By Don Ward
(July 2006) You often hear about young auto racers on the fast track to NASCAR fame because of their famous fathers stars like the Earnhardts, the Wallaces and the Pettys, to name a few
Photo courtesy Toyota Motorsports
says he is living his
dream as a racer.
Then theres David Reutimann, a third-generation race car driver who worked his way up the ranks like so many others seeking a shot at fame in NASCAR. Reutimann is among the contingent of racing sons whose father was not nationally famous, yet instilled in him the basics of driving his car to victory on local tracks back home.
In Reutimanns case, back home was in a small Florida town near Tampa, and his father, Emil Buzzie Reutimann did achieve local fame, winning more than 1,200 feature races and 20 track championships during the 1950s and 1960s. Ol Buzzie was even inducted into the DIRT Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1997 and, at age 65, continues to race to this day.
Racing is racing no matter what level, was his fathers advice. He told me to always look ahead and anticipate. And 99 percent of the stuff he told me was right on the money.
I learned a lot from my dad, but these days, he doesnt give me much advice because I have so many people around me doing just that, said Reutimann, 36, who drives a NASCAR Truck for owner Darrell Waltrip and a Busch Series car for owner Michael Waltrip.
The 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will compete July 8 in the Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers race at the Kentucky Speedway.
It is a place he enjoys racing because of his past good luck there. He finished third in last years Truck Series race there after leading most of the way. A poor pit stop forced him to battle back from 18th late in the race. I really thought I was going to win that race, but those things happen, he said.
Photo courtesy of Nate Mecha, High Sierra
David Reutimann (17) takes
the lead in a recent race.
On June 17, he finished eighth while driving Michael Waltrips No. 99 Aarons Dream Machine Busch car in the Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo race. It was Reutimanns fifth Busch race of the season, with at least four more planned, he said during a telephone interview June 19 from Waltrips shop in Concord, N.C. Drivers are allowed to enter up to seven Busch races to still be considered a rookie the following season.
Reutimann hopes to move up to the premier Nextel Cup level next year, but right now hes in the middle of perhaps his best truck season ever. After a 15th-place finish in the Truck Series race in Michigan earlier in the day, Reutimann pulled his first double duty. He then flew to Kentucky to drive in the Meijer 300 Busch race that night. He touched down on the helo pad only 45 minutes before the driver introductions began.
It was really cool, hopping on a helicopter to go to the airport to get on a plane, then landing at the Cincinnati airport and flying another helicopter to the infield at Kentucky it made me feel important.
Mark Green had qualified his Busch car earlier in the day, so Reutimann had to start from the back of the 43-car field and work his way up. After an early bump into Greg Biffle, which sent them spinning into the grassy infield, he recovered and ran as high as fourth late in the race.
Reutimanns driving skills also have increased his notoriety. After Michigan, he moved past Ted Musgrave into second place in driver point standings in the Truck Series. He trailed only Todd Bodine, who held a solid 178-point lead. He might have finished higher than 15th at Michigan, but a plug wire came off the engine, forcing him to pit to try to fix the problem. He had been running in the top five up until that point.
Reutimann likes to say he came up through the school of hard knocks. He followed in his fathers footsteps as a race car driver competing at dirt and paved tracks driving DIRT Modifieds and Late Models. In 1997 he transcended to the NASCAR AutoZone Elite, Southeast Series, racing in the division for five years and finishing as high as second in the 2002 championship points standings.
|Age: 36 |
Hometown: Zephyrhills, Fla.
Famly: Wife, Lisa, daughter, Emilia, 4.
Career Highlights: Drove in NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series, 1997-2002, with three wins and 30 top-five finishes. Drove a few Busch Series races for Joe Nemechek in 2002-2003. Hired to drive full time in the Truck Series for Darrell Waltrip Inc. in 2004, earning Rookie of the Year; won first Truck Series race at Nashville in 2005. Made Nextel Cup debut at Lowes and drove in last Busch Series race of the year for Michael Waltrip. Driving trucks full time in 2006 plus up to seven Busch Series races. Best finish is third this season in trucks, with two poles.
Truck: Toyota Tundra
Team: Darrell Waltrip Motorsports
Owner: Darrell Waltrip
Crew Chief: Jason Overstreet
Reutimann made his debut in the Truck Series at Daytona in 2004. He showcased his talent in the No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota Tundra scoring two Bud Pole Awards at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes en route to finishing 14th in the divisions points standings.
His first and only Truck Series victory was last year at Nashville. He finished the year in 13th place in points. He also made his Nextel Cup debut last year at Lowes Motor Speedway, driving for Michael Waltrip Racing. He made his Busch Series debut at last seasons finale at Homestead-Miami.
This year, his best Truck Series finish was third place at Gateway on April 29. He has won two poles this season in trucks.
He compares driving trucks to Busch cars as completely different experiences.
With trucks, you have a lot of aerodynamic drag, and you can ride into the corners a lot quicker. But with the Busch car, you need more brake.
Coming into Kentucky, Reutimann says he is confident, and that confidence often translates into success, he says. A lot of racing is mental. So when you are confident at a track, you tend to do better.
Reutimann says he is blessed and fortunate for getting as far as he has in racing and offers hope to other young drivers trying to make it up the ranks.
I was a late model racer no different than any other track guy racing week end and week out trying to make my dreams come true.
I was one of those guys with no money, sleeping six guys to a motel room, and then through the grace of God and with a little luck I was in the right place at the right time to get this opportunity. I did a couple of Busch races for Joe Nemechek in 2002 and 2003 and got noticed to drive a truck for Darrell Waltrip Racing, and its been great.