On Friday, Reutimann wasn’t happy with his qualifying effort of 15th. He thought his No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine had the potential for more if they could get the handling fixed. Unfortunately, when the green flag dropped on Sunday the issues continued.
He was initially able to move up from his 15th-place starting position to 13th, but on lap 13 he reported that the car was “loose on entry, loose on exit” – meaning that the backend of the car would start to slide going into and coming out of the corner.
Within another ten laps Reutimann was starting to lose positions. “We’re in really big trouble here,” said the concerned driver.
He would slide back as far as the 18th position before the team was able to make its first pit stop on lap 71. As Reutimann was preparing to come in for the stop he radioed instructions to his crew chief Rodney Childers, “Forget the entry. I need a ton of help in the center (of the turns) and I can’t get up off the corner.”
The adjustments made in the pits immediately started to pay dividends as Reutimann began to move up, getting as high as 11th by lap 96.
“The exit is a hundred percent better,” said Reutimann. But he cautioned, “When (the handling) goes away, it goes away in like three laps.”
When the caution flag came out for debris on lap 114, Childers summoned his driver to the pits for another wedge adjustment and four new tires. Reutimann entered the pits in 12th place, but the Aaron’s crew knocked out the stop in 12.9 seconds, gaining their driver three positions and moving the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine into the top-ten.
The radio from the car went silent for a little while as Reutimann maintained a steady pace within reach of the top-ten. But on lap 145 the frustrated driver complained, “It’s back to driving (poorly) again.” Several laps later he went further. “We might have done too much. It hasn’t been good since the restart.”
Luckily, a caution quickly came out, giving Childers the chance to make some adjustments to the Aaron’s Dream Machine. Realizing the over-adjustments made on the earlier stops, Childers decided to undo the wedge adjustment made on the last pit stop and instead made a change to the air pressure in the tires.
The changes weren’t quite enough as Reutimann explained on lap 200, “Can we just concentrate on one thing? I’d like (help in) the center if I can get it.”
So when the driver of the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine brought his car down pit road for the team’s final stop on lap 240, Childers ordered four new tires and a trackbar adjustment.
Restarting 15th with about 70 laps to go, Reutimann began his final surge towards the checkered flag. Slowly and methodically, the Aaron’s Dream Machine began slipping past the competitors. On lap 258 Reutimann moved into 12th place. On lap 276 he passed Kyle Busch for 11th.
Finally, with just eight laps left, Reutimann made it past teammate Marcos Ambrose to get back into the top-ten where he would finish.
“We got behind in the middle point of the race there and then we got pretty good until we over adjusted and got it bad,” explained Reutimann after the race. “There towards the end, we got it decent again. We’ll have to try a little different approach next time when we come back. The pit stops were awesome. The guys did a great job today, so I’m really happy with that.”
Points leader Jimmie Johnson rebounded from a horrible race in
Next weekend the Sprint Cup series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of the 2009 season. ABC brings the television coverage of the Ford 400 beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on November 22nd.