Photo: David Reutimann official Facebook page.

Where Are They Now: Catching up with David Reutimann

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When David Reutimann walked away from NASCAR a quarter of the way through the 2014 season, he never looked back.

After his last race as a driver in late April of that year at Richmond for Front Row Motorsports – he finished 29th – Reutimann’s era in NASCAR was done.

By choice.

Since then, the same man who made 235 career Cup starts between 2005-14, earning two wins and 26 top-10 finishes, has never returned to even one NASCAR track.

Nor has he watched any races on TV, save for the final five laps of the 2017 season finale at Homestead when good friend and former teammate Martin Truex Jr. won the Cup championship.

“When I walked away from the sport, I just walked away completely, cold turkey, done,” Reutimann told NBC Sports. “The reason for that was whenever you’re focused on a sport for as long as you can and you no longer have that focus, you just torture yourself by staying involved in some way, shape or form, as far as NASCAR is concerned.

Reutimann called leaving NASCAR “more of a self-preservation thing.”

He also said: “It’s not like I have a problem with the sport. The sport was very good to me, but it’s just a situation where in order to not go crazy, I have to focus on other things.”

Reutimann’s focus since has been to return to his roots. He built and opened his own race shop – Beak Built Chassis near Mooresville, North Carolina. He builds between 12-20 dirt modified cars each year for customers around the country.

Green car close to heading to its new home

Posted by Beak Built Chassis on Sunday, April 26, 2020

Having turned 50 on March 2, Reutimann is basically a one-man band, from building each car by hand to balancing the books. He still gets behind the wheel to race about 10 times a year, driving dirt modifieds in both the Southeast and Midwest.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m just here in my shop, just building dirt cars for customers,” Reutimann said. “In a sport like NASCAR or any other sport, it’s not forever. A good portion of the time I was in the sport, you prepare to do things when you step out from behind the wheel.

“I built a shop and had bought equipment and had been messing around building dirt cars in my shop, with the plans that eventually when I wasn’t in the sport anymore and retirement wasn’t an option, I had to do something. I just went back to what I knew what to do, which is my background, and that’s building dirt cars.”

Even though he’s put NASCAR in his rearview mirror, one thing Reutimann hasn’t put away is the wit he was noted for in his NASCAR days, like when he was asked why he went back to his racing roots and hung out his own shingle.

“To be truthful, I don’t feel I’m smart enough to do anything else,” he said with a chuckle. “From an early age, probably from the first time I can ever remember having a thought of my own, everything revolved around racing. I was basically just born and was at a race track in some way, shape or form.

David Reutimann, left, and father Buzzie still race part-time, primarily in dirt modifieds. Photo: David Reutimann’s Facebook page.

“My dad (Buzzie Reutimann, who at 78 remains active racing primarily in and around his home state of Florida) had always raced for a living, so there were no options, that was his job, that was my life and that’s what I did. My dad and I still joke what it would be like to be a normal type person and have a 9-5 job and come home and flip some burgers on the grill and things like that.

“That just wasn’t us, that’s not what we did. My dad raced around Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and places like that, you could race Thursday through Sunday at a minimum. There wasn’t much of a week that you weren’t at a racetrack.”

There technically is a third generation of racers on the horizon in the Reutimann family, but instead of 700 or more horses under the hood, David’s only child, daughter Emilia, races with a different kind of horsepower.

“She’s more on the equestrian side of things,” David said. “She has a full scholarship to be on the equestrian team at (University of) South Carolina.

“I’m very proud of her. She’s amazing and does real good stuff. Her interest has always had something to do with four hooves on it. She’s more into single horsepower.”

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With the month of May and the Coca-Cola 600 around the corner, Reutimann has mixed feelings and memories. It was on May 25, 2009 that he earned his first career Cup win in a rain-shortened 600.

Instead of the typical 400-lap event around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway, Reutimann went to victory lane after just 227 laps when NASCAR ruled the race official due to rain.

David Reutimann celebrates after being declared the winner of the 50th Annual Coca-Cola 600. (Photo: David Allio/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A late strategy call by crew chief Rodney Childers – who would go on to win a Cup championship with Kevin Harvick five years later – to leave Reutimann on the track and forego a pit stop put the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in front, where it would stay for the final five laps before the sky opened and the race was called.

Reutimann recalls that day as if it was yesterday, both for the good and bad of the outcome.

“Over the years, I’ve heard – especially every time there’s an anniversary for the Coca-Cola 600 – that ‘it wasn’t a legitimate win, he lucked into it, he should never have won it,’” Reutimann said. “I don’t have a problem with that. We lucked into it. Rodney Childers made a great call and I did what he told me to do, which was to stay out on the racetrack.

“Other than that, my contribution was minimal in that particular race. I just look at it as yeah, I’ve got the trophy, I got paid for it and in the record books it says I won.

“I think people were genuinely upset with me. I caught a lot of flak because I won the race. I’m like, I don’t make the rules, Rodney made a good call, I stayed out and it all worked out like he planned on.

“I remember standing on pit road in the rain, waiting for them to figure out what was going to happen. I just thought to myself, ‘Well, this is not going to go over well. People are going to be upset.’ I get it, I don’t disagree. People confronted me about it, they were genuinely upset about it, saying ‘you didn’t win that race’ and I said, ‘I know, no kidding.’

“At the end of the day, I get it and really don’t have a problem with it (criticism of his win). Also, the fact of the matter is I don’t care. I was at the right place at the right time. Yeah, ok, so it worked out for me that time, but there were plenty of times where it didn’t work out for me.”

David Reutimann celebrates in victory lane after he won the LIFELOCK.COM 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on July 10, 2010. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Just over a year later, Reutimann felt some semblance of satisfaction and vindication when he earned his second and final Cup win of his career (July 10, 2010 at Chicagoland Speedway) – this time with no strings attached.

“We had a real good car that day, we raced really good guys like Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, guys that were legitimate and who had won a lot of races,” Reutimann said. “That was our day.

“To me, that was a legitimate win, we were the best car, no rain came, we didn’t win it because of somebody breaking or falling out. We went out there, drove past guys, drove to the front and stayed there, just like you want to win a race. That’s one of the races I’m more proud of.”

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With NASCAR expected to return to racing in May as the country slowly emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host the Coca-Cola 600 without fans on May 24.

But that day will be just another day for Reutimann, even though he was once king for a day there.

“I’m just a guy that was in the right place at the right time and got a lot of cool opportunities,” he said. “When those opportunities were gone, I just faded away and went on and did something different.

“That’s really it in a nutshell. I didn’t feel the need to be involved in the sport just to be in it. I was comfortable going and doing something else and that’s just what I did.”

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Ryan Newman to be sponsored by Progressive Insurance at Atlanta

Ryan Newman
Roush Fenway Racing
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Ryan Newman and his No. 6 Ford will be sponsored by Progressive Insurance this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox), Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday.

“We’re excited to welcome Progressive Insurance to the team this weekend in Atlanta,” Newman said in a press release. “A major brand such as theirs fits well into the NASCAR space. Atlanta makes for a challenging and entertaining race with the differing options of the preferred line, so we’re looking forward to it with Progressive on board.”

This is the first time Progressive has been a primary sponsor on a car in a national NASCAR series.

“We’re inspired by the resolve of Ryan and thrilled to be working with him and the team at Roush Fenway Racing this weekend in Atlanta,” Jay VanAntwerp, Progressive’s Media Business Leader, said in the press release. “Racing fans, and sports fans in general, are craving live events, so everyone should be thrilled at the chance to see Ryan and his fellow drivers out on the track. Progressive’s competitive spirit is a great fit for the dynamic, fast-paced action of NASCAR, so we’re looking forward to being part of that excitement with the No. 6 car wrapped in blue and white and sporting the Progressive name. Hopefully we will see Ryan take the checkered flag on Sunday afternoon.”

Newman enters Sunday’s race coming off a 15th-place finish at Bristol. In the five races since NASCAR returned on May 17 at Darlington, Newman’s best finish is 14th in the second Darlington race.

Cup drivers preparing for hotter, slicker Atlanta race after March postponement

Atlanta Motor Speedway
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It’s time for NASCAR to go racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finally.

Almost three months after it was scheduled, NASCAR will head back to Georgia for its annual race weekend at the 1.5-mile track Atlanta.

Cars were hours away from being on track on March 13 when NASCAR announced that weekend’s races were postponed due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

All three national series will be in action, with the Cup Series highlighting the weekend with its race on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

This is the first time the Cup Series has competed at Atlanta in June since 1965. The last five Atlanta weekends have been held in late February or early March after it was moved from Labor Day weekend in 2015.

With a forecasted temperature of 81 degrees at the start of the race, it will be the return of “Hotlanta.”

The series is preparing for the combination of warm weather and the track’s rough surface that hasn’t been repaved since 1997, thanks to petitioning by drivers.

“Atlanta is always a fun place to race because of the surface and how worn out it is,” Martin Truex Jr. said in a media release. “It has been a few years since we’ve raced there when it’s really hot to bring out just how slick the track can get, so that will be a bit of a challenge going in with no practice.”

Truex, who finished second in this race last year, is seeking his first victory of the year and his first win at Atlanta. Atlanta is one of two 1.5-mile tracks he hasn’t won at, joining Texas Motor Speedway.

Truex has failed to finish in the top 10 once in his last eight starts at Atlanta. He heads into Atlanta coming off a 20th-place finish at Bristol. Before that he had four consecutive top 10s.

“I feel pretty good about how we have ran on the bigger tracks where handling comes into play,” Truex said. “We need a little bit of speed overall, but we’ve been able to run pretty well at tracks where the surface is slicker, so I feel confident about the car we’ll unload and how we’ll run on Sunday.”

With the track’s rough surface, restarts will be vital according to Kyle Busch, a two-time winner at Atlanta.

“I don’t know if it has to do with the asphalt mix or whatever when they paved that place that now you can definitely tell the difference between the inside lane and that outside lane,” Busch said in a media release. “Also, the inside guy has a straighter launch than the guy on the outside – he’s always kind of turning so that’s something to be said for it. Overall, it’s just some places are that way. Atlanta is the worst for the launch. The application of throttle to not spin the rear tires is so crucial there and it’s so easy to do when you’re in that outside lane.”

Busch was the winner of the 2013 Atlanta race, which was held Labor Day weekend. That was also Toyota’s last Cup win there.

“Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen and we’ll definitely have to be on our toes there this weekend,” Busch said. “You have to have good grip there, you have to have good (tire) fall-off – you have to be fast to start a run, yet you don’t want to fall off more than anybody else. So you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early (in the run) or save a little and be there late. We went there several months ago and didn’t get to race there, so expecting the weekend to be much different this time around than when we traveled there in March.”

Like Truex, Busch is looking for his first win of the year. Should they or any other Toyota or Chevrolet driver win, they would end a three-year reign by Ford on the 1.5-mile track.

Brad Keselowski won two of those races and Kevin Harvick claimed the other.

Bubba Wallace joins Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN

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Bubba Wallace will be on today’s “Lunch Talk Live” with host Mike Tirico. The show airs at Noon ET on NBCSN.

“Lunch Talk Live” focuses on the current state of the sports world, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

You can also watch the show online here.

Wallace is also a guest on this week’s episode of the Dale Jr. Download, which airs at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Today’s scheduled guests are:

  • 12:00 p.m. – Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills head coach
  • 12:15 p.m. – Bubba Wallace
  • 12:30 p.m. – James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar driver
  • 12:40 p.m. –  Ken Niumatalolo, Navy football head coach
  • 12:50 p.m. – Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets captain

 

Bubba Wallace encourages drivers to speak on social issues

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Bubba Wallace, at times emotional in discussing the recent killings of unarmed black men, said on the Dale Jr. Download that he needs to be more vocal on such matters and encouraged fellow NASCAR drivers to do the same.

“Through all the chaos that has gone on in the world, all of the African Americans, all of the unarmed black men and women being killed, I’ve been silent,” Wallace said on the Dale Jr. Download. “I’ve read all of them and I’ve been silent. I just felt that wasn’t my place. That was a huge mistake.”

Wallace, the only black driver competing in the Cup Series, said he’s reached out to fellow competitors and NASCAR officials and encouraged them to speak out in the days after George Floyd was killed while in custody of Minneapolis police on May 25. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Wednesday, the murder charged was changed to second-degree murder. Also, three other former Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder on Wednesday.

“We have got to do better, we’ve got to step up,” Wallace said on the show about a message he sent to fellow Cup drivers. “I encourage everybody to say what they feel. … This is way more important than any race win, any championship that you’ve ever accomplished. This is something that can change on a global impact.”

Wallace also discussed a conversation he had with Chase Elliott.

“I texted him (Monday) night,” Wallace said. “I said, hey man, you’re the biggest name in our sport right now bud, like it or not. You’re the biggest name and your voice carries over much more than mine in our sport. I said don’t be silent on this please, don’t let it go under wraps.

“He was like, I know it’s tough to comment on and I’ve been trying to come up with something. What’s really going to change? I said Chase I don’t know but think about this. Imagine a follower, two followers that you have in how many you got. One is a person that is going to go hate somebody, go kill somebody today and the other one is somebody that is getting discriminated against.

“Imagine you saying something and both of those people look at that and they’re like, ‘Wow, that changed who I am today. I’m not going to hate on anybody anymore. I’m not going to be discriminated against. I’m going to stand up for what’s right.’

“Imagine your words changing somebody else’s life. Being silent on that they could have just (said) ‘I was waiting for somebody to tell me something.’ We have that platform and that voice to tell people we have got to stop and change our ways. That’s how to think about it.

“Could my words have helped people? Pissed off people for sure. It could have helped that one person that needed it and didn’t know it. Wow Bubba Wallace just said that, he’s my favorite driver. You know what, I’m going to change my life today because of that. That makes me feel good.”

Wallace became emotional on the Dale Jr. Download as he described seeing the video of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man, gunned down in February in Georgia after a white father and son followed him. They and a third man have been charged with murder in connection with Arbery’s death.

“My heart was broken and my stomach was ripped out of my body when I saw that video and even thinking about it I’m getting emotional about it now, thinking about that video and seeing how an unarmed black man … to be jogging down the street and being hunted by two armed civilians and shot and killed in broad daylight with the other guy videoing and it sounded like he was loading his gun and ready to do the same thing.

“So that’s my take on that, and I’m just like what kind of world do we live I where we hunt people and take their life away because we assume something? We assume that this is a black guy that is terrorizing our neighborhood so we’re going to go kill him? What in the hell, man? I don’t see how people can wake up and think like that.”

Wallace later said: “I’m taking an effort to understand where all the hate, where all the anger, the pain, the suffering is coming from. I’m doing my research, I’m learning about things. I feel better about speaking out about it.”

Wallace also told the story of a cousin who was killed in a police shooting in 2003 in Tennessee.

“We were at my sister’s basketball tournament, I can’t remember where,” he said. “I was running around the gym with all the brothers and sisters there and all of a sudden I hear a scream like the worst scream that you want to hear, not like somebody scared you straight, like something bad had just happened. I look over and I see my mom running out the door and we had just found out that my cousin was shot and killed by a police officer.”

A judge later cleared the officer in the shooting. The family filed a civil suit and lost in court on appeal.

Wallace will appear on Lunch Talk Live with host Mike Tirico on Wednesday on NBCSN. The show airs at noon ET.

The Dale Jr. Download with Wallace airs at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN.