We’ve all seen how David Reutimann had to answer questions, make apologies and offer excuses for his Charlotte 600 win in May 2009.
He never should have had to.
Reutimann’s second career NASCAR Cup Series win came in a more traditional way. Saturday night he had the best car and was the best driver when the time counted. The checkered flag unfurled in the Chicago night air and he was simply out front. Far more races have ended this way than not.
But his first career win was looked upon with a raised eyebrow. There was a mental asterisk alongside the memory everyone held of his hoisting the 600 trophy. And there should not have been.
Reutimann claimed the 600 in a rain-shortened race. But he won nonetheless.
Charlotte and Chicago were both won with planning and strategy: Have the car in front of everyone else’s when the race is over. There are just multiple ways of going about it.
All teams shoot for building a car that is faster than the rest of the field. Michael Waltrip Racing is no different. Circumstances beyond that determine the outcome. How a team plays the hand they are dealt makes the difference between winning and occupying one of the other finishing positions.
Last year’s 600 win started with taking the green flag like everyone else. All cars passed through the same technical inspection. Every team knew the scheduled lap count. And every crew chief had access to the same weather report and radar information. Reutimann’s headman Rodney Childers made better decisions than anyone else and placed his car up front when it counted. Just like Chicago in 2010.
Childers made the setup and preparation decisions leading up to the Windy City event. He continued to play out his race under the circumstances that unfolded.
While driving in the race Jeff Gordon commented to his crew over the radio that Reutimann could drive into the corners as deep as he wanted. Gordon was “backing it tin” which is slang term for having an extremely loose racecar.
That good handling car that MWR provided Reutimann was no accident. That is what they strive for every single race. The fact that they hit on an outstanding setup is the product of team preparation. And good decisions by Childers.
Those same principals executed properly rewarded Reutimann with his name going into the record books as a winner of both Charlotte and Chicago’s Cup races.
David Reutimann legitimately won Saturday night. He also did last season on his first victory. The details between the two celebrations vary. But the attitude shouldn’t.
He was the best when each race was over. The other 42 entrants were given identical opportunities. And Reutimann beat the best that was offered both times.
(Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Thursdays at 9pm ET. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com)
Honoring Nashville’s Final Cup Race
Richie Evans Honored
Greg Sacks and the 1985 Firecracker 400
Jeff Burton vs. Kyle Busch
Five New England NASCAR Stars
Ambrose’s Heartbreaking Mistake
Teammates battle on and off the track
Hamlin on Championship Trail
Tom Logano need to learn his place
Logano and Kahne angry after Pocono
NASCAR and Indy at Crossroads
Ganassi Hits Daytona/Indy Double
Passing on the 600 for Indy
Kurt Busch punishes then wins in COT
We’ve Come a Long Way Since ‘The Winston’
Allmendinger Flies Petty Colors Proud
5 Ways NASCAR Can Charm Its Core Fans
Strategy Creeps into Darlington
Jeff Gordon Always Close
Richmond Escorts Reality
Bowman Gray Stadium’s Madhouse
Racing Returns To Talladega
Success at Hendrick Not Guaranteed
Rainouts a bummer
NASCAR stumped by slumping attendance
Dear Denny Hamlin…