TOLEDO, Ohio (Nov. 14, 2017) -- Crew chief Kevin Reed has been around the horn and back and around the horn again. From the other side of the fence to this side, from Joe Gibbs Racing to Venturini Motorsports and seemingly everywhere in between, he's "been there, done that."
While the motorsports industry is the only one he's ever known, it hasn't been a cakewalk by any stretch. One of his more recent assignments at Mason Mitchell Motorsports (MMM) was proof of that.
"Don't get me wrong...Mason Mitchell Motorsports is great team. But working with 13 different drivers can be a trying situation," said Reed, who crew-chiefed a wide variety of drivers in 2017. "You never really get a chance to settle in with any one driver and there were a lot of drivers we didn't test with either. It makes it hard when you meet a guy and then have to figure him out at the track."
As trying as it was, Reed crew-chiefed MMM to a solid third place in championship owner points, winning with Justin Haley at Pocono. Then came the opportunity to reunite with Venturini Motorsports (VMS) heading into the new season. Reed jumped all over it.
"Billy and I hit it off from day one…end of '08. We hit it off and I gained a friendship. From there, we've always stayed close."
Reed will be overseeing the VMS operation in 2018, and they're not cutting any corners.
"There's no doubt we're grabbing it by the horns and running with it. We're building 10 complete new cars. Our hope is to clean everything up and get a good baseline established for the team. Bought a new Mittler (Brothers) pull down rig. It'll get installed in late December…it's actually going to be at the PRI show. Toyota is behind this deal 100 percent with whatever technical alliance we need. We're going to be at the wind tunnel…chassis dyno…anything to get us back to where we should be."
Overseeing a three- and sometimes four-car operation at VMS will be no simple thing, even for the most experienced. Reed's track record in the industry seems to suit him well for the assignment. Like a lot of people who develop a passion for racing, it started early on for Reed.
He was born in Berea, Kentucky but moved to Charlotte when he was just a boy. It didn't take him long to realize he was smack-dab in the middle of the heart of big-time stock car racing.
"My dad got transferred to Charlotte in '81. He worked at IMB and helped people on the weekends at Concord (Speedway). Since I was 12, I've been at the track…it's just a passion I grew up with. Never had a job outside of racing. I've been full-time in motorsports since '91. Started with Kerry Teague down at Concord."
Reed's connection to ARCA also goes way back.
"My first ARCA race was actually in '90…came to Michigan with Kerry. We blew the motor in practice and went home. Came back to Daytona in '91…running second with a few laps to go…passed to the left before the start-finish line. They put us in the back…came back and finished third."
On the momentum of a solid run at Daytona, Reed was on his way.
"Spent three years with Rich Bickle…won a couple Snowball Derbies…won the Big 10 Series at Concord in '92…did a lot of one-off stuff. My first full-time deal was with Melling in Cup with Stacy Compton and Jerry Nadeau. From there I went to work at Herzog Motorsports with Jimmie Johnson…Xfinity. He (Jimmie) was awesome to work with. I was basically their suspension mechanic."
As opportunities dried up, another would soon appear. From Herzog he went to work as a front-end mechanic for Braun Racing, working with Chad Blount, Casey Mears, David Stremme and Steadman Marlin to name a few. His next big door to open was Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) where he worked with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte.
As a source of pride, Reed also points out that, prior to his full-time job with JGR, he built the ARCA car that Stewart won in at DuQuoin in 2003. A bigger title came next.
"Won the (Cup) championship in '05 with Stewart…one of the best persons I've ever worked around."
Then midway through 2006, Reed went to work for Rusty Wallace, Incorporated, working and winning with Steven Wallace on the ARCA side and Jamie McMurray on the Xfinity side.
After an ARCA stint with Eddie Sharp Racing, he landed at Venturini Motorsports in November of '08. And by now, the victories were starting to pile up, winning with Mikey Kile at Michigan in 2010. By year's end, Reed would be named ARCA's Cometic Crew Chief of the Year.
"Then I went to work for the Hackenbrachts. I crew-chiefed Chad (Hackenbracht) in '11 and '12…won at Pocono then went back with Billy (Venturini) in '13."
And that's when the victories really started piling up, starting with the Daytona ARCA 200 in 2013 with John Wes Townley driving. Several more wins followed in '13 and '14: Brennan Poole at Michigan and Springfield, Kyle Benjamin at Madison and Salem, Erik Jones at Berlin and Justin Boston at Toledo. Reed even broke off on his own for a bit, crew-chiefing for Kyle Benjamin on the K&N side, winning at Bristol before he hooked up with Mason Mitchell for the Kansas Speedway season finale in 2015, and yes, they won that race too.
If Reed became known for hop-scotching around, he was also building a serious reputation as a winner, no matter whose shop he was in. Case in point: Reed began the '16 season with yet another team -- Athenian Motorsports, winning the Daytona opener with Townley back in the saddle. But Athenian eventually sold off its equipment and closed its doors. That's when Mason Mitchell came calling for 2017. Despite the ever revolving door of drivers at MMM, Reed managed yet another victory, this one at Pocono with Justin Haley at the controls.
That brings us full circle back to Venturini Motorsports where he's found another home in a familiar shop. After all that bouncing around, Reed is finally hinting he's in a home he wants to keep.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'll race ARCA for the rest of my life. I have a lot of good memories on the Cup side…Xfinity and Trucks…it taught me a lot over there; but ARCA is my home."
And for those paying close attention, it's no secret that Reed has tangled a time or two with series officials and competitors.
"I get it…I know I show my ass sometimes; but this is my life 24/7. My days are 12 hour days or more, whatever it takes. If I am at home, I'm studying my notes…my days never end and that's my choice. I'll sleep for a few hours but when I'm awake I walk, talk, live and breathe this every day. Frankly…I just love it. It's my livelihood.
"The people as a whole in ARCA are some of the finest in racing. There are times when you find yourself steering away from this guy or that guy; but at the same time, everybody steps up and helps everybody for the good of the whole. It doesn't mean we're all getting along, but in the crunch, people really step up around here. I’m a big fan of the direction the ARCA series is headed and I want to be a part of it. This whole racing deal has given us a good life. I realized a long time ago that if I'm going to take care of my family, that I'm going to have to work really hard. And if I'm working hard, this is where I want to be."
Reed lives in Mooresville, N.C. with his wife Jennifer and four kids: Kevin, Jr., Kamrey, Kaleigh and Michael Thomas.