David Reutimann knows he'll have a busy Friday. He just hopes the rest of his weekend is equally as hectic. Unlike six of his contemporaries, Reutimann has no guarantee his quest to pull double duty NASCAR style will be a successful one.
Reutimann, Dave Blaney and Mike Bliss are among the nine drivers attempting to run Saturday night's Busch Series race and Sunday afternoon's Nextel Cup race. Normally, the number of Cup drivers crossing over is much higher. Normally, though, the races are at the same track.
But for the next three weeks, the circuits will go their separate ways, with the Busch Series at Nashville Superspeedway in Tennessee and Cup at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. this weekend. That means drivers will be flying from place to place and most likely missing a practice session or two at Nashville on Friday.
Reutimann, Blaney and Bliss, though, are outside of the top 35 in car owners' points in the Cup Series, meaning if they don't qualify on time Friday afternoon their time in Pocono is over with. And rest assured, making that race is a priority.
J.J. Yeley, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Greg Biffle, David Stremme and Carl Edwards have the luxury of knowing they'll pull double duty as long as the weather cooperates and the Busch race is run Saturday evening. So while they'll have a busy weekend, there's less stress involved as well.
Reutimann, who has failed to qualify for the last two Cup races, is having a much better season in the Busch Series. With one top-5 finish and three top-10s on the season, he's fifth in points in his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
His best finish was a runner-up effort to Edwards when the series raced at Nashville in April.
"I've been very happy with the progress we've made this year with the Busch team," Reutimann said. "In all honesty, it's probably the only thing that's kept me sane with the ups and downs we've been going through [in Cup]. One thing that seems to be a constant is we come to [a Busch race] and we're established. We were together for the better part of last season so things are more familiar, we know the cars a little more and we're running well. So that's always fun."
That's not to say Reutimann doesn't think his Busch team can continue to improve. Jerry Baxter still is gaining experience as a crew chief and Reutimann sees him growing more confident in the role as time goes by.
And the driver admits he's still learning plenty in what's his first full season in the Busch Series.
Maybe that's why he's looking forward to the challenge presented by flying from track to track over the course of a weekend.
"It's really kind of cool, you get to go do things that most people wouldn't normally get a chance to do," Reutimann said. "You helicopter from here to there [from the track to the airport] and it makes you actually feel like you're important. So it's kind of unique.
"It definitely doesn't take away from our Cup program, but it does take away from the Busch program a little bit as you may miss a drivers' meeting [and have to start at the back of the field] or not get to qualify or maybe not even practice the car. I think that puts you behind a little bit. But I know with the team ... that I'll have a good car when I get there."
Veteran driver Mark Green will practice for Reutimann at Nashville and will qualify the car as well if Reutimann can't get from Pocono to Nashville in time on Saturday. That, of course, is assuming that Reutimann makes the Cup race on Friday.
While Waltrip's Busch team has been established for years, the three-car Cup effort that started this year has struggled. That's taken a toll on Reutimann, but he's trying to stay optimistic.
"It's tough to keep your confidence up when you're missing races and not running well," he said. "The thing that's saving me is that we are running well [in Busch]. So even when you have a bad [Cup] weekend, when you're in the [Busch] race and run well, it reassures yourself more than anybody that you can still drive.
"Sometimes you have bad runs and you go, 'This is not working,' and then you come to [Busch] and say, 'OK, I can still do this.'"
Baxter has no doubt that his driver can get the job done. He said they don't focus on what's happening on the Cup side and he's not worried about his driver trying to be in two places at once the next few weeks.
He really doesn't expect that to be an issue at Nashville since the series just ran there two months ago.
"I know I've got a good baseline for there and Mark [Green] does a good job driving," Baxter said. "The same thing at Kentucky. We know we have a good car for there, so we'll be fine."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN.