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But Zephyrhills native knows he needs a big push now to get a shot at the Sprint Cup title.

Associated Press

David Reutimann's lofty preseason expectations at making NASCAR Sprint Cup's Chase for the Championship have been whittled to a bundle of frayed nerves with nine championship-or-bust races to go.

The Zephyrhills native has no desire to scan the points standings to check how far away he is from landing a spot in the12-car field.

"There's no really point," he said. "I figure when you get close to where you need to be, someone will let me know."

No one has told Reutimann he's close enough to drive for the title yet.

Reutimann has been as steady as any driver over the past nine races, finishing between fifth and 20th. He has been consistent enough in the No. 00 to make the Chase reachable, just not strong enough to make a huge leap in points.

Reutimann knows he's running out of time to qualify. With nine races left until the field is set, Reutimann is finding himself a long shot.

He's 150 points behind Carl Edwards for the 12th and final spot with 1,870 points, and six drivers are between him and Edwards.

The 12th spot is not out of reach, but Reutimann would have to make a surge starting Saturday in the Coke Zero 400 at Dayton International Speedway.

"We need top-fives everywhere you look in order to gain ground," Reutimann said. "We definitely have our work cut out for us, but if we run like we're supposed to run, we can legitimately still do it."

Reutimann can point to some bad luck early in the season if he fails to make the Chase. He suffered blown motors at Atlanta, Bristol and Texas, races where he was running inside the top 10. He finished 28th or worse in four of five miserable races from Atlanta to Texas to sink in the standings.

"The stuff we had happen to us at the beginning of the year, it's hard to make up for that," he said. "We've been able to kind of claw back to where we are now."

Reutimann, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, flirted with making the Chase for the first time last season. He was within six points of Mark Martin for 12th at one point before fading to finish 16th.

His run heightened expectations at Michael Waltrip Racing that he could find his name in the championship hunt this year.

"Our performance has been well above what we did last year," Reutimann said. "We had good cars in all those races and just had some failures. That's all that put us back."

He's heating up at the right time.

In the past nine races, Reutimann has scored 1,147 points, eighth most of any driver, and moved from 30th in points to 19th. The 11-position gain is the largest of any driver in that span. Reutimann and Kevin Harvick are the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap of the past nine races.

Reutimann is looking for more than a few wins. He's still waiting to sign his new contract with Michael Waltrip Racing. Team owner Michael Waltrip said in May that a new deal was "imminent." The sides are still apart.

"I think we're pretty close to being on the same sheet," Reutimann said.

Fast facts

Sprint CupCoke Zero 400

When/where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Daytona International Speedway


. fast facts

Sprint Cup points

Through 17 of 36 races. The top 12 drivers through 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Kevin Harvick 2,489 -

J. Johnson 2,384 105

Kyle Busch 2,328 161

D. Hamlin 2,304 185

Jeff Gordon 2,302 187

Kurt Busch 2,288 201

Matt Kenseth 2,204 285

Jeff Burton 2,159 330

Tony Stewart 2,158 331

Greg Biffle 2,126 363

Mark Martin 2,047 442

Carl Edwards 2,020 469

D. Earnhardt Jr. 2,017 472

R. Newman 2,005 484

Clint Bowyer 2,004 485