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Reutimann bringing major Cup win home

CONCORD, N.C. — David Reutimann stared at the gray sky and silently prayed for one more heavy rain.

A gamble put the journeyman in position for his first Sprint Cup victory, and so long as clouds lingered over Lowe's Motor Speedway, it would come in a NASCAR crown jewel, the Coca-Cola 600.

The Zephyrhills driver didn't like his chances.

"These things don't ever go our way," the 39-year-old thought. "I don't know why it should now."

For most of his career, which grew from a family of longtime bay area short-track stalwarts, Reutimann never got that break.

It finally came Monday after 75 races, three rain delays and a two-hour wait.

NASCAR declared Reutimann the winner when an ominous forecast indicated it would be impossible to run the longest race of the season to its conclusion. The race had already been postponed Sunday and carried over to Memorial Day for the first time in its 50-year history.

"It wasn't the prettiest win, but somebody has to win," Reutimann said. "When you envision yourself winning your first Sprint Cup race, you envision it different. But it's so hard to win these deals, we'll take it any way we can."

With intermittent showers all day Monday, the race was one of strategy, as every driver tried to be in front when the event was finally washed out.

Reutimann, then 14th, and crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to join a parade of cars following leader Kyle Busch down pit road during a caution for rain 22 laps past the scheduled halfway point.

At that point the race would be official if it was stopped again for rain and not restarted. And the Michael Waltrip Racing team prayed the end was soon.

Reutimann claimed the lead, with pole-sitter Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon following him to the front as the rest of the field pitted. Reutimann didn't lead a lap under green-flag racing but was out front for five laps under caution before NASCAR called the cars back to pit road for the third rain stoppage.

During the delay Reutimann was joined by his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, who still tears it up in dirt-track events at East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton. The two didn't bother with an umbrella as they stood in pit road, in a steady drizzle, for more than two hours.

"I tell you what, people, it's been a long road. It's taken us a long time to get here," Buzzie Reutimann said. "I'm afraid I'm going to wake up in the morning and find out I'm dreaming all of this. Words can't describe how great a father would feel to see his son win a race."

Buzzie Reutimann was there for his son's other NASCAR victories, a 2007 Nationwide race at Memphis and a 2005 truck race at Nashville.

The duo never imagined they'd make it to the top level, though, when they were eking out a living in lower levels for most of their careers. Buzzie's lone race in NASCAR's top series — and the only one ever held in the bay area — came in 1962 at Golden Gate Speedway, a long-gone dirt track in east Tampa.

"I wasn't racing to be a NASCAR driver. I was just racing to race, to be able to be like my dad, make a living at racing," the younger Reutimann said. "When I was at East Bay Raceway running for $350 to win in a late model feature, I wasn't concerned about being here, I was concerned about making it to next week.

"That's been the mentality my whole life."

Reutimann gave MWR its first Cup victory and made it the first Toyota team other than Joe Gibbs Racing to win.

Newman finished second, and Gordon was third. Gordon might have a problem, though. NASCAR confiscated his real axle housing after post-race inspection for more evaluation.

Reutimann bringing major Cup win home 05/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:34am]
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