David Reutimann’s win in NASCAR’s longest race, which was postponed from Sunday because of rain, was the first for Michael Waltrip Racing—now in its third season of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition—and the first for a Toyota team other than Joe Gibbs Racing.
By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(May 25, 2009)
CONCORD, N.C.—He’ll take it!
David Reutimann was the big winner in NASCAR’s losing battle against Mother Nature in Monday’s rain-shortened 24 Hours of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Nearly 25 hours after the 50th edition of the race was supposed to start, and with menacing storm cells dotting the radar, NASCAR called the event after 227 of a scheduled 400 laps. That made a first-time winner of Reutimann, who parlayed a strategic call by crew chief Rodney Childers into the unlikely victory.
The win in NASCAR’s longest race, which was postponed from Sunday because of rain, was the first for Michael Waltrip Racing—now in its third season of NASCAR Sprint Cup competition—and the first for a Toyota team other than Joe Gibbs Racing. Reutimann led five laps, all under the final caution. He was running 14th when rain started falling on Lap 221.
The top three finishers—Reutimann, polesitter Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon—remained on the track when NASCAR threw the sixth caution of the race on Lap 221 after a shower hit Turn 2. Six laps later, the race was red-flagged for the fourth time. Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers, who each took two tires under yellow on lap 222, finished fourth and fifth.
“It certainly wasn’t the prettiest win,” said Reutimann, who won the race with his father, renowned short-track racer Buzzie Reutimann, in attendance. “Rodney Childers made a great call and told me to stay out.
“When you envision winning your first Sprint Cup race, this is not exactly the way you envision it. But these things are so hard to win, we’ll take it any way we can get it. … It’s fun, but I felt like I was down on pit road for a month (waiting for NASCAR to call the race).”
Reutimann gained two positions to 13th in the standings, trailing 12th-place Mark Martin by six points.
“Obviously, their crew chief made an awesome call,” an elated Michael Waltrip said of the No. 00 Toyota team’s effort. “David and I have been in position to win races before, and fate took it away from us. So I look at this as payback.”
Kyle Busch led a race-high 173 laps but was victimized by rain for the second straight NASCAR event. On Saturday night, he had the dominant car in the rain-shortened CARQUEST Auto Parts 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, which Mike Bliss won by conserving fuel and staying out until a storm hit the speedway.
Busch passed Newman on Lap 3 and thereafter dominated the green-flag segments of the race, which were run between interruptions from intermittent thundershowers. Newman lost track position when he had to bring his No. 39 Chevrolet back to the pits to tighten a lug nut under a competition caution called on Lap 41.
Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson discussed strategy during the final caution and made the call that salvaged a good finish.
Notes: Newman posted his fourth straight top-five finish. The last time he had a comparable streak was 2005. … Robby Gordon’s third was his best finish since he ran second at Watkins Glen International in 2005. … Bill Elliott finished 15th in his 800th NASCAR Sprint Cup start. … Kurt Busch came to pit road with a vibration on Lap 193, and his crew corrected the problem by changing right-side tires on the No. 2 Dodge. The unscheduled stop moved Busch to 34th at the finish. He remained third in points but fell 115 behind leader Jeff Gordon, who finished 14th. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. fought an ill-handling car from the outset, lost two laps on the track and finished 40th.