FORMER SHORT TRACKER REUTIMANN SUCCESSFUL IN TRUCKS
Owner Waltrip Behind Son Of Famous Father
And David Reutimann (No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota), who is on a record pace himself, hopes to be the year’s first rookie to reach Victory Lane.
The second generation driver, from Zephyrhills, Fla., led the first series race he entered, ultimately finishing ninth in February’s Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Since then, Reutimann has followed with a near victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where his Darrell Waltrip-owned truck finished third, and also added a seventh-place finish last month at Martinsville Speedway.
Raybestos Rookie contenders, who have joined the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in near record numbers this season, hope to extend a first-year driver winning streak that began in 2000.
Reutimann, 34, is just the second series rookie to log top-10 finishes in his first three starts. He can match Kurt Busch’s 2000 rookie record of four consecutive top 10s at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, site of the May 16 UAW/GM Ohio 250.
And, currently ranked fourth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings, Reutimann could be on course to join Busch as the only series Raybestos Rookie to finish in the top five overall. The current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series star wound up second in his rookie campaign.
David has found success early in his rookie season of the Craftsman Truck Series. (ReutimannRacing.com/Toyota Photos)
That’s pretty cool. I hadn’t really thought about it a whole lot because, as a driver, you want to race and finish well,” said Reutimann. “I would like to keep a streak like that going all year long.”
Waltrip, however, isn’t surprised at his driver’s quick success. Neither is Reutimann’s father, Emil (“Buzzie”), a NASCAR modified racing legend.
“I watched David drive (Joe) Nemechek’s NASCAR Busch Series car last year,” said the three-time NASCAR premier series champion. “He did an incredible job at places he had never even been before.”
Added the elder Reutimann, who previously was his son’s crew chief, “It’s hard to believe. We’ve been through so much together. It’s something you always dream about.
“Sometimes at night you are afraid to go to sleep because you might wake up the next morning and find it was a dream.”
Like many competitors who join the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Reutimann is a rookie in name only.
David's owner, Darrell Waltrip, shows his support for his driver.
In fact, his resume is on a par with recent Raybestos award winners Carl Edwards (No. 99 Superchips Ford), Brendan Gaughan and Travis Kvapil (No. 24 Line-X Toyota).
He has won track championships on asphalt – Ocala (Fla.) Speedway – and on dirt – East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, near Reutimann’s home.
“We would win 18 to 22 races a year on both dirt and pavement racing all over the place just to survive,” he said. “Where a lot of guys were just running on Friday or Saturday night, I was running Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday.
“I really didn’t have any choice because I was just trying to (make a living).”
More recently, Reutimann has competed in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southeast Series and has driven Nemechek’s No. 87 Natural Gear Chevrolet in which he finished 15th May 1 at California Speedway.
Reutimann was a regular front runner in the NASCAR Southeast Series. (51 Photo)
All told, Reutimann has won over 200 times. He began racing at age 13 in a car jointly built with his father.
“Back when we were traveling a lot, I would go to race tracks that I had never been to before and it was a situation where you had to hurry up and adapt to it,” Reutimann said about the plus side of the experience ledger.
The downside involves the shift from a lighter car on bias-ply tires to a 3,400-pound truck equipped with Goodyear Wrangler radials. “I felt like a lot of my late model experience would help me at Martinsville, but I think there were things that hurt me there,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits.”
Mansfield, however, could be an equalizer as a venue on which no one – veteran or rookie – has raced a NASCAR Craftsman Truck.
“As someone new to the division, you don’t feel you are as far behind the veterans – as you did at Martinsville – when you race at tracks new to the schedule,” he said. “Since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has not been to Mansfield, it will help even out the field.”
Our Bob Dillner talks to David during an interview for SPEED Channel. (Reutimann)