Reutimann proves worth
Posted: Monday, July 12, 2010 1:37 pm
By: By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — David Reutimann agreed to join Michael Waltrip Racing when it was closer to an abstract idea than a functioning, full-time race team in NASCAR’s top series.
Of course, Reutimann was hardly an established commodity himself.
Now the calculated gambles both parties made are paying off.
“David came when we had nothing,” MWR general manager Ty Norris said. “When I say ‘nothing,’ I mean nothing.”
Now they just might be on to something.
Reutimann won Saturday night’s Sprint Cup series race at Chicagoland Speedway, zooming past Jeff Gordon in the late stages of the race and holding on to claim his second career victory in convincing fashion. And Reutimann is on the verge of making Waltrip’s team his long-term home, with a handshake deal on a new contract.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Reutimann said. “I’ll be at Michael Waltrip Racing. I may be cutting the grass, but I’ll be at Michael Waltrip Racing.”
The second win was much sweeter than the first for Reutimann, who had grown sick of hearing from competitors that the win at Charlotte didn’t really count because it came in a rain-shortened race.
Crew chief Rodney Childers said he was “a little emotional” because he knew how tough it was to hear the detractors.
“Ever since then, I wanted to win one for him and do it right,” Childers said.
And while Reutimann and the No. 00 team have been inconsistent this year, they are showing signs that this won’t be their last trip to victory lane. Reutimann left Chicagoland 15th in the series points standings, but he had several good runs undone by engine problems earlier in the season.
Reutimann acknowledged that Saturday’s win helped his confidence.
And he still believes the team can qualify for NASCAR’s season-ending Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“Every win helps confidence,” Reutimann said. “That’s always going to be that way. But we still got some work cut out for us to get into the Chase. But we’re a lot closer than we were. That’s going to be our goal, get in the Chase, then we’ll move on from there.”
Even if that doesn’t happen this year, Reutimann and Childers expect to be around to make another run at the Chase with Michael Waltrip Racing next year and perhaps beyond.
Asked to clarify his future with the team, Reutimann joked that he might get fired for giving away company secrets before the official announcement.
“We’re in good shape,” he said. “We’ve basically shook hands on the deal and we got things all lined up.”
And what about his crew chief?
“Rodney can’t leave,” Reutimann said.
Norris said the team would have a formal announcement on the future of Reutimann and Childers at Indianapolis later this month.
“But these guys proved tonight that they deserve a contract,” Norris said. “They deserve to be around.”
Reutimann’s win was immensely popular among his competitors.
“David is a neat guy,” Gordon said. “I just know that that win that he had in Charlotte, you know, while he took it, not going to throw away the trophy, earning it the way he earned it tonight is the way he wants to do it. They’ve been close at times, just haven’t had all the breaks.”
Carl Edwards said Reutimann’s humility stands out.
“He’s just a nice person,” Edwards said. “He’s the first guy to congratulate you on something and the first to apologize if he feels like he did something wrong.”
Reutimann said he appreciates the respect from fellow drivers and has tried to race people the right way.
“To be able to go out there and fight for wins and have good finishes, (a) shot at getting in the Chase, I think it makes you a little more legitimate in the eyes of a lot of different people,” Reutimann said. “As far as drivers are concerned, you can go out there and win races and (have) people still not respect you. I don’t think wins give you respect automatically. It’s a combination of a lot of different things.”