The Frontstretch: Pace Laps: Is Reutimann's Job In Jeopardy? Massa's Major Concern & More by Frontstretch Staff -- Monday April 2, 2012

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Did you see all of the race action this weekend? Or, like a lot of busy fans, did you miss a late-night adventure, a Friday controversy, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch during the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed for the coming week no matter what series you might have missed, all in this week’s edition of Pace Laps!

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Is Reutimann’s Job In Jeopardy? Even as David Reutimann was making some of the competition and their fans angry at Martinsville when his failure to get to pit road following a blown engine with fewer than five laps to go, his No. 10 team was falling out of the top 35 in car owner points. In fact, the reason that Reutimann stayed on the track to force the caution was a desperate attempt to make the two laps the team needed to gain one point, which would have kept them in the top 35.

David Reutimann’s recent stretch of poor performances, highlighted by Martinsville’s gaffe may put Danica Patrick in position to have to qualify on speed at Darlington.

Although this one finish is not necessarily a disaster in and of itself, in this team’s case, there’s more to it than whether or not Reutimann can make the field at Texas in two weeks. Though owned by Tommy Baldwin Racing, the No. 10 is under an agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, and the idea behind the partnership and the plan to put Reutimann in the car was to keep it in the top 35 in owner points for the handful of races in which rookie Danica Patrick will attempt to qualify it. And if Reutimann can’t do that, will Baldwin be forced to try and find a driver who can?

It’s an unfortunate situation for Reutimann, since the part failure on his car wasn’t his fault. But the reality is that this team is pressured to keep that top-35 spot by more than just the promise of a guaranteed starting spot for Reutimann. It’s all about Danica being in the field at Darlington next month, and there will be pressure from Tony Stewart for Baldwin to make that happen… any way he can. –Amy Henderson

Izod IndyCar Series: Houston, We Have an IndyCar Race The IZOD IndyCar Series announced the addition of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston to the schedule in 2013. The race will be run next October 6 on a 10-turn, 1.7-mile temporary concrete circuit set up in the parking lot of the Reliant Park sports complex, home to the Houston Astrodome. It will be the third time that Houston will host an open-wheel series. CART raced on a temporary street circuit downtown from 1998 until 2001 until construction forced the cancellation of the event and Champ Car returned to race on the Reliant Park course beginning in 2006. That event was canceled with the merger of the Champ Car World Series and IndyCar in 2008. A local organizing committee was formed in 2010 to find a title sponsor in an effort to bringing open-wheel racing back to the Texas hotspot once again.

It’s also a huge national boost for the series. Houston is the fourth most-populated city in the United States, so series officials and team owners see this as an important addition to the schedule.

“It fits so well with what we’re trying to do: to take IndyCar to the biggest cities in the United States and reach not only our purists, but also that new demographic,” says IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.

Teams and drivers look forward to the challenge that the concrete track provides as they set up their cars to adjust to tire wear on the difficult surface. Current series competitor Sebastien Bourdais won the 2006 and 2007 events on this course. _ –Toni Montgomery_

Formula 1: How Long Can Massa Keep His Seat? Following Sergio Perez’s spectacular near race-win at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the pressure has been piling up on the struggling Felipe Massa. The affable Brazilian’s position hasn’t been helped by the fact that Perez is part of Ferrari’s young driver academy, so there would likely be little resistance from Sauber should Ferrari want to pinch him from the Swiss team.

Massa is nothing if not honest, and has agreed that his performance so far this season has been below par. It’s also surprising; after ending the year with two fifth-place finishes, he’s 17th and 15th in the first two races and hasn’t kept the momentum rolling from 2011. But those numbers stand out particularly when considered alongside that of his teammate, the championship-leading Fernando Alonso. Now for anyone, being compared to Alonso generally means you’re going to come off second-best, but Massa is really going to have to step up his game over the next few races to ensure he sees out the season with the Italian marque. -Andy Hollis

Justin Lofton is just one of several experienced drivers right on rookie John King’s tail in the Camping World Truck Series standings. The top-5 drivers are separated by a mere eight points two races into 2012.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Following an oddly tame Kroger 250 at Martinsville, John King maintains the points lead by just one point over Timothy Peters and Justin Lofton. But how long can he hold onto it? Not only does he have two much more experienced drivers right on his tail, but the top 5 is separated by a mere eight points. Plus, you’ve got James Buescher, who made a strong run at the championship last season despite having missed the second race of the season at Phoenix, sitting pretty in sixth, up ten spots after a solid third-place finish. Add in the big question mark of the season — Rockingham’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 presented by Cheerwine Sunday, April 15th — and you’ve got the recipe for a pretty strong race ahead.

Speaking of the Truck Series’ “newest” venue, I have a personal message to fans in and around the area: you wanted NASCAR back at the Rock, so prove it. The only way the sanctioning body will even consider more events at the 1.017-mile oval is if you turn up in droves to support it. Will the crowd show up? That’s one side story to keep watching as fans’ excitement ratches up over the championship points race. –Beth Lunkenheimer

Grand-Am: At Barber Motorsports Park, the Daytona Prototypes stood out amongst the entire field. The No. 90 Corvette, driven by Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia, ran the 2.38-mile road course with little challenge from the rest of the DP cars. At one point with Garcia behind the wheel, he was seven seconds ahead of second place. When a full course caution flew with about seven minutes of racing to go, the No. 90 easily pulled away from its rivals on the restart, never relinquishing the spot and it took the checkered flag for their first win in the “Spirit Of Daytona” Corvette. It was actually a fitting redemption for the team after the win by a Ford at Daytona in the season opener.

However, if you were tired of watching the No. 90 team dominate the field there was plenty of action on the GT series. For the first third of the race, Camaro outran Ferrari, but later on it was the No. 70 Mazda RX8 that took the top spot. The No. 69 Ferrari, driven by Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, also ran strongly despite fading tires at the finish.

Also of note, the announcing team reported that NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson are considering running the GP event at Indianapolis in July, part of the newly reconstructed Brickyard 400 weekend. I’ll have more information as it becomes available. -Rick Lunkenheimer

Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Toni Montgomery
Contact Andy Hollis
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Contact Rick Lunkenheimer

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oldirtracker
04/02/2012 10:50 AM
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If Smoke wants Reutiman to keep 10 car in top 35 maybe he should loan them his eqipment instead of running Baldwins junk.you cant make chicken salad out of chicken sh%t.

dh
04/02/2012 12:14 PM
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yeah – i totally agree with you olddirtracker. I had that thought when I heard his interview yesterday (he should have real support from SHR racing, hendrick engines..to fight for that 35th spot in points).

It may prove to be easier when you give them the same equipment that danica will be running.

old farmer
04/02/2012 12:33 PM
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Re Amy: Reutimann sits dead on the track, and it’s Danica Patrick’s fault? Hmmm. . . .

zhills fan
04/02/2012 12:57 PM
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Things like this has happened many,many, times before. Don’t blame David for what happened, hey the wreck happened later and he had nothing to do with the wreck it was just normal positioning at the end of a race. It’s happened many times. When you are on a green,white,checked situation anyone near the front can win and thats what exactly happened. I don’t understand your comment about if Reutimann’s job is at stake, that sounds just like a comment from a journalist trying to get a comment from the public, and nothing more. If you would check the facts before you write such stupid articles as this it would be appreciated. And NO David’s job is not in jeopardy.

FS_Amy
04/02/2012 02:04 PM
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Hey Zhills fan! Let me clarify: I don’t necessarily think David’s job is in jeopardy, especially after one incident in which equipment failure can be isolated as the cause. But there is more than a little added pressure to the situation, whether you agree with the reason or not. Because of that, there are more eyes on the situation than there even would be if Dave Blaney had been the one in that situation on Sunday. I certainly hope it doesn’t hurt David because none of it is his fault (and he’s a great person; I talked to him for a while on Friday, as a matter of fact), but this is a case where there is pressure from outside the team, and that can lead to different decisions than ordinarily would or should be made. I didn’t say that anything is imminent, and IMO I certainly hope no changes are made, but it is a story that bears watching as a whole over the next month because of the Danica Patrick angle.

And Old Farmer, I’m not blaming Danica for anything. She wasn’t even there. But you can’t overlook her role in the big picture, unfortunately.

eddo
04/02/2012 02:07 PM
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Don’t blame Reutiman for the car falling out of the top 35 in points. He only got it back in the top 35 last week after Danica’s disappointing start at Daytona.

old farmer
04/02/2012 05:11 PM
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This situation wasn’t about the big picture; it was about Martinsville. Ergo, no need to mention DP at all.

djones
04/02/2012 05:41 PM
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Is it only me who found it a little suspect that Tommy Baldwin took the broken part off the car to show nascar? Why didn’t nascar inspect the car intact? I did feel sorry for David R when they interviewed him. He knew the car was broken and yet, someone made him stay out. Now he’s under pressure again to qualify at TX. I hope he kept his stomach medicine from his MWR days. I hope he saves some for Dave Blaney too. I predict a points swap before the princess takes over the ride at Darlington.

underbird
04/02/2012 06:53 PM
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This whole “partnership, point-swapping, satellite team” thing makes my favorite sport seem like an episode from the Sopranos rather than true racing competition. I think Rick Hendrick and the hoodlums in Charlotte and Daytona have ruined this sport for everyone involved, especially the fans. Just like politics, whoever has the most money and “influence” controls the agenda.

Reutimann was doing his job, just driving the damn car until someone called him in. He shouldn’t be excoriated by anyone, especially those prima-donnas that wrecked each other in turn one. If they were so damn good, why couldn’t Johnson have given the two cars inside some room to race? Blaming your own incompetence on a journeyman driver who is just trying to earn a living is just ignorant entitlement thinking.

Doug in Washington (State)
04/02/2012 08:55 PM
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Reutimann was in a terrible position. The car was broken, but they were one point shy of maintaining the T35 (via tiebreaker over the #83). Baldwin actually parked the SPONSORED #36 to give Reutimann a chance to make up one more position. It backfired, the car finally quit, caused a GWC and a huge mess. If there wasn’t a T35 rule, this wouldn’t have happened. The #10 would have parked 50 laps prior (or pulled in to get real repairs). Plus if SHR really wants TBR to keep that T35 spot open they need to provide some equipment, not have Baldwin keep running used-up RCR/EGR castoffs.

 

Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
Fans To Decide Format of Sprint Unlimited at Daytona
UNOH and Kentucky Speedway Extend Sponsorship Agreement
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.