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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NASCAR Penalty report from Michigan

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The NASCAR penalty report from Michigan International Speedway has been released.

It includes two fines for unsecured lug nuts. Chad Knaus, crew chief for William Byron‘s No. 24 Chevrolet, and Chris Gabehart, crew chief on Denny Hamlin‘s No. 11 Toyota, have each been fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut during the course of the weekend.

The report also includes the penalties issued Saturday to Roush Fenway Racing for the improper spoilers used on both Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher‘s cars.

Brendan Gaughan set for Daytona road course after COVID-19 recovery

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On July 15, part-time Cup Series driver Brendan Gaughan became the second NASCAR driver to announce he’d tested positive for COVID-19.

After quarantining for two weeks and testing negative for COVID-19 twice more than 24 hours apart, Gaughan has been medically cleared to go racing again.

And he won’t even have to wait until the Cup Series regular-season finale on Aug. 29 to do it.

Originally scheduled to only compete in the season’s four superspeedway races with Beard Motorsports, Gaughan will suit up to drive the No. 62 Chevrolet in Sunday’s race on the Daytona road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

He joins Jimmie Johnson in having tested positive for COVID-19 and returned to race. While Gaughan last competed in the June 22 race at Talladega, Johnson only missed the Brickyard 400 before returning to the track.

“I feel fantastic,” Gaughan said in a press release. “I’m finally out of the house. The toughest part of the whole ordeal was the mental aspect. I truly feel for people who struggle with depression and have to deal with COVID-19, because this thing is tough. You literally get stuck in a location by yourself. Fortunately for me, I had my puppy. I missed my two children tremendously. But it’s amazing now because we live in the age of the Jetsons that we can pick up a phone and look at their faces.”

To get clearance to race, Gaughan tested twice for COVID-19 in more than 24 hours and also had to get a doctor’s note saying he was good to go.

“That was it,” Gaughan said. “As long as I’m negative, they are good with it. They still have their protocols in place, so when we get to the track we are all still separated. The drivers don’t get to mingle with the teams right now. NASCAR has done a phenomenal job with it and they have been able to stay open for business while having very, very minor effects from this.”

While he was originally just going to race at Talladega and the Daytona oval, Gaughan says this weekend’s road course race “technically counts.”

“We said all of the Daytona races,” Gaughan said. “What happened is that as soon as it got added to the schedule immediately my mind went, ‘Wow, I would love to race the Daytona road course.’ There’s very few of us Cup drivers that have experience on that race course. And with no practice and no qualifying, that gives about 10 of us a very large advantage over the field.”

Brendan Gaughan
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Gaughan competed on the road course and earned a class victory in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona, with his team beating second place by a full lap. He’s ran in the Rolex 24 twice since, finishing third in 2016 in the Prototype Challenge class and 14th in 2018 in the Prototype division.

“I was immediately enticed by it,” Gaughan said of the road course race. “Then you know how much I always speak so highly of Richard Childress Racing. Richard called and said, ‘Hey, come on man, you know you want to do it,’ and I kind of chuckled because everyone knows I love my road racing. I talked to the Beard family and said, ‘Hey, you want to add a race to the schedule?’ It wasn’t in the budget. It wasn’t planned originally, but the Beards were on board.

“They are in the same boat as me. This is a retirement year like me and they are having the same fun I am. They went, ‘Ooohh, we can do well there.’ So we called Richard up and he built me a brand new Beard Oil Distributing/South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro from RCR that we were able to rent for Beard Motorsports to go race.”

Gaughan, who will start last in the race due his lack of owner points, dissected how different it will be navigating the road course in Cup compared to the sports car he drove the last time he raced on it.

“I need to remember that the last time I raced there in an LMP car, I could lift at the ‘1’ sign going into the chicane on the back straightaway,” Gaughan said. “Now if I lift at the ‘1’ in a Cup car, I will end up at the airport. So I need to remember that I’m going to need a little more braking zone room. But you basically already know the line and you know where you want to be. You know the feel of the place.

“You know where some passing zones are. You kind of know how to run that race, which is the big advantage that comes with it. Having a car built from Richard Childress means that I don’t have to worry that it’s going to have parts and pieces that aren’t any good. And I still have Darren Shaw, my crew chief, who I’ve been working with at Beard Motorsports. We’ve still got our guys working it and our guys doing it, so I kind of have the best of all worlds here. And there is an advantage for people that have been there. I also gave myself a little bit of an insurance policy. I offered to sponsor Andy Lally in the Xfinity race. To me, Andy Lally is the premier sports-car racer in America.

“I don’t think anybody can argue that there is anybody better than Andy Lally. So, I offered to sponsor Andy because he’s racing Saturday. I told him he has to stay over Sunday and do some driver coaching and give me his notes. Not only do I have experience on the track, I will have notes from a stock car on the track from the day before.”

Christopher Bell: ‘Pretty scared’ about future before re-joining JGR

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Early last week, Christopher Bell was “pretty scared” about his NASCAR future after Leavine Family Racing, the Toyota-backed team the rookie driver competes for in the Cup Series, announced it would sell its assets to Spire Motorsports.

That left Bell’s relationship with Toyota, the manufacturer that’s been the “centerpiece” of his racing career since 2013 and 2015 in NASCAR, up in the air.

“I’ve said it time and time again, but Toyota has been my – they’re the ones that got me here,” Bell said Tuesday in a press conference. “They’re the ones that took me from dirt track racing to pavement racing to Truck (Series) racing to Xfinity racing and then obviously made this deal happen with LFR too. At the time, it’s either the 20 car (at Joe Gibbs Racing) or I’m done with Toyota. There’s no other options. It was very scary. I didn’t want that to end.”

Bell acknowledged that despite his 2017 Truck Series title, his seven Truck wins and 16 Xfinity wins, a lack of sponsorship backing didn’t make him the most valuable hire for another team.

“The sponsorship piece is a huge part of it,” Bell said. “It’s no secret, you have to have sponsors in order to succeed in this sport and I’ve been really fortunate to have Rheem with me for the last couple of years. If I get pushed out of the Toyota group, I don’t really have much to say, ‘hire me.’”

Bell said, “I knew that once LFR shut down, there was only one place for me to go and the 20 car has obviously got a great driver in there right now.”

That driver was Erik Jones, who has been with Joe Gibbs Racing in Cup full-time since 2018 and been a Toyota driver in NASCAR since 2013 in the Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

“‘How is that going to work?'” Bell asked himself. “‘How am I going to be able to go to JGR whenever they’re full?’ Unfortunately my homecoming so to speak was at the expense of another driver.”

Two days after LFR’s announcement, Joe Gibbs Racing revealed Jones would not return to the team in 2021, a move that “blindsided” Jones.

On Monday, JGR announced Bell’s ascent up the ranks would finally land him in the No. 20 next season.

“It was very, I mean, uncomfortable is a good way to put it,” Bell said. “I don’t think any of us – myself, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota – none of us expected the whole LFR deal to go down like it did, so I think that put everybody in a little bit of a box. … I’m extremely grateful that I get to continue that relationship and that I get to continue to drive Camrys on Sundays and race with TRD for hopefully a long time to come.”

How does Bell see his relationship with Jones playing out over the final 14 races of the season?

“As far as me versus him, that situation is already done, so I don’t know how he’s going to race me going forward,” Bell said. “I’m going to be cheering for Erik, just as everybody is at Joe Gibbs Racing, just hoping that he gets a nice solid deal and lands on his feet. I’ll be cheering for him and trying to race him with as much respect as I can, just like every other competitor. I hope he performs well, and obviously, the better he performs now in the 20 car, the better off I’ll be at the start of the year with the owner points standings. It’s really important that he does well this year in the 20 car for my future next year as well.”

Bell observed that it’s “absolutely crazy” to look back at his career path, which began in UASC Midgets and has led to him driving a “house” Toyota Cup car at JGR next year.

Going into 2021, Bell said he still has a “great relationship” with the people at JGR from his time there in the Xfinity Series.

“Whenever I was on the Xfinity side, I still got to mingle and interact with the Cup shop a little bit, so I have a rough idea how everything operates there,” Bell said. “I got in a little bit deeper with the LFR deal, and having that technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, but it’s going to be very nice to be able to go back home.”

Spire Motorsports confirms purchase of Leavine Family Racing

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Spire Motorsports confirmed Tuesday that it will acquire the assets from Leavine Family Racing upon the completion of the 2020 season. Spire Motorsports also will expand to a two-car team in the Cup Series in 2021.

The purchase will include LFR’s charter, the team’s race shop near Charlotte Motor Speedway and all of its owned inventory. LFR’s fleet of cars and chassis will be returned to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Spire, which began competing in 2019 after it purchased Furniture Row Motorsports’ charter, fields the No. 77 Chevrolet. It has made 58 starts for more than a dozen drivers since last year, including an upset win in the July 2019 race at Daytona with Justin Haley behind the wheel.

The team is co-owned by Jeff Dickerson and Thaddeus “T.J.” Puchyr.

“This is an exciting moment for Spire as we take the natural next step in our long-term plan to build our race team and prepare for the Next Gen car in 2022,” said Dickerson in a press release. “Bob Leavine invested more than money into LFR and this industry. He built a team brick-by-brick and we have long admired how he took his own steps in the garage. He also did it with his family at his side. We won’t let that be lost in this transaction. When you build something with your family, it always means a little bit more. His ability to connect with fans was genuine and we are thankful he chose us to carry this team forward.

“These are no doubt trying times, but I have never been prouder to be part of this sport. NASCAR has managed several difficult situations this spring and into the summer. We believe in the ownership model that NASCAR has built and where this sport is going now more than ever.”

The team said details about drivers and manufacturers for 2021 will come later.