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Reutimann Knows the Risks Of Taking Risks

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 1 2009
David Reutimann and his father, Buzzie, at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Reutimann got his first victory that day. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

David Reutimann and his father, Buzzie, at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Reutimann got his first victory that day. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

You can ask race car drivers to do a lot of things and they will happily comply. Seemingly insane things, too.

They’ll drive 200 mph an inch away from a concrete wall, they’ll inhale toxic exhaust fumes, they’ll sit inches away from red-hot header pipes in Florida during July and they’ll pose for pictures with giant, product-pushing banana slugs.

All they have to do is be asked.

But there is one thing that some are asked at about this time every year to which they simply have a hard time saying yes – going slower and take fewer risks.

Not that they’re opposed to it. It’s just an anathema. It’s just that its almost impossible to do and it doesn’t matter that ultimate success depends on it.

David Reutimann is one of those driver drivers right now.

He is 13th in Sprint Cup points, 68 out of 12th, with six races to go before the start of the Chase.

He knows the key to making up that one spot and 68 points is to, if not slow down, take greater care.

“I think that the deal is that now you can’t be overly aggressive in your approach to things because you can’t really take the chances because you’re close enough right now where you’re within striking distance,” Reutimann said Friday at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday’s race. “You don’t want to do anything to take yourself out of that spot and out of being in contention to get into the Chase.”

But Reutimann knows that he also cannot afford to cruise. He needs good finishes, top-10 finishes, to get closer to his magic numbers.

Just no dumb mistakes born of inability to contain the natural impulses, along the way.

“You’ve got to go out there and perform and that’s kind of what it’s all about,” Reutimann said. “The pressure is definitely ramping up but the pressure is always there – the pressure to perform, the pressure to qualify and the pressure to do this, that and the other.”

Reutimann and his Michael Waltrip Racing team started off the season fairly well for a team which had never won a race or got within sniffing distance of Chases past.

After a 12th-place finish at Daytona, Reutimann moved into the top 12 in points the following week with a 14th-place finish at Fontana.

He stayed in the top 12 for the next eight weeks and has hovered around Chase status ever since.

Reutimann got the first victory of his career at Lowe’s in May.

On Friday at Pocono, he was asked if he was surprised by the relative success he and his team have had this season.

“It’s a tough question because at the beginning of the year there were so many unknowns having a new crew chief for the third year in a row,” he Reutimann said. “I knew at the end of last year things were starting to come together and our cars were getting better and our team was getting better so I felt like we had a possibility to do some really good things. At that same time you’re scared to look too far ahead because of what your previous years have been like.

“Sometimes it just seems like we were a very, very long way away from even being remotely in the ‘Chase.’ Instead of making myself crazy during the off-season I decided that I was just going to do it one race at a time and see what each race brought to us and not really speculate or think about what could or couldn’t happen. That’s actually seemed to work out well because going in I just didn’t know.  I knew the possibility was there for us to run well and actually have a possibility of making the ‘Chase’ but I knew a lot of things had to go our way in order for that to happen.”

And now, Reutimann is just a whisker away from making the Chase.

But, he is also a whisker away from sinking out of sight.

“We are just going to have to be consistent and no DNF’s and just race smart and do the same things we’ve been doing all year,” Reutimann said of his game plan. “I don’t think now is the time to change up anything we’ve been doing.  It just comes down to the fact that you’re starting to run out of time to get done what you need to get done to get in the ‘Chase.’  We’ve been in and out of it most of the year and right now we’re on the outside looking in so to speak.  With that being said, it’s really easy to lose ground in this deal but it’s really hard to make it back up.”

Tony Stewart is a Z.Z. Top beard away from missing the Chase. He is the current points leader and is showing few signs of weakness.

Yet on Saturday morning, he showed how fragile life in Sprint Cup can be. He crashed on the second lap of the first practice of the day and because his team had to roll out his backup car, Stewart will relinquish his front-row start Sunday and move to the rear of the field.

“I just…I screwed up,” Stewart said. “I got in too deep and got loose and couldn’t save it.”

Asked if he thought he could drive back to the front Sunday, he said, “I know we can do it. I tore up a really good race car today.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 1 2009
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