No Asterisk

Jul 20 2010 - 10:21am

David Reutimann waited more than 13 months to remove an insignificant little punctuation mark from his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.

By winning the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night, Reutimann earned his second series victory…the first one that he felt he actually earned. The first victory came on pit road at Charlotte Motor Speedway, in the rain, and he felt (wrongly, in my humble opinion) like it wasn’t real, wasn’t earned.

The points paid were the same, and it went into the record books as a victory (no asterisk), and so what if he happened to be the one in front when the rains came and wiped out the rest of the Coca-Cola 600?

If he hadn’t made that call, or rather crew chief Rodney Childers hadn’t, then he would have one victory instead of two. The idea, at least in NASCAR racing, is to finish first. It really doesn’t matter how it happens, either.

“Yeah, I felt like there was a cloud over it, no pun intended, but a dark cloud hanging over our head with that win at the 600,” Reutimann said. “Everybody just says, ‘Yeah, you guys won, but. Rodney Childers won me that race. He made the right calls. He won me the race tonight. We win and lose as a team. Now I'm just wondering like, ‘OK, here you go, just leave me alone.’ We won the race. We did a good job. Everybody did a good job. Everybody around me worked together to get us where we are.”

Ty Norris, one of the founding members of the ONMC and a top-flight team executive as well, subbed for team owner Michael Waltrip in post-race commentary, and anyone who knows Ty knows he has a unique way of expressing the situation.

“I've been around for not as many years as most, but I've probably not seen anyone have to walk around for a year and a half and apologize about winning a race,” he said. “Winning that Coca Cola 600 because of rain, everyone sort of like had the asterisk next to that win. Tonight was a huge statement. It was largely, I feel, some of the Toyota Racing Development, the work that they put in, we came here with a little bit better package than we've seen over the last few months. We had a few issues at the beginning of the year running fifth a couple times and second at Bristol. When they were able to step up the package and come here, the car was right, the driver was right, the engine was right. It takes all three of those things to beat Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, that crowd. I think, more than anything else, it's redemption for David. I'm probably most proud of that.”

I like David Reutimann, and it’s not just because he’s the kind of guy who will wear a silly fire suit and walk through a shot saying, “I love love.” That’s still one of the funniest commercials ever, in my opinion.

He’s genuine in a way that most of today’s drivers used to be, but aren’t any more. He comes from a racing family, and he watched his father lay waste to the Northeastern modified world many years ago. In that regard, he’s something like Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt Jr.. They watched their dads win at the highest levels, and win a lot.

Though he’s affectionately known as “The Franchise” around MWR, he doesn’t act like he invented the slingshot or the bump stop. He acts like he’s a happy guy to be driving the Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota, and having the time of his life.

In short, it’s a good thing to see him sweep past Jeff Gordon and control the final 52 laps, holding off Carl Edwards for the victory. It’s good for David, because he got a monkey off his back. It’s good for MWR, which has been knocking on the door of late to make the Chase, and it’s good for the sport because a team other than Hendrick, Gibbs, RCR and Penske won a race.

That last is important.

After 19 races, the score stands: JGR 7, HMS 5, Penske and RCR 2 each, Stewart-Haas, MWR and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates one each. For the mathematically minded, two teams have won 63 percent of the races this season.

When Roush or RPM wins, it will be good for the sport as well. Can’t have too many race victories by one team, or you’re looking at the New York Yankees. I’m decidedly not a Yankee fan, so you know which side I’m on!

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