David Reutimann knows it’s early, knows there are too many miles and too many twists and turns left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup season to get too excited.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t enjoying his success this season.
For a guy who has spent the majority of his Cup career either fighting to make races or to get his Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota anywhere near the top of the grid, finding his name on the front page of the standings isn’t a bad thing.
Reutimann enters the series’ first bye week 12th in points even after a season-worst 32nd-place finish in Atlanta last Sunday. It’s rarified air for the affable 39-year-old, who has never finished better than 22nd in the season standings and is still looking for his first Cup victory.
“(There’s) a lot of racing left,” Reutimann said. “But I’ve seen my name listed on the outside of the top 35 before. And I like this a whole lot more.”
He should. Reutimann is leading the way for Waltrip’s somewhat resurgent Toyota program. He’s already collected a 12th at Daytona, then backed it up with a seventh in California and a career-best fourth in Las Vegas.
The Florida native will spend the bye week hanging out with his family. It’ll be a good time. Yet after waiting so long for things to come together, Reutimann isn’t exactly thrilled about spending a Sunday outside of his No. 00 machine.
“You always have the danger, you think if things are going well (and) you have an off weekend, it’s going to mess up everything that you’ve got going on,” he said. “Obviously, you want to be there every week, especially when things are going your way.”
Reutimann can’t quite put a finger on what has led to his hot start. In his mind, it’s been the continuation of something his team started last fall.
After struggling to find consistency for most of the 2008 season, Reutimann was among the better non-Chase drivers at the end of the year. He posted three top-10s in the last 12 races and won the pole in the season-ending event at Homestead.
The results were enough to keep the majority of his team intact during the offseason. While Rodney Childers, former crew chief for Elliot Sadler and Scott Riggs, was brought on board, the rest of the team remained the same.
The series heads to the bumper-car insanity of Bristol next week before hopping over to Martinsville.
Reutimann readily admits his short-track program could use some work.
“I think our short track stuff, we have some work to do on that,” he said.
When his weekends ended early, Reutimann admits he was a “miserable person to be around.” Though that may be putting it a bit too harshly for a driver considered among the nicest on the circuit.
“You doubt yourself sometimes,” he said. “You doubt what’s been going on around you. I’ve been through all that.”