David Reutimann’s No. 00 Toyota team has one Sprint Cup win, but that was a rain-enhanced victory. Saturday night’s Chicagoland win was all motor, chassis and driver induced- a momentum building achievement.
Racers will take a win or a top 10 finish any way, any time, but charging hard to the lead into clean air for the final laps then hanging on to take the checker flag is every driver’s dream. Reutimann’s routine wishes materialized.
The top five finishers expressed their desires before and after the LifeLock.com 400, race 19 of 36 in the long ferocious NASCAR season.
Their words tell much about the past and maybe the future too.
David Reutimann (No. 00 Toyota)
“I like Chicago a lot,” Reutimann said. “It’s a great facility and a fun racetrack. We’ve been good at Chicago in the past and I’m hoping that we’re good this weekend—which I think we will be. I’m just excited to get back to a mile-and-a-half racetrack. We’ve been really strong on the mile-and-a-half tracks over the last two years.
“Chicago is one of the tracks that I look at as a chance to gain some points back.”
“If you look how we've run, the fact we had some problems, our on-track performance has been better than it was last year,” Reutimann said. “I've always had confidence in this team, knew if we get things going in the right direction, we could win races, regardless of whether everybody else thought we could.
“We got really free that last run,” Reutimann added. “The 99 started gaining on us. We kept pedalling. Thankfully he didn't have enough time to get to us. The car was really, really free. If there's anybody that you don't want to see in your mirror on a green-white-checkered deal is the 99 car. Carl Edwards, he'll put it up against the fence.”
“We've clawed back from 30th to where we are now. Still got some work cut out for us. Aren't out the woods yet.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
“Chicago is a fun race. It’s a 1.5-mile track under the lights. The track is fun for the drivers because it is very wide and the surface has a lot of grip. In the past Goodyear has brought a tire that puts the race a little more in the drivers’ hands because the car can move around a little bit. You can find places on the track with more grip than others and that makes it fun.”
“Second is bittersweet,” Edwards said. “You want to win, but we are obviously very happy with the result. If we run that well every week we will win plenty of races. The key is that we ran so well. If we can continue that every week we will be in good shape.
“Three more laps and we would have been right there, but you never really know I guess because it depends on how hard he is running too, but I feel like with three more laps things would have gotten really interesting.”
Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)
“We’re trying to win every single weekend,” Gordon said. “There is not a whole lot more we can do. I will say in the first fifteen races, if we have a solid team and car like we do this year with the DuPont Chevy, we can take some extra chances and risks and focus on what is coming down the road and what tracks are going to be in the Chase to try to be our strongest at that time. We know the mile-and-a-half’s are very, very important, and I would say that if any team out here is focused on one type of track, that is the one that they will focus on the most.”
“Had good grip but we fought loose off all night,” Gordon said. “Then we started fighting loose-in, loose-off condition. But all-in-all, it was a great effort by the whole team. We have to give David Reutimann (race winner) a lot of credit. Hats off to him. Great job and I'm happy for those guys. We just came up a little bit short."
Clint Bowyer (No. 31 Chevrolet)
“It’s an important track for me,” Bowyer said. “Chicagoland’s sister track is my home track (Kansas Speedway). I grew up in Kansas. It’s important that I have a good race car here because, I know, if I leave Chicago with a good car, I’ll have a chance of having a good piece when we get to Kansas.
“Hopefully, we can come out of there with a top five, and, maybe a win. I’m comfortable racing there. It’s a fast, one-and-a-half mile, simple race track. You have to have a good car. You need to be able to unload fast, tune it from there and try to have a good night.”
"We just kept working on it a little bit, kept getting it better and better,” Bowyer said. “Shane (Wilson, crew chief) made some great calls. This is exactly what we needed to do. We just got way too loose there at the end. We tried to adjust on it to get to the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) car, just couldn't do it. Got just a little bit too loose, but we'll get them next time."
Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Chevrolet)
“Racing at Chicago has just been a tough place for me to get a solid finish at and I’m still not sure why exactly that is,” McMurray. “I’ve always seemed to struggle there, but I’m trying not to think about it too much and just go into this weekend seeing how our car handles.”
"I thought we had one of the best cars at the beginning and as the sun went down, the track just got tighter and tighter,” McMurray said. “Bono (Kevin Manion, crew chief) did a really good job adjusting on the car and getting it tighter. We just didn't have the grip that we did at the beginning.”
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com