal came about due to a friendship with Jimmy's son, Brad, and at this time it is just for the Richmond race.
"Hopefully this breeds into something else," he said. "There's no other future plans but if everything goes smoothly, there might be."
USAC Sprint Cars at Speedway
Ryan Bernal of Hollister brings a two-race winning streak into Bakersfield Speedway on Saturday night as the USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series rolls into town.
Bernal raced to victory Friday night at Ocean Speedway in Watsonville and followed that up with a win Saturday at the Thunderbowl in Tulare.
Bernal holds a 24-point lead over Richard Vander Weerd, who won the March 23 race at Bakersfield Speedway.
Among drivers expected to compete are Bakersfield's Rusty Carlie, Ricky Kirkbride and Matt Day.
Also in action will be Sport Mods, Mini Stocks and the Dwarf Cars.
Racing starts at 6.
Majors Tour at Buttonwillow
Top Sports Car Club of America racers from throughout the west will be at Buttonwillow Raceway Park this weekend for stop No. 2 in the U.S. Majors Tour.
The new series allows top pro and amateur racers to compete in major events in four geographical regions, with each of those regions crowning their own champion.
Testing takes place on Friday with full qualifying and racing programs in a variety of different classes set for Saturday and Sunday.