FORT WORTH, Texas (November 8, 2009) – For the second time this season David Reutimann’s finish at Texas Motor Speedway did not justify his performance. On Sunday, Reutimann spent nearly the entire race inside the top-three and at many times was faster than the leaders. Yet, the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine ultimately finished the Dickies 500 16th after gambling on fuel at the end of the race.
In qualifying on Friday Reutimann felt his Aaron’s Dream Machine was better than the 13th-place run he completed. “I kind of under-drove our car and didn’t do a very good job,” explained Reutimann. “The car was much better than what I qualified it. The guys did a good job and gave me a good car.”
When the race started on Sunday he quickly showed just how good his car really was. Only four laps into the 334-lap contest the first caution came out. By that time Reutimann was already on the move and when the field restarted he was in eighth.
During the first 40 laps, the driver of the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine radioed in a few times to tell his crew chief Rodney Childers that his car was really loose. But he continued to move forward, and by lap 48 Reutimann was up to third.
With his first pit stop on lap 52, Childers called Reutimann into the pits for new tires and minor adjustments to help the handling. But the feedback on lap 75 indicated that the changes didn’t help enough. “It’s a little tighter in the center, but it’s still bad getting in (to the turns),” said Reutimann.
Not to be deterred, the Aaron’s crew would continue to work on the No. 00 Toyota Camry. With each pit stop the crew would make small adjustments to the air pressure in the tires or minor changes to the trackbar, careful not to upset a car that, while not perfect, was still running inside the top-three.
Then on lap 101, Reutimann reported that the car was “as tight as it’s been all day” and a few laps later complained for the first time that he had no front grip.
It was then that Childers decided to undo some of the earlier adjustments and make stronger changes on the next pit stop.
The plan seemed to work. Reutimann was quiet on the radio – a sign that normally means everything is good. And by lap 167 the No. 00 was running lap times better than anyone else on the track.
Settling into his rhythm, Reutimann was able to maintain his third-place spot and even occasionally get up to second and challenge for the lead.
But as the laps wore down Childers relayed to his driver that they appeared to be several laps short of the finish on fuel. Reutimann was running in second at the time and was gaining on the leader. However, Childers knew all of the lead cars would have to either pit or gamble on whether they could make it until the end. So he asked his driver to start saving.
With 25 laps to go several of the cars following Reutimann had elected to pit for fuel. But the Aaron’s crew decided to chance it, hoping that a caution flag would come out allowing them to save fuel under the pace laps and make it until the end.
Unfortunately, that caution never came and on lap 329 – just five laps from the end – the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine ran out of gas. Reutimann coasted his car down pit road where his crew gave him a quick splash of fuel and sent him back out. But by then the damage was done. The leaders had passed him by and Reutimann would have to settle for an unsatisfying 16th-place finish.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing,” said a dejected Reutimann. “We had a car capable of so much more. With a little luck we may have even gotten this Aaron’s Dream Machine into Victory Lane. But at this point in the season we decided to gamble a little bit and it just didn’t work out for us.”
After a dominating performance by his brother, Kurt Busch was able to stretch his fuel mileage long enough to capture the win. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Kevin Harvick completed the top-five finishers.
Next week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Phoenix International Raceway for the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil on Sunday, November 16, 2009. ABC will provide the television coverage, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.