As a fan of Michael Waltrip and Michael Waltrip Racing, a lot of us knew it was just a matter of time before under-the-radar driver David Reutimann of the rapidly improving Michael Waltrip Racing was going to get his first career Cup win. Congratulations go out to team co-owner Michael Waltrip, Crew Chief Rodney Childers, and driver David Reutimann on their first career wins in those roles.
It was Childers, apprpriately a Mooresville, NC native that not only considered Lowe's Motor Speedway to be his home track, and thus the one he wanted to win at since the age of twelve when he first told his parents he was going to win there, but it was also him that thought this win would come as a driver and not as the crew chief.
"It's just a cool deal. I always wanted to win my first race here. It means a lot to me, this track, born and raised thirty minutes from here in Mooresville. And when I was about twelve years old I told my parents I was going to win a race here but at the time I thought it was going to be as a driver." Childers said in the post-race press conference via the NASCAR Media Group and NASCAR Now.
Even though the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 race ran just 227 of its scheduled 400 laps due to prevalent rain and showers all weekend long, Reutimann, in playing rare strategy seen by the 00 team, managed to win the race despite not leading a single lap under green and in the process, proved my darkhorse preview prediction correctly.
When asked about this strategy Childers noted:
"I didn't even put that much thought into it. We were running fourteenth and if we were going to make the adjustments we had to make we were going to lose four spots on pit road and come out eighteeeth."
It was something more likely to be achived by an experienced veteran, like a Jeff Gordon during his 1990s dominance.
Tell me, how fulfilling was it to see multiple generations available to the media in the form of Buzzy Reutimann, the Late Model driver and father of the younger Reutimann, the race winner?
Said the elder Reutimann of his son's first victory:
"It's been a long road. Words cannot describe how a father would feel to see his son win a race, to see that double zero (00) on top of the board."
It sure beat having to suffer through yet another un-original, mind-numbing corporate make-out session from the personality-less, monotone Hollywood-scripted robot known as Jimmie Johnson where one always walks away having felt dumber after listening to him.
Whether it be a track side post-race interview or back in the garage or all-too-often in Victory Lane, Johnson and his Hendrick ilk offer no new ideas or perspectives as to how the race was ran and ultimately won.
We simply end up hearing the same old rhetoric.
"We'll, we (AKA Chad Knaus) were able to run really well today. The car felt good coming off of turn four all day and we were able to make the right adjustments in order to pick up the win."
When pressed to give more information, the answer usually reverts to the obvious:
"We just had a really good car. I've got some really good guys I couldn't have done it without. Mr. Hendrick (kiss-kiss) and everyone back in the shop, Chad (my BFF), the rest of my crew, all the guys at Lowe's and the #48 Chevrolet. Turn 2 we were able to ride the groove for most of the day and held off the competition for the win."
The David Reutimann Story
Give me David Reutimann's life story any day. After all, its one we haven't been formerly introduced to yet. Better, yet, deprived of because of unfortunate luck that had escaped him until last Monday.
A native of Zephyrhills, Florida, Reutimann worked his way up the ladder from following his father's modifieds circuit around and growing up around the sport that so many of the more privileged and scripted drivers like Jimmie Johnson seem to take for granted as their birthright.
From there, his skill caught the eye of Darrell Waltrip who in 2004, provided him the opportunity to get his start in the truck series after spending time learning in various Southeastern circuits.
After a short Nationwide Series career that included one win, but 36 top 10's in parts of five years, Reutimann was rightfully promoted as the obvious choice as the cornerstone of the expanding Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007.
When asked by a reporter from NASCAR Scene in the press conference after the race, "Can you talk about David? He isn't that old, he doesn't have that many top tens, why is he here?" Michael Waltrip played into the question adding:
"He isn't that good looking. We couldn't find anyone else. He works for cheap and doesn't ask a lot of anyone. I will now tell you the serious answer for the question. My brother started a truck team and we wanted David to drive the truck. He was our first choice and he was successful there. We moved him into the Nationwide car and he was successful there. We knew the commitment he has for racing. He was born and raised on the back of a hauler chasing his father all over the country racing dirt cars and winning. Racing is just a part of his DNA and who he is. It was just an easy sell to Aaron's because of who he is and how he handles a car."
75 races and no longer counting. The ceiling is broken and the sky's the limit from here. This is exactly the kind of honest, unique perspective that I had in mind when I wrote the following article describing my admiration for Waltrip, his team, and his potential as a NASCAR owner.
This candid, inspiring, honesty where real emotion and appreciation can be gauged beats any corporate-style setting where going through the motions are simply being followed and soundbites recorded like in a Hendrick press confrence where its all so routine.
Nicknamed "The Franchise" by his owner, Michael Waltrip, the promise he saw had yet to materialize on the track despite having raced well enough to get a handful of wins (similar to Brian Vickers and his tough-luck Team Red Bull) success.
What we saw Monday was a culimination of that faith, no matter how brief, or "tainted" due to the shorted-event.
I've been to and through Zephyrhills and if Florida can claim to have a NASCAR hotbed my vote would go to dirt-rural, near desolate, perfectly positioned, backwoods Zephyrhills. Its like Georgia or Alabama but with more palm trees and open space. Its appropriate that the 39 year old is their native son.
Additional praise should be given to fellow Floridian Joe Nemechek who donated a car to Reutimann during his early days and who for first seeing his potential according to the NASCAR Now and NASCAR Racing Group Post-Race interviews noted.
Television denied us the right to see him spin in Victory Lane but perhaps his next win, his first, "real" win will make up for this. This submitted YouTube video tribute will have to suffice.