NASCAR Race Weekend Central

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: David Reutimann

David Reutimann

2011 Ride: No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
2011 Primary Sponsor: Aaron’s, Tums, Best Western
2011 Owner: Michael Waltrip
2011 Crew Chiefs: Rodney Childers, Bobby Kennedy
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 1 top five, 3 top 10s, 2 DNFs, 1 pole, 28th in points

High Point: It’s easy to identify where Reutimann excelled; after all, he only scored one top-five result all season. Fortunately for this veteran, he picked the right time to have such a good performance as he did it at Kentucky Motor Speedway during the inaugural Cup visit to the track. Reutimann led seven of the eight laps he led all season during this race and chased Kyle Busch to the finish line, losing by just .179 seconds. It was a nice consolation prize for owner Michael Waltrip; an Owensboro, Ky. native, he attempted to make the race but failed when qualifying was rained out before it could be completed.

Low Point: Without question, the low point of the season for Reutimann was receiving a text message – that’s right, a text – from his team owner he was going to be out of a ride in 2012. Reutimann drove for MWR for all 171 starts in his Cup career, scoring the only two wins in the history of the organization over five-plus seasons. Unfortunately for Reutimann, though the economics of Cup racing caught up with him when his team signed Clint Bowyer for 2012 and was unable to secure sponsorship to cover all of his races.

Aaron’s owner Ken Butler also had some influence in having Reutimann removed from the seat, loyalty lost over a long list of poor performances. The end result means in 2012, Mark Martin will drive a partial schedule in the newly-numbered No. 55 Toyota, with team owner Michael Waltrip filling the seat for three restrictor-plate races and the Kentucky event.

Summary: Reutimann looked like 2011 might be a breakout year for him. He was coming off a 2010 season where he won a race that was not rain-delayed and signed a contract extension to drive through at least the end of 2012. But a piece of paper can sometimes do nothing to keep someone from getting kicked out from behind the wheel. In all facets, Reutimann’s season was a struggle that left his future employment with MWR in jeopardy. He got more television time for his car being totaled at Watkins Glen, an innocent victim when Boris Said and Greg Biffle had an on-track spat, then how he performed.

Reutimann started the season on a sour note, running all of the laps in only one of the first four races. He came out of the spring Bristol race 27th in points and never got above 23rd the rest of the season. While Reutimann was running at the finish of 34 of the 36 races during the year, he only finished on the lead lap in 18 of them.

Part of the problem for Reutimann was a “fallback” recipe that has dogged him for most of his career. For the fourth time in five seasons of running in the Cup Series, Reutimann’s average finish was lower than his average start. While that would be acceptable if he qualified near the front of the grid, he averaged a lowly 20.5 start in 2011.

All those ugly stats were enough to force Waltrip’s hand. With the veteran Martin available, just before the Texas event Reutimann was told his services would not be retained for 2012. Any monetary settlement over the contract was not disclosed, but Waltrip mentioned a performance clause that caused Aaron’s to threaten vacating their sponsorship of the car. Clearly hurt, the 41-year-old did bounce back to score a top-10 finish at Phoenix, the penultimate race of the year, in an audition for potential Sprint Cup employers.

Team Ranking: Second of the two full-time rides. Reutimann finished 10 positions behind his teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the final points standings.

Off-Track News: In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Reutimann’s father Buzzie visited victory lane in 2011 four times driving a car that David supports, enjoying one of his more successful seasons. But unless a ride comes available, the two may be running together on the dirt tracks around Florida and the rest of the country in 2012.

2012 Outlook: At this point in time Reutimann does not have a ride for next season. While there has been much fan support for him to fill the seat of the vacant No. 22 for Penske Racing, his name appears to be well down the list of candidates. There are a handful of bottom-tier rides that are still to be filled but considering his age, plus the fact that most of those cars are going to have to qualify on time, Reutimann will have difficulty getting selected. After 171 races in his Cup career, Reutimann very well may have taken his last checkered flag in the series.

2007 Frontstretch Grade: B-
2008 Grade: B
2009 Grade: B
2010 Grade: B-
2011 Grade: C-

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