News & Media

With Finch in a pinch, Baldwin happy to help

June 08, 2012, Viv Bernstein, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Phoenix Racing fill-in Reutimann latest example of small teams sticking together

LONG POND, Pa. -- David Reutimann was at Disney World with his daughter, Emilia, on Monday afternoon when he received a text message out of the blue.

" 'Hey, looks like we're gonna have to do something for a driver,' " was the message from Steve Barkdoll, general manager of Phoenix Racing. " 'Would you be interested or be able to at Pocono?' "

"James needed some help. He needed a driver, so I felt that was best, both small teams working together, that we could kind of make a positive out of it."


It didn't take a moment for Reutimann to say yes. And by Wednesday, Reutimann was being fitted into an old Landon Cassill seat he's using this weekend as Kurt Busch's replacement in the No. 51 Chevrolet in the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR on Sunday.

James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing and the No. 51, and Tommy Baldwin, owner of the No. 10 Chevrolet driven by Reutimann, agreed to the one-week handshake arrangement while Busch serves a suspension for a confrontation with a reporter last weekend at Dover. Baldwin shifted Dave Blaney from his No. 36 Chevrolet to the No. 10 to replace Reutimann, with veteran Tony Raines stepping into the No. 36 for the weekend to accommodate Finch.

"Me and James Finch got to talking,'' said Baldwin, who did not need to consult with Stewart-Haas Racing about a change in driver in the No. 10, which is also the race car that Danica Patrick drives in her part-time Sprint Cup schedule. "Didn't really have any commitments to sponsors with the driver. It really didn't matter to me. And James needed some help. He needed a driver, so I felt that was best, both small teams working together, that we could kind of make a positive out of it. Give David and Blaney both good rides for this weekend and Tony can come in and get some laps and get going so it all worked out. It's just something that we just decided to do."

That would be akin to one football team borrowing a quarterback from another for a week. In other words, it would never happen.

But this is business as usual in NASCAR, where teams help each other off the track even as they compete on the track. And Baldwin was quick to assist Finch, who is as respected as any in the NASCAR garage.

"You want to treat people like you want to be treated and I think James has done that with everybody that he's been around,'' Barkdoll said. "He's been willing to help pretty much everybody in the garage. People like Tommy Baldwin, Rick Hendrick on the other end of the spectrum, they see that and they're willing to work with James,also."

Finch will meet with Busch on Tuesday to discuss his future with the team following the suspension. Busch has had numerous run-ins with media and competitors through the years, but his driving ability has always assured his employment in NASCAR.

Some are beginning to wonder how long that will remain the case.

"He does have a tremendous amount of talent, and that's the unfortunate thing,'' Jeff Gordon said of Busch's outburst last week. "He could have such a bright future in this sport. You continue to hope that a guy learns his lesson and a guy can pull it together. And I'm sure in his mind this was a minor incident, and it probably didn't justify what happened. But eventually, you've got to start straightening up your act, and utilizing your talent on the race track to earn the respect. This unfortunately is a step backward for him. But I definitely think with the amount of talent he has, if he can control his emotions, he'll be back at the top of the sport like he once was at one time."

Reutimann, who was with Michael Waltrip Racing for five years, had been a candidate for the No. 51 ride this year before Busch abruptly parted with Penske Racing after another confrontation with a reporter and became available to Finch.

Phoenix Racing is a small team, but an attractive seat in part because it uses equipment from powerful Hendrick Motorsports. Busch has run in the top 10 at times even though Phoenix is a small team without full sponsorship. Reutimann didn't even discuss pay with Finch before agreeing to it.

Although this is just a one-shot deal, Reutimann hopes to make the most of it.

"You'd hope that if you could run good it would remind people that you could do it,'' said Reutimann, whose best finish this season is 21st at Bristol with a Tommy Baldwin Racing team that is still working to be more competitive. "But at the same time, you do it as much for yourself, as well, to try to remind yourself that you can still do it. So hopefully that'll work out like that."

Reutimann has no illusions that he will be in the No. 51 after this week. He believes Busch will return and Reutimann will be back in the No. 10 at Michigan.

"That's my assumption,'' Reutimann said. "Nobody from that organization's told me that. I figure that's probably the normal progression. Unless something drastically changes, I don't see Kurt not being in the car next week."

If Reutimann was somehow to stay with Finch? Busch won't be out of a ride for long. Baldwin might be first in line.

"Damn right I would,'' Baldwin said when asked if he would hire Busch. "A lot of things are issues with Kurt Busch and all that, but the talent is there, the talent is there to win races and run up front."