Category archive: David Reutimann
Everybody loves a good upset, me included. And while Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway wasn't David Reutimann's first career Cup series win, it was his most impressive moment in the series.
Reutimann's no young gun, having turned 40 earlier this season, and wasn't the next big thing coming into the Cup series. He failed to qualify for eight races his freshman season and has seen his career grow from the bottom up along with Michael Waltrip Racing.
The top five Saturday night was full of possible feel-good stories. Runner-up Carl Edwards has failed to win since his breakout 2008 season, when he won nine races. (Ford, too, has failed to win this year.) Jeff Gordon was third, still looking to finally turn one of his multitude of top-5s this year into a win. Clint Bowyer raced his way back into a Chase position with a fourth-place run. And Jamie McMurray, the odd man out at Roush Fenway Racing after last season, was fifth, his fifth top-five of the season, more than he had in any season with Roush.
One could also make the argument that NASCAR needed an upset win in prime time Saturday night. Chicago was the first race in the second half of the season. In the first half, five drivers accounted for 16 of the 18 wins. NASCAR is at its best when an "anyone can win" mentality rules.
If you ask this humble researcher, it was a great way to start the second half of the season. So now we'll take a deep breath, enjoy the off week, and get ready to head to Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400.
In the meantime, here are some research notes coming out of Chicago:
I've been on vacation, so I wasn't hanging around the research room Saturday night when the race ended. We usually like to sum up the race using a graphic containing some sort of stat on the winner, but I couldn't think of a great note coming off Reutimann's win.
He would've been the first driver to get his first career win at Chicago, had it not been for his rain-aided win at Charlotte last season. However, now he has a pair of Sprint Cup wins in his career, and it's important to note how few drivers have done just that.
Reutimann became the 118th driver in the history of the series with at least a pair of wins. He has both Cup wins for Michael Waltrip Racing, as well.
Let's take a look at some notable active teams that got both of their first two wins from a single driver. Hendrick Motorsports' first two wins came courtesy Geoff Bodine. Dale Jarrett won the first two for Joe Gibbs Racing. Ricky Rudd won for Richard Childress Racing, and Mark Martin won for Roush Fenway Racing.
Will David Reutimann one day be at the level as these other drivers? Although he's not a young gun, he's off to a good start.
Trivia break! Reutimann didn't quite get to 13th in points -- in fact, Dale Earnhardt Jr. fell to 13th. But over the last two seasons, the driver 13th in points at this point came back to make the Chase. Who were they?
Hitting the milestone
Jeff Gordon made his 600th career Cup start on Saturday. That's a mark that 20 other drivers have hit prior to Gordon, but only one driver performed better than Gordon's third-place run in his 600th start.
Although he didn't get that elusive win, it was Gordon's fifth straight top-5 finish.
Trivia break! Who was the only other driver with a top-10 finish in his 600th start?
600 and counting ...
Before I part, I have one more nugget on Gordon hitting 600. He's made all of those starts consecutively, just the sixth driver in series history with a consecutive-starts streak that long.
So, here's your list of NASCAR's iron men:
Trivia break! After Gordon, who has the next-longest active streak of consecutive starts?
Trivia break answers
1. Clint Bowyer came back from 13th in 2008. Greg Biffle did it last year.
2. Rusty Wallace was sixth in 2003 at Rockingham in his 600th start.
3. Bobby Labonte has made 599 consecutive starts. He'll join Gordon in the 600 club at Indianapolis.
I don't remember too many races to the Chase that were quite as exciting and uncertain as this one is shaping up to be.
Well, this is just the sixth year of the Chase, so there's not a whole lot of history there, but still, you'll be hard-pressed to find a closer race for the last few spots in the Chase.
And because I'm a researcher, and it's sort of my job, I'd like to clear things up for my loyal readers. Unmurky the Chase waters, if you will.
Ding, ding, ding. Ladies and gentlemen, as far as I know, it's a first in Internet history. I am now the first person to ever use the word "unmurky." But that's beside the point, unimpressive as it is.
Oh, let's just get on with a special off-week edition of the blog, where I give you some scenarios down the stretch, with just two races left. All these scenarios take into account that the drivers will start the Chase cutoff race at Richmond.
Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are already in the field, nine titles between them, and nobody can take that away from them. Unless something unforeseen happens like a rules violation or some sort of drug scandal is revealed.
And we all know that never happens in NASCAR. Um moving on.
Three drivers can clinch a Chase spot in Atlanta regardless of what those further down in the standings do, provided they simply start the race at Richmond.
The first is fourth-place Denny Hamlin. The dark-horse championship contender doesn't even need a top-10 at Atlanta, which is good since he has only two of those in eight career starts at the track. Hamlin needs to just finish 12th, or 13th if he leads a lap, to officially punch his Chase ticket.
One spot below him in the standings is Carl Edwards. Edwards was getting a lot of preseason love for his championship chances, but that's cooled as he's been unable to find Victory Lane in the Cup Series this season. Despite that, Edwards can wrap up another Chase berth by finishing fourth at Atlanta, or fifth if he leads a lap. He's won there three times in 10 starts, including his first career win.
The other driver who controls his own destiny at Atlanta is the driver who won the first Chase, Kurt Busch. Busch needs to do just slightly better than Edwards, finish third or better, or fourth if he leads a lap. That seems doable for Busch, who won the spring race at Atlanta in dominant fashion.
Not so clear
Here's where things get interesting. Oh, who am I kidding? They were always interesting.
Seventh to 12th in the points are separated by just 50 points and none are more than 84 points behind of 13th-place Kyle Busch. Six drivers -- Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth -- cannot clinch at Atlanta based on what they do themselves, but that doesn't mean they can't give themselves some breathing room.
Of these six, only Martin and Kahne have won at Atlanta. But Martin's wins came in 1991 and 1994, while Kahne won slightly more recently, in 2006.
Outside looking in
Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers have had their differences, but they find themselves in similar positions with two to go before the Chase field is set. Meanwhile, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann are a little farther back, but they, along with Vickers and Busch, could get back into the top 12 with a good run and some degree of fortune at Atlanta.
Those four are also in a position where if they win, they cannot be eliminated.
Meanwhile, things aren't looking so good for Jeff Burton and Marcos Ambrose. These drivers aren't eliminated quite yet, but they have some ground to make up, and have to do so in a hurry. Any driver 162 points or more behind 12th after Atlanta will be eliminated.
And I'd like to take this space at the bottom of the column to send my regards to drivers such as Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. They're among the drivers, everyone 19th or lower in points, who are officially eliminated from Chase contention. Maybe next year, fellas.
So, those are the numbers; I'll leave it at that for now. Who do you think is in or out? Leave your comment below, and it's time-stamped, so you can throw it in everybody's face if you were correct. I'll vouch for you.