By Anthony Rhoads
I first met Reed Sorenson in 2000 at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Thursday Thunder summer racing series.
Even though he was just 14 at the time, it was obvious he had talent for racing. He was second in the Pro Division point standings that year after winning the Young Lions championship in 1998 and the Semi-Pro championship in 1999. In 2001, he won his third points championship as he won the Pro Division title.
Sorenson went on to compete in the American Speed Association where he became the youngest driver to win the rookie of the year award in 2003. He followed that up in 2004 by finishing fifth in the ASA final standings. Last year, he also got to race in a handful of NASCAR Busch Series events and he went to victory lane in just his second ARCA start.
This year, he's running a full Busch Series schedule and is currently fifth in the overall standings and first in the rookie standings.
He started the 2005 season by finishing ninth in Daytona, fifth at California and 14th in Mexico.
"We're real proud of him," Atlanta Motor Speedway president and general manager Ed Clark said. "I think under the right circumstances he can contend for the championship. He's got the equipment, the backing (with Chip Ganassi Racing) and he's got the experience with his crew. He definitely has the talent to compete at that level."
That's not too bad for a kid who just graduated from high school in 2004.
Too bad for the ASA: I really didn't follow the American Speed Association until the 2001 season. I had seen bits and pieces of some of its races on cable television but I didn't know that much about it until 2001.
The previous season, Jonesboro native Joey Clanton had won the ASA rookie of the year award and in 2001, he finished third in the final standings. I saw many of the races that year and became an ASA fan because it really was a good, entertaining short-track series. Another thing that made the ASA exciting was the fact that you might be watching a future NASCAR star. Over the years, the ASA has produced many NASCAR stars including Mark Martin, Darrell Waltrip, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Rusty Wallace. Part of the fun of following the ASA was wondering who was going to be the next big star.
Following the 2002 season was especially exciting as Clanton won the points title while other local drivers like Doug Stevens and Reed Sorenson ran in some of the races. In 2003, the local connection to ASA continued as Sorenson won the rookie of the year.
But now, the ASA is struggling and is not running a national tour this season because of a lack of sponsorship. It's unfortunate the organization has had financial problems because it is a good series and has helped a lot of guys work their way up to NASCAR.
Clanton, who holds an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, is definitely disappointed to see what has happened to the series. He not only was successful as a competitor but he worked behind the scenes last year to help improve the safety of the cars.
"It's really a shame that it happened," Clanton said. "I think it's the best short track series in the country."
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .