2011 NASCAR Preview: The Top 30 Driver Countdown
2011 Driver Countdown
No. 00 Aaron’s Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
Owner: Rob Kauffman
Crew Chief: Rodney Childers
Years with current team: 6
Under contract through: 2013
Best points finish: 16th (2009)
Hometown: Zephyrhills, Fla.
Born: March 2, 1970
After slow but steady improvement every year, David Reutimann and his Michael Waltrip Racing team had lofty goals to take the next step and make the Chase last season. Unfortunately, three DNFs in the first eight races put the kibosh on that just two months in, an unlucky streak that left them focusing on wins instead — secondary in this era when teams are defined by playoff appearances.
Reutimann and company did achieve that secondary goal on one special night, following a late-race pass on Jeff Gordon to win at Chicagoland last July, the lone highlight in what was otherwise a drop to 18th in the season standings. During the final 17 races, Reutimann led laps in just three events while stringing together back-to-back top 10s only once.
That inconsistency didn’t stop ownership from investing in Reutimann’s future, though. Two weeks after his second career victory, the driver had something else to celebrate: a contract extension that keeps him with MWR through the 2013 season. That provides stability for a team that returns crew chief Rodney Childers and top-level support from Toyota while refining its edges.
Reutimann has also upped the aggression level, hitting the headlines last season following a series of run-ins with Kyle Busch. The fact that someone perceived as so easygoing actually fought back through a set of verbal jabs at Busch was shocking, as was retaliation for a Kansas on-track incident during the Chase — although the payback may have been more a directive than a driver settling a score. Busch took full responsibility for the wreck, but for Reutimann that wasn’t enough. When the car was finally sent back out on the track, he hunted down Busch and drove into the side of the No. 18.
“He just rolled over me,” Reutimann said. “You guys can sugarcoat it all you want, but he wrecked me.”
That’ll give more than a few drivers second thoughts before they mess with a certain someone’s back bumper. But second is also what will hamper Reutimann’s bid for the Chase within his own program, as Martin Truex Jr. now occupies the prime seat in Waltrip’s former NAPA ride. With the same team intact, expect another random Victory Lane appearance from the No. 00, but as consistency proves elusive, so will the Chase spot that Reutimann desperately covets.
What The Competition Is Saying
Thoughts from anonymous garage-area owners, crew chiefs and team members.
Reutimann is widely admired for his humility, a quality that should endear him to his team. That’s not necessarily the case, though. “Reutimann’s a really good guy, really liked by most everyone,” says one crew chief, “but I think he’s under fire from his team for not being tough enough and taking too much off other drivers. I don’t think that works. He’s got to be the way he is. You can’t try to imitate Dale Earnhardt just because your crew chief tells you to.”
Adds another, “He’s really a factor almost every time we go to intermediate tracks, but he’s nothing special everywhere else. It’s hard to say whether that’s more car or driver.”
Another says, “I wonder how many would bet Reutimann would remain the top guy (at Michael Waltrip Racing) once Truex came on board. Well, it’s still true.”
Top 5s: 6
Top 10s: 9
Laps Led: 104
Laps Completed: 10,055
Lead Lap Finishes: 25
Bonus Points: 40
Races Led: 8
Average Start: 15.6
Average Finish: 18.1
After First 26 Races: 17th
Final Points Standing: 18th
Driver Rating: 82.7 (17th)