2007 Ride: No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
2007 Sponsors: Burger King/Domino’s Pizza
2007 Owner: Michael Waltrip/Robert Kauffman (came on board in October)
2007 Crew Chief: Frank Kerr
Stats: 26 races, zero wins, zero top fives, zero top 10s, zero poles, 39th in points.
High Points: Although there were a lot of zeros in David Reutimann’s 2007 stat line, the rookie from Zephyrhills, Fla. had plenty of reasons to be encouraged.
His most notable on-track accomplishments came in June, when a 40th-place start proved no obstacle at Michigan; Reutimann drove his way through the field to notch a solid 15th-place finish. Another surprising run came at Richmond in September, when the driver of the No. 00 Toyota recorded a lead lap, 13th-place run.
However, the best news out of the Reutimann camp came off the track in October, when he was announced as the heir apparent to drive the No. 44 UPS Toyota that will be vacated by 1999 Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett after the fifth race of the ’08 season. Having the backing of a loyal sponsor who has been in the racing game for seven years will take any and all pressure off the sophomore-to-be, who made the most of the second-rate equipment handed to him in his first year on tour. Reutimann, by all outward appearances, is now set to go racing in a well-funded ride for the foreseeable future.
Capping off an up-and-down 2007, Reutimann scored his first career Busch Series victory at Memphis Motorsports Park – just two weeks after the UPS announcement – on his way to a second-place finish in that series’ points standings.
Low Point: The first half of Reutimann’s 2007 campaign was plagued by DNFs, crashes and engine woes. After being involved in an accident with only 27 laps to go in the Daytona 500, he suffered a vicious hit at California the next week that made SportsCenter highlights for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, he was able to walk away, though a bit dazed and confused.
The No. 00 team then failed to qualify for three of the next five events, finding themselves a disappointing 44th in the points standings seven races into the season. In the nine races the fledgling bunch actually qualified for prior to the 15th-place run at Michigan, they averaged a 34th-place finish.
Summary: Making your debut on the Cup circuit with a first-year team driving for a new manufacturer is enough to make anyone throw in the towel and pray for the brief vacation that comes in late November. However, Reutimann outqualified – and in many cases outran – his more experienced MWR teammates throughout the year, turning garage area heads in the process.
His 26 races made bested Michael Waltrip (14) and Jarrett (24) as tops in the organization, prompting one rival crew chief to say, “With the equipment he had and the things that went on over there, Reutimann did a hell of a job. Waltrip went out and built three teams, and the other two couldn’t make it work. If you look at all the events he qualified for and what he had to work for, Reutimann gets an A-plus.”
2008 Outlook: Of course, As for effort can still only get you so far; after the 2007 season was over, crew chief Frank Kerr was replaced while sponsors Domino’s and Burger King jumped ship. So, priority No. 1 for Reutimann in 2008 is to qualify for the first five races in a car that currently does not reside in the Top 35 in owner points – the currently unsponsored No. 00. New crew chief Ryan Pemberton jumped ship at DEI after turning wrenches for Mark Martin last season to man Reutimann’s pit box and should, provided the chemistry is right, make that a real possibility.
Once that comfort zone is secured, improving on race day is priority No. 2. Taking your lumps as a rookie is expected, but so is bettering your results as a sophomore. Reutimann has the tools to get both of these tasks accomplished, and with more familiar surroundings at the track and inside his Camry, he should be in the hunt for both a few top 10s and a top-25 points finish by season’s end.
2006 Frontstretch.com Grade: N/A
2007 Grade: B-
Editor’s Note: The 2007 season is over, and even the Final Chase exam has come to a close – which means it’s time to give each driver their annual year-end evaluation. For the second straight year, your favorite Frontstretch staff members are giving driver reviews for every full-time wheelman on the circuit, giving you insight into the seasons of anyone from AJ Allmendinger to JJ Yeley. Be sure to keep coming in every weekday this offseason for even more original content on Frontstretch!