ZEPHYRHILLS — David Reutimann hasn't forgotten where he came from.
For the past six years, the NASCAR driver who is part of Michael Waltrip Racing has returned home to Zephyrhills for a golf tournament he doesn't play in. The purpose is for the David Reutimann Foundation to raise money for local charities and put his fame to good use.
"This event is the brainchild of my good friend Bud Smith," Reutimann said. "We've been able to grow this tournament from scratch and now we're maxed out on golfers. It's easy for me really, the organizers do most of the work. I just get off the plane and wave and take all the credit at some point it seems like. It's always nice to come back though to where my family has been for a long time. You get to see some good people and be at home."
Silverado Golf and Country Club, which hosted the tournament again last weekend, is owned by Reutimann's second cousin, Brantley Smith. Smith and his brother, Bud, are the key organizers behind the tournament while Reutimann provides the star power and uses his relationships with other drivers to obtain valued merchandise auctioned the evening before the tournament at a cookout.
"A lot of guys have foundations and host events like this in the NASCAR community," Reutimann said. "They need stuff for their auctions and we need stuff for ours so there is a constant barter system going on and we have to thank our friend Brock Williamson for helping get all that stuff together."
The tournament is a popular event for local NASCAR fans, not just for the merchandise and the golf, but for the chance to meet Reutimann.
"I never would have been able to pick him out of a crowd because when I watch the races, I rarely see the driver's faces," Jason Burge from Clearwater said. "It's nice to be able to see Reutimann and take a picture with him. I wasn't sure what to expect when I came out here but I tell you it's worth the money. You get what you pay for with this event and it's nice to spend a day golfing with such nice people."
Others like Randy Wheelbanks view the tournament as a homecoming for Reutimann and an event close to their hearts. Wheelbanks, 63, lost his son to cancer seven years ago so the event, which benefits charities such as All Children's Hospital, has a deeper meaning for him. Reutimann was friends with Wheelbanks' son growing up.
"You'll never meet anybody like David Reutimann," Wheelbanks said. "He's one of the most mild-mannered and polite people and he's never forgotten who he is and where he comes from. This is a great event because I know for a fact that there isn't a dime raised that doesn't go to charity. It's just a real nice family and community event."