Friday, May 29, 2009

Reutimann Soaking in Career-First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Victory

DOVER, Del. (May 29, 2009) – Rain pelted David Reutimann as he leaned on his covered No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Monday. It seemed that years of sacrifice and the constant fear of an uncertain racing future were about to be washed away.

Finally the moment came and the 39-year-old third-generation driver could breathe. He was the winner of the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600, scoring his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.

And fittingly, the Zephyrhills, Florida native was able to celebrate first with his family: wife Lisa, daughter Emilia, cousin Shawn and very emotionally with his racing hero, father Buzzie.

"I remember the first time coming to the shop and seeing like a little front-end loader stuck in the middle of the shop,” Reutimann said. “The shop floor was still dirt and it was raining. Mud was all over the place, and people were running around cussing and yelling. We didn't even have a floor in the place. You were wondering if it was ever going to get off the ground. Look at how far we have come in such a short amount of time thanks to primary partners like Aaron's, NAPA, Best Western and Toyota."

“We won the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600,” Michael Waltrip said. “I told David he was going to be alright and win this deal. I told him that if this works out that he needed to be proud. I knew he would feel like he didn’t deserve it.”

It was indeed an emotional win for Reutimann, who uprooted his family to follow his dream to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitor.

“It was a special day for our family,” said Shawn Reutimann, who is also the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota spotter. “More than anybody, he deserves it. When we were kids and didn’t even have our driver’s license, we went dirt racing. It was me, David and Brian Pattie. We won a lot and made other teams mad because we were just a bunch of kids. There were good times and there were bad times. I remember us needing gas and having to count pennies hoping we had enough money to get us back to the house and thinking if we could make it to the top of the hill that we could coast home. Times were tough.”

Not long after relocating to North Carolina, Reutimann got news that a NASCAR Nationwide Series sponsorship had fallen through at NEMCO Motorsports and that he was out of a ride at the end of 2003. He was devastated and then another door opened.

In October of that year, he won his first career pole when he qualified a NASCAR Nationwide Series car for Greg Biffle at Memphis Motorsports Park. That moment cemented a position at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports after he said on national television he did not have a job. Darrell Waltrip contacted Reutimann that week and offered him a full-time position during Toyota’s inaugural year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

“I remember that day DW (Darrell Waltrip) called me at home,” Reutimann said. “It changed my life. At first, I thought it was a joke because my guys at NEMCO would say over the loud speaker that Richard Childress was on line one and Roger Penske is on line two. I thought they just carried the joke to my house until I looked at my caller ID and realized it was DW. Now, I’ve won a Sprint Cup race. I still can’t believe it.”

Reutimann has an affinity to Lowe’s Motor Speedway before and after winning the rain-shortened 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600. In 2005, Reutimann made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut with Michael Waltrip Racing in his fabled family “00” number at the 1.5-mile quad-oval. He also earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series top-10 finish there in 2008. Now, he has a better story which entails a victory.

“I still can’t believe that we won and I told my dad standing beside me that day in the rain, I couldn’t believe it and things just don’t work out for us,” Reutimann said. “He assumed weather was coming and he tried to keep me calm because I got hyper and spaced out. He has a way with coming up with things out of the blue. He asked me questions like, ‘Hey, are you hungry?’ and he would say, ‘We got chicken wings over here. You want some water? I can get you a cheese Danish if you want one.’”

The day was indeed special, but Reutimann remembers how everything unfolded abstractedly.

“It was such a blur, but it felt like it took a month for them to call that race,” Reutimann said. “I remember the first thing I did was hug my dad. Rain was coming down and my father kept me going. I just can’t thank MW (Michael Waltrip) enough for giving me the opportunity and DW (Darrell Waltrip) for believing in me. I can’t say enough about Rodney Childers and my team. Some of those guys have been with me since 2004.”

After his win, he’s received some good advice.

“MW said to live in the moment and be thankful and happy,” Reutimann said. “Ty Norris said treat it like you’ll never do it again because it’s so hard to beat these champions. Steve Hallam said seize the day. Tony Stewart told me to cherish it because you never know if and when there will be another. We’re just letting it all soak in.”

"We're now a team that when we show up they pay attention to us on the race track,” added Norris. “We’ve come a long way and appreciate everyone who has supported us and congratulated us on our first victory."

At a team meeting on Tuesday, Reutimann pushed his winning trophy into the Raceworld USA theatre filled with 220 clapping employees. He humbly discussed the day when he was credited with his first Cup win.

“I’m just one small piece of a large puzzle,” Reutimann said. “That day instead of turning left, Rodney Childers (crew chief) told me to stay straight. Rodney won the race for us. I see things differently. I didn’t pass 14 cars on the outside. Rodney told me to stay out. We were in the right place at the right time and that’s pretty much how I got to where I am today.”

Reutimann has never given himself much credit, but that’s who Michael Waltrip Racing and his competitors have come to know and respect.

“My first win was a fuel mileage win and we had track position,” Greg Biffle said. “That’s how I won my first race. David’s circumstance was to that nature, but I’m really proud of those guys. They’ve run good enough each week to win races and that was a big win for him and the Series. I’m pretty happy for those guys.

No comments:

Post a Comment