Where Are They Now: Catching up with David Reutimann

Photo: David Reutimann official Facebook page.
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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.

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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NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC)

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).