Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Weather, weather, weather...but David Reutimann and crew chief Rodney Childers pulled off the 600 surprise

A soggy Monday at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Michael Waltrip (NAPA suit) walks up to the front of the line to talk with his driver David Reutrimann
(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   The circumstances might have been awkward, and that nearly two hour's worth of dry skies just after NASCAR called it a day at 6:30 p.m. might have just added to the frustration of the entire weekend.
    But David Reutimann's Coke 600 victory Monday, in spite of it all, may be a defining moment for NASCAR this spring….a frustrating spring is so many ways.
    Yes, Reutimann only led five laps, all under yellow. But he's been a comer all season.
    So this win wasn't so much just a fluke as it was an affirmation that Michael Waltrip's long-struggling race team is indeed turning a corner, in this its third season on the Sprint Cup tour.
    Waltrip's future itself may be at issue at the moment, with long-time sponsor NAPA debating what to do in 2010. And Waltrip opened the season by declaring if this wasn't a good season personally, he might just retire at the end and turn his ride over to someone else. Indeed in the last few weeks the word on the street has been that Martin Truex Jr.  would be running Waltrip's 55 next year.
   But Waltrip's team, headed by Ty Norris and Cal Wells, has a jewel of a driver in Reutimann, who has the personality and flare and touch to make it in the big leagues….and whose only downside could be his age, 39.
    Midway through the race, Reutimann and Tony Stewart had a little on-track scuffle, with Stewart taking exception to Reutimann not getting out of his way. Then during one of the rain delays Stewart went over to confront Reutimann about it: "He says he 'gets it,' but I don't think he does.'"
   Reutimann himself shrugged it off: "There's a gentleman's rule that you move over when some comes up faster than you….and Stewart wanted me to move over….but I didn't feel like I was doing anything wrong.
    "But Tony and me are all good. He's one of my heroes, and you never want to mess things up with one of your heroes. And on the way over here (to post-race victory interviews) Tony called me and told 'Enjoy yourself now. Because these things are so hard to win. Enjoy yourself.'
   "That means a lot to me, coming from Tony."
   Stewart himself had cooled off by the time NASCAR pulled the plug, at 6:30 p.m., after more than two hour of waiting out the rain.
   "It's a long two weekends here, and a lot of stuff the drivers, crew chiefs and teams have to do during the week (aside from preparing race cars)," Stewart said. "And on a day like this, it's not a normal outcome. 
   "But a good guy won the race -- and they won it because they made the right call at the end. 
    "They put themselves in that position. And you can't take anything away from that. 
    "It won't win you races consistently, but you're going to get some that way. 
    "It's good for David to get his first win.
    "And we're happy that (Stewart's teammate) Ryan (Newman) got a good finish out of it (second)….with the hurdles he and his team had to overcome. It wasn't the outcome we wanted, but we've had a good showing here at Charlotte -- to have Ryan get the pole and run second in the 600, and for us to win the All-Star Race, it's been a pretty good two weeks for us."
    A fluke? "Who deserved to win the race, who won the race off pit road, you could argue that all day long," Waltrip said.
   "But Rodney Childers made the winning call, and he was the first to do that, and I'll hang my hat on that."
  Robby Gordon, also gambling on not stopping, finished third. However after the race NASCAR said "there might be an issue with the rear end housing" on Gordon's car. There was no further information provided.

Michael Waltrip hugs winning crew chief Rodney Childers after Waltrip's first NASCAR victory as a team owner (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Reutimann seems taken aback by it all. It was his first tour win, "and it's hard to know just how to take it," he conceded.
   "This is probably one of the best days of my life, except for the birth of my daughter…but I'm still trying to figure out how to take all this."
   However Reutimann, a buzz-saw talker, with an outgoing personality, and a legendary racer for a father, quickly picked up on things.
   For Reutimann this overnight sensation thing has been years in the making. While working for Joe Nemechek a few years back, Reutimann said the crew loved to play with him.
   "The guys at my shop had been razzing me, with 'Richard Childress, on line one,' and 'Jack Roush, on line two.' Stuff like that," Reutimann recalled, with a grin. "Well, I'd just walked in the door at home one night and the phone rang and the guy said 'Hi, I'm Darrell Waltrip.' And I was just about ready to say 'Hey, can you guys just leave me alone.'
   "But I paused for a moment and looked at the caller ID and it wasn't anyone in Charlotte. So I listened.
   "Darrell Waltrip called me at home, just before dinner. I'd never met him, never talked with him…..but here he was, on the phone, saying he had a Truck and wanted me to drive for him.
   "And at that moment I was ready to drive wherever he was to sign on the dotted line.
   "I owe a lot to Darrell Waltrip and the Waltrip family."
   Reutimann parlayed that Truck ride into a Cup ride when Michael Waltrip decided to gamble on starting his own Cup operation.
   And this season, well, it's all paying off. That pole at Texas, following a good run at Las Vegas and another good run at Phoenix and another good run at Bristol, all showed he's getting his act together.
    But few others here left Lowe's Motor Speedway with smiles on their faces.
    Kevin Harvick, for one, was really glad just to get the weekend behind him: "What a day. It just wasn't our weekend.
    "I got together with Sam Hornish Jr. like 10 laps into the race. Then a tire went down and I hit the wall and messed up the fender. Later we got a speeding penalty.
    "I was asking myself 'What's next?'
    "I'm sorry for the fans that they didn't get to see 600 miles, but I'm not sad this day's over."
     Matt Kenseth was more stoic about it: "It could be worse.  I mean, we couldn't be halfway yet and we'd have to come back tomorrow.  It could be like Michigan that year we raced on Wednesday or whatever it was.
   "So it could be worse. But, yeah, whenever the weather interferes, it's always a little bit frustrating.
    "But we really can't do anything about the weather."
    Except try to outguess it or try to outwait it.

With four straight top-five finishes now, Ryan Newman (L) and crew chief Tony Gibson have jumped to seventh in the Sprint Cup standings (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



The only winner was the rain.

The only winner was the rain. Reutimann just happened to be in first when the rain finally won. I think NASCAR really needs to make a rule change for these rain races. When the yellow flag comes out for rain the pits should be closed and stay closed and the race should be red flagged immediately. If the rain clears up and the track is dry and NASCAR restarts the race then they can open the pits. And if the rain doesn't clear up in time to restart the race and they have to call it then the guy who was the best on the track is the winner. Races should be decided on the track, not by some dumb luck gamble during a rain delay. People can say that Kyle could have stayed out but could he? If he does then everyone else pits and if the rain does clear up in time to go back to racing then Kyle has to pit and he's screwed. So he's screwed if he pits and screwed if he doesn't. That's really not fair to the guy that was the best on the race track and is just a bassackwards way of deciding a race. Rewarding dumb luck over actual on track performance is not the way to decide a race.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com