No matter how it came, Reutimann cherished first Cup win
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
David Reutimann will take a win any way he can get it.
Twenty-four and a half hours and four rain delays after the scheduled start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Reutimann anxiously waited by his car - parked at the front of the field on pit road - for NASCAR to call the race 173 laps short of the 400-lap distance. Shortly after, as rain fell again and track-drying efforts ceased, NASCAR pulled the plug and awarded the 39-year-old driver with his first career Sprint Cup victory in his 75th start.
Reutimann did not have the best car in the race, but crew chief Rodney Childers made the triumphant call.
Kyle Busch, who dominated the race, led the way when the sixth and final caution came on lap 221 for rain. Reutimann ran in the 14th position at the time.
During the caution, Reutimann and Childers gambled. Reutimann remained on the track and inherited the lead, while Busch and several other drivers came onto pit road. The strategy paid off when the red flag was displayed on lap 227 at 4:19 p.m. (et) and NASCAR declared the race official two hours later.
"We talked about what we were going to change on the car when we came down pit road," Reutimann said. "Rodney told me, 'I'm either going to get us a win or lose us 10 spots, one or the other. It's a gamble.' I said, 'I'll stay out.' That's what he told me to do."
David Reutimann led just the final five laps to pick up the win.
Reutimann led just the final five laps.
Busch finished sixth after leading a race-high 173 laps.
Has Reutimann's first victory in NASCAR's elite series completely sunk in yet?
"I'm still waiting for (NASCAR president) Mr. Helton to come down and say, 'Hold up for a second, we changed our minds, we're going to do something different, try to finish the deal tomorrow,'" he said. "I've been avoiding him I think for that."
Affectionately known as "The Franchise" at Michael Waltrip Racing, Reutimann gave the racing organization its first-ever Sprint Cup victory. Reutimann has always been modest, but he is enjoying a better-than-average season this year.
Reutimann had the nickname stamped to his No.00 Toyota earlier this year, but finishes of 26th, 28th and 29th in the three races prior to Lowe's had teammate and car owner Michael Waltrip make a slight change.
"We took that off his car because I think it went to his head a little bit," Waltrip said. "He started running into stuff. We said we're going to remove that. Now he won, so we're not going to put it back on there.
"He has been and, in my opinion, will always be the cornerstone of MWR because of what he's accomplished for us, especially getting his first win. We wanted people to notice him. He was doing so many wonderful things. So we nicknamed him that."
Reutimann has driven for MWR full-time in Cup since his rookie season in 2007. Ironically, his first "big league" start with the team came in October 2005 at Lowe's. He failed to qualify for the 600-mile race there in '07, the first year for Toyota in the series.
While Reutimann stood rain-soaked on pit road, his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, a short-track racing legend, joined him before the race was called.
"It's been a long road," Buzzie Reutimann said. "It's taken us a long time to get here."
Buzzie Reutimann's lone NASCAR race came in 1963 at Golden State Speedway in Tampa, Florida. He finished 10th.
With the victory, Reutimann moved up to 13th in the standings, only six points behind 12th-place Mark Martin. The top-12 drivers after the 26th race of the season (Richmond) qualify for the "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship.
No driver at MWR has qualified for the Chase in the five-year history of the program. Reutimann could very well be the first.