News & Media

Being back on bubble a trying time for Reutimann

April 12, 2012, David Caraviello,

FORT WORTH, Texas -- David Reutimann spent his entire first season in NASCAR's premier series outside the top 35 in owners' points, ultimately missing eight races with a Michael Waltrip Racing team that was trying to stagger to its feet. There are few drivers in the garage area better qualified to understand how stressful, frustrating, and potentially deflating it can be to live on that line, dealing with the constant threat of having to go home early.

Particularly now that he faces it again.

"I've been there before, so I'll just try to get some good laps in and finish where we're supposed to be finishing, and then we won't have to worry about it anymore. It's no fun. But guys do it every week."



"I'm not worried about it. We're going to treat it like we're in. We're going to go race practice all day ... Yeah, he'll be fine. We're good."


"It's miserable," Reutimann said Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway. "I've been there before, in the beginning of my Cup deal over at MWR, when we had to do it every week. You hate it, and it's miserable to do it, but it's just the way it is, you know? You've got to suck it up. I've been there before, so I'll just try to get some good laps in and finish where we're supposed to be finishing, and then we won't have to worry about it anymore. It's no fun. But guys do it every week."

And one of those guys this week is Reutimann, a two-time winner on the Sprint Cup tour whose No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing car fell out of the top 35 in owners' points after experiencing a breakdown in the final laps two weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway. He's now one point behind 35th-place Landon Cassill of BK Racing for the final guaranteed qualifying spot, meaning Reutimann will need a strong lap in qualifying Friday afternoon to make Saturday night's race.

The good news: Reutimann considers Texas perhaps his best track on the circuit -- which may not mean much when it's time to mash the accelerator at qualifying time, but certainly can't hurt. And although the No. 10 has yet to have to qualify on time this year, Baldwin says the car has been trending about six to eight tenths of a second better than the qualifying cutoff from week to week, and is confident that his vehicle will be one of the eight go-or-go-homers that make the big show.

"I'm not worried about it," Baldwin said. "We're going to treat it like we're in. We're going to go race practice all day ... Yeah, he'll be fine. We're good."

Making the race would be a little gleam of hope in what's been a tough early season for Reutimann, who won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2009 and at Chicagoland Speedway the next year. But the only driver to win Cup races for MWR lost his ride with the organization in a restructuring that followed last season, and this year he's competed primarily with TBR under an arrangement that has him piloting the No. 10 in all but the 10 races that will feature Danica Patrick.

The transition has sometimes been a painful one, never more so than in the most recent Cup race at Martinsville, where Reutimann had an engine part fail with three laps remaining and tried to crawl around the race track to preserve his place inside the top 35. He fell short, and ignited a controversy when he broke down to bring out a caution that impacted the finish. By the time TBR arrived in Texas, however, that furor had faded, replaced by the stark pressure to simply make the race.

"You've got to get in the races, for sure," Reutimann said. "It's very, very important for us to get in the race. It is for any team, period. Generally, if you're outside of the top 35, you're a smaller team anyway. But getting to the race track, having the finances to get to the next race, for me personally, for Tommy personally -- you've got to get in. The pressure is ramped way up. There's always a bunch of pressure every weekend anyway. But knowing that you've got to get in, and you've only got one lap to do it -- it sucks."

The breakdown at Martinsville was emblematic of the mechanical problems the team has faced all season. "We've had motor issues, electrical issues ... every issue you can come up with. Brakes, tie-rod, motor," said Reutimann, whose team lacks solid primary sponsorship. Baldwin's other car, the No. 36 of Dave Blaney, has suffered fewer problems and as a result is 29th in the owners' standings, 20 points above the cutoff line.

"We've just got to finish where we're supposed to be finishing," Baldwin said. "We've been running 18th to 23rd every race except for California when something's happened. We should be 25th or 26th in points right now, and instead we're 36th. And a lot of guys could say that, but we've been legitimately running in those positions. We know we're better than the guys we're running against in points, but we've just got to do our job a little better."

The present situation, though, is clearly difficult for a driver who just two years ago was seen as an up-and-comer on the circuit, and now is trying to keep an underfunded car inside the top 35 -- both for himself and Patrick, who gets back in the seat for the May 12 event at Darlington. Does Reutimann ever want to shake people and remind them that he's a two-time winner on the Sprint Cup tour?

"I've found myself wanting to grab and shake a lot of people lately, for various reasons," he said dryly. "But that's the way the business is. People, not only do they forget year to year, but they forget week to week. It's kind of how the business is. The only way you can remind people is -- you can't go out there and say it, you have to go out there and do it. That's the only way you can get people to remember. Because if you don't, they forget."

Making the situation doubly difficult has to be the resurgence enjoyed by MWR, an organization where Reutimann was once playfully dubbed "the Franchise," and currently has two cars inside the top 10. Reutimann said he believes he's the same driver who won those races at Charlotte and Chicagoland, although these days even he might need some convincing every now and then.

"I get in the right situation, I can still win races," he said. "That's never been any different for me. But sometimes, even you forget when things aren't going that well. Sometimes you've got to remind yourself a lot."

It all makes it tough to stay optimistic, he admits. "But the guys are trying so hard," he said. "A guy like Tommy is going to be successful eventually. He's going to keep at it, because he's too stubborn to do anything else. He'll keep at it, and he'll make sacrifices, and his crew guys will make sacrifices, and everyone around him will make sacrifices, and eventually he'll start getting ahead. But right now, it's just difficult to do that."