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Shawn Reed ready to seize his moment 

Former boat champion Shawn Reed talks taking down Steve Torrence and adjusting to quick car
31 May 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Feature
Shawn Reed

Shawn Reed started driving Top Fuel in 2015. His equipment was never bad, but he wasn’t leading Tricky Tipster selections or putting his Hughes Oilfield dragster on the pole on a weekly basis. The Washington native and former drag boat champion is still seeking his first victory (and pole, for that matter), but he’s in significantly better equipment in 2019. 

Reed, driving for Bob Vandergriff Racing, reached the semifinals in Atlanta alongside teammate Jordan Vandergriff. He took on defending Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, cut an .080 light and lost on a holeshot. Reed averages a .069 reaction time, .006-second quicker than the class average and .004-second better than Torrence in 2019; albeit in a very small sample size.  

That didn’t stop the defending champ from letting Reed hear about it at the top end. 

“We probably had the best race car in Atlanta, and I cut an .080 light against Steve Torrence, which isn’t all that bad, but lost on a holeshot,” said Reed. “He got out on the far end and let me know about it, and there are some things I don’t appreciate about that. 

“He did what he’s supposed to do – he drives every weekend and he’s the world champ. I drive a few times a year and my lights have been a lot better in this car, but if I had just had an .067, I would have beaten him. There’s no pressure, but at the same time I know I could have won that race if I had done what I’d done all day. That’s the only pressure I feel – I want to win for these guys and for myself.”

Torrence, of course, has every right to do whatever he wants at the top end. Reed said his motivation to win, and to beat Torrence specifically, comes from a familiar place. After years of dominance on the water, plenty of racers came after Reed, who hasn’t raced this season with the drag boat series in a state of stasis. He plans to do the same. 

“He’s at the top and you know, I don’t care about beating anyone else but him so that I can go on camera and talk about him,” said Reed. “I don’t care if he likes me or not. I’ve been around long enough by now. I’ve got a couple years that I’ll get to do this and then I’ll be able to sit on a sandy beach and not worry about this anymore. I’m not making a career about this like Jordan (Vandergriff) or Austin (Prock). I’m 53 and if I get a couple of years out of this and a Wally or two, I’ll be a happy camper.”