David Reutimann drove his way to victory lane Saturday night in the LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway for the second win of his career. Most drivers will say that it is the first win of your career that is the most satisfying, but for Reutimann this one adds even more satisfaction as some people questioned if he really did deserve his first win.
Reutimann’s first win came in May of 2009 when he won the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He didn’t have the best car on that day, but some good pit strategy by crew chief Rodney Childers put him in a position for the win when the race was finally called. The win was also the first ever for Michael Waltrip Racing and it gave that organization some much needed credibility as it had been struggling since it began competing in the Sprint Cup Series in 2007.
The 40-year-old Reutimann has been driving full time for MWR since it began, but his path to the Sprint Cup Series was not like that of most drivers. In 2002 Reutimann got his big break when his longtime friend Brian Pattie recommended him to Joe Nemechek for his Nationwide Series operation. Reutimann ended up driving in four races for Nemechek that season with finishes good enough for Nemechek to give him seven more races in 2003.
Reutimann took advantage of those seven races as he earned two top-five finishes and three top-10 finishes, and sat on one pole. It was during the interview after his pole at Memphis Motorsports Park that he caught the attention of Darrell Waltrip when he said he was looking for a job. Waltrip was in the process of starting up a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team with Toyota, which was just beginning its participation in NASCAR racing.
In only his second race of the 2004 season with Darrell Waltrip and Toyota, he won the firstever pole for the manufacturer in NASCAR, and went on to post two poles, four top-five, and 10 top-10 finishes. Those numbers resulted in Reutimann being named the rookie of the year in the series, and more importantly gave him two more years with the team.
The next two seasons saw steady improvement for Reutimann behind the wheel as he won his first-ever Truck Series race in 2005, and then put together his best year ever in 2006 when he notched two poles, seven topfive and 19 top-10 finishes that enabled him to finish third in the final driver point standings.
It was also during the 2006 season that he started his relationship with Michael Waltrip. He drove several races for Waltrip in the Nationwide Series that season, and was rewarded by being named a full-time driver for Waltrip in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series in 2007.
Waltrip’s struggles in the sport when he began in 2007 are well documented, as his team had trouble just qualifying for races. Reutimann competed in 26 of the 36 races that season, which led to a 39th-place finish in the standings, but he showed in the Nationwide Series that he had the talent to compete if the equipment was good enough. He finished second in that series with one win, one pole, five top fives, and 12 top-10 finishes.
The following year in 2008, the equipment got better and Reutimann was able to qualify for every race and improved to a 22nd-place finish in the final standings. Last season he continued to show improvement as he finished a career best 16th in the standings as a result of the Charlotte win, two poles, five top-5s, and 10 top-10 finishes.
This season has found Reutimann in the hunt for making his first-ever Chase. After his win on Saturday, he sits in the 15th spot but is only 96 points from the allimportant 12th position that is the final spot in the Chase. He now has four top-5 and four top-10 finishes to go along with his win, but will need to increase those numbers in the next seven races if he wants the opportunity to run for the title. He has taken advantage of every opportunity in his career up to this point so don’t be surprised if he is in the hunt when the final race before the Chase at Richmond gets the green flag in September.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile rectangle, 9 degrees of banking in the turns)
July 25, 1 p.m. TV:
IMS Defending champion: