NASCAR Media Conference
March 9, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and good afternoon to the media again, our second NASCAR Cam video teleconference of the day. Our guest for this one, joining us from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, we have David Reutimann, who drives the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota.
David is currently 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points. He dropped out of the top 12 after some engine problems this past week in Atlanta, which led to a 40th place finish, but still, second straight year, a great start to a season by David Reutimann.
David, despite that problem in Atlanta for said second straight year out of the blocks in pretty good shape, what's the outlook for the rest of the season for you and your team?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, you know, hopefully a lot better than we ended up having in Atlanta. We just had an issue there where a lower radiator hose or lower water line ended up leaking and the motor pushed the water out of it, and it broke. It wasn't a total racing development issue, it was an internal issue within our shop, and it was just something that happened.
It's unfortunate, but you're right, we've had a pretty good start to our season. Things have gone pretty well. I feel like if we can just continue to try to be consistent and make good calls like we did -- like for instance on Sunday, we started off, the car was not all that good, kept working on it, had great pit stops and was able to move back up and get back inside the top 10, and we had a problem.
So if we can just keep doing things like that -- I mean, obviously the points are so tight right now, you have one bad race, you can be -- I think we were sixth or seventh or whatever, but anyway, we were in the top 12 when we went into Atlanta, now we're sitting 18th. We've got to go and get back after it and get back in the top 12 and try to stay there for the rest of the year.
Q. I don't envy you being the first driver we get a chance to talk with after NASCAR's ruling about Carl Edwards, so I've got to ask you, what do you think of the ruling? Do you think the penalty is fair, and do you think parking a car that was 150 laps plus down a fair penalty?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Um, yeah, I was hoping for maybe a nice quiet week this week than coming here and doing this. But obviously we haven't had that. But you know, I don't -- I guess it's fair. I mean, it's a situation where obviously penalizing Carl after the fact, during that race and parking him, I mean, I'm sure that isn't -- didn't factor in greatly and wasn't a big -- probably wasn't a big deal to the 99 team at that time because they were obviously down laps and all that.
But you know, I think the penalty is okay, I guess. I mean, it's -- it is what it is. I'm not -- I just learned about it when I got here as far as what the penalty was. Probation, I guess it's all right. NASCAR is going to watch pretty close, and if there's another mistake or anything like that happens, I'm sure it'll be pretty hot and heavy. But I think that's probably fair.
Q. Does it kind of open the door up for you guys to go at each other even more after this ruling?
DAVID REUTIMANN: No, I don't -- I don't think so. I mean, obviously -- I know Carl Edwards pretty well, and I haven't talked to him, and this is just me speculating, so you guys bear with me for a second and hopefully I can answer one question and save you guys a lot of time.
You know, I'm sure it's a situation where maybe Carl felt like he needed to make a statement there, and that happens on the racetrack. You guys have to understand. Just because you don't see it or just because it doesn't have the outcome that it did like Sunday, that stuff happens, and it happens fairly regular, sometimes within a lap or two of each other. Sometimes you guys just only see the bigger stuff with -- whenever you have a bigger finish, I guess.
You know, I don't think it's going to open up anything. I just think it's going to be a situation where -- we all need to take pretty good care of each other on the racetrack, and sometimes tempers flare, and sometimes when you get into a guy trying to say, hey, I didn't appreciate that, it ends up turning into something more.
I'm not making excuses for anybody. I like both those guys. They're both extremely talented and very good guys, and I hate that it ended up being like this, but you know, sometimes -- you know, just because there's probation this time, I don't think that's going to be the trend all across the board. If people continue to do it, maybe they'll evolve the process or the penalties. NASCAR is in a tough spot. They want to let us race and want to let us be ourselves and be emotional and have that fire, but at the same time they have to keep things in check, and I feel like being on probation is probably as good as any, I guess.
Q. David, it's reasonably clear that NASCAR is saying here that it is generally okay with some level of retribution if you feel like you've been wronged on the racetrack. But do you have what you consider a pretty good understanding of how far you can go if you feel like you need to respond to something a driver has done to you? Do you have an understanding of where kind of the line is?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't know that there's -- I don't know that that line has been clearly defined, but I mean, how can you -- if you draw a line in the sand, then you're saying you can do everything up to that line and it's okay, but anything over that, it's not. I don't think you can do that.
I mean, you know, I don't know -- it's not a perfect system, nor will it ever be. We're a bunch of emotional guys out there, and sometimes when we put the helmet on - you guys have been following the sport long enough - some of us don't always think as clearly as we probably ought to, especially myself.
But man, I don't know. Again, it's a tough question. I think it'll just -- it's kind of a wait-and-see thing, and NASCAR is going to have to address things on the severity of what happened and what the reaction was. I mean, I don't -- again, I think it's just going to be on a race-by-race basis and see what happens.
I don't think you can say -- you can put in a rule book saying, okay, if you do this, then we're going to do that. I don't think you can do that. There can't be any clear-cut areas because it's all open to different interpretation as it goes. It's complicated, and I would not want to have NASCAR's job in this deal. But I think they've done a good job with this, with the penalties so far, and hopefully everybody can just go on and race and we won't have issues anymore. That would be great.
Q. David, I just want you to know that I picked you to make the Chase, so I'm rooting for you to get back in the top 12.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Appreciate it. I hope I don't mess it up.
Q. I just wanted to ask, we all know Michael Waltrip, a good guy, a funny guy and everything, but racing is a serious business. What's it like working there and racing there, at Michael Waltrip Racing? Are there moments where it's all business and other moments where you have a good time? What's it like?
DAVID REUTIMANN: There is definitely both, some aspects of that on both sides of the deal. I mean, Michael is a very funny guy, and that's just Michael Waltrip. That's who he is and that's the person he is. And even in some of the most serious situations, he can make a comment that will kind of loosen the room up a little bit and help guys basically just communicate better.
Sometimes when you have serious conversations and you're sitting in meetings maybe that you don't necessarily want to be at because you're in trouble for something, Michael has a way of loosening everybody up and still being serious and knowing that you have things to attend to.
With that being said, he's a great guy. He's a lot of fun to be around. But there definitely is two sides to Michael Waltrip. There's the funny guy that the fans love and the guy that sits behind a desk and who's steering the ship at Michael Waltrip Racing, and when you make a mistake or something needs to be taken care of, he'll hold you accountable to that.
That's not exactly the Michael Waltrip I like to deal with on a regular basis. I like the fun Michael better. But sometimes -- what I'm saying is he can do both very, very well and be very effective doing both of them.
Q. David, I was wondering what might worry you more, just getting involved in kind of a situation where you're going to either be getting payback or giving payback to another driver, or just getting caught up in paybacks that could be going on out at the track after all this?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think that's -- I think the thing that ticks you off is getting caught up in somebody else's retaliation. I think that really aggravates you to the point where you're like, man, I didn't do anything wrong, I just got caught up in a deal. Sometimes that happens.
Realistically, if you go out there -- if you go out there and run into a guy and you do something -- if you go down there and jack a guy up or move him or bounce him off the fence or something, you can just -- you know in the back of your mind, like, okay, I've probably got one coming. That's just the way it is. There's no way around it. You're not like -- you can't expect to go down there and run into a guy and not have something coming back at you, whether it was myself getting into Ryan Newman last year at Daytona and tearing up his race car; me getting into Dale, Jr. Obviously I think we all heard plenty of about that; or any of the other stuff.
I mean, you know -- regardless if you go down there and talk to those guys and say you're sorry, that's all fine. But chances are, you've got something coming. That's not always a -- as a matter of fact, myself getting into Sam Hornish last year and getting into Jimmie Johnson, again, called and talked to both of those guys; that's a bad day when you've got to make two phone calls to apologize to two different guys. And again, you do all the apologies and do all that stuff, but in the back of your mind, you know, you're like, well, if those guys hammer on me or something happens, I brought it on myself; I've got it coming, deal with it, suck it up, deal with it, and know at least after the fact, at least you're even at that point and you shouldn't have to worry about it anymore.
Q. So did those guys eventually get back at you at some point?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Not yet, no. But I'm still -- again, when you're racing around a guy, you give them respect and all those things like that. But again, at least in my mind -- hopefully not in their mind but at least in my mind, I feel like those guys still probably owe me a shot. And if it happens, you just can't say anything, you've just got to take it, like, okay, at least we're even now, now we can go back to business as usual.
Q. Obviously you're racing for a spot in the Chase. How do you balance that and knowing if you owe somebody when to give it to them and when not to?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, you know, for the sake of argument, I would say that you want to get back at a guy when it's going to hurt him the most. That's the devious side of a driver. You're like, you don't want to turn the guy around in practice when it doesn't mean anything. If he costs you points, you want to cost him points. You want him to really think about it and think about it the next time he does something to you. Maybe he'll think twice next time.
It's just kind of a screwed up racer's mentality. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying we've all kind of got an aspect of that.
Sometimes now when you get outside the race car you may have a chance to think about it and you may not feel as strongly about the retaliation side of things. But when you're out there on the racetrack and your adrenaline is up and all those things, sometimes you end up doing things that end up not only costing the other guy you're trying to pay back but sometimes costing you, and sometimes you've got to worry about what the tradeoff is going to be.
Q. I've always compared you to Johnny Benson, a guy who's a good guy, great driver, but flies a little bit under the radar. A lot of people thought that last year was your breakthrough year, and I personally think this is your breakthrough year. What are your thoughts on that, and how do you perceive this year going?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I think we definitely have the pieces in place at Michael Waltrip Racing to continue to be in the Chase and do the things we need to do, win races, run in the top 5, get poles and do those things, lead laps, all the things that you go there to do every week. I feel like we have all the pieces in place to do that.
And yeah, throughout my entire career I've been a guy that's flown under the radar. That's just my style. I'm not flashy. There's nothing special about me. I sure don't look all that good. It's a situation where I just come to drive a race car, and that's really all I care about doing.
And obviously I have great sponsors who are behind me with Aaron's and Best Western, and that's the kind of thing they like.
We go out there as a race team, we try not to ruffle any feathers, just try to go out there and do our job week in and week out and try to get the best result we possibly can. It's always nice to at the end of the day -- guys are like -- at the Daytona 500, everybody was so caught up in what the 88 was doing, they forgot to mention that I was the one that was pushing the 88. It was just one of those deals where you just kind of get lost in the shuffle. And that's okay.
As long as Aaron's get some exposure and my sponsors gets some exposure, I don't need any. As long as the sponsors get it, that's the most important thing to me.
Q. So what do you have to do to make sure that you don't fall under the same fate that Johnny Benson did as far as falling from -- being Rookie of the Year and then moving down, and now -- you know, he won the Craftsman Truck Series just a few years ago, and now he doesn't even have a full-time ride. What do you have to do to keep yourself on top of at least making sure you've got a ride going forward?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think it just comes down to trying to make sure you perform at the level you need to perform every week, you know, you be as good as you possibly can with the sponsors. Do everything a sponsor asks of you, go that extra mile and do all the things that you need to do to keep the sponsors happy and keep the people around you happy, and that's not enough, though. Then you have to go out on the racetrack and prove that you can do the job.
And I think Johnny's situation, he got shuffled around and got into some bad situations where he couldn't really show just how good he really is. Certainly he's an extremely talented guy. You put him in anything out there right now, he could still win races. He got in some situations that weren't -- that he couldn't really show his full potential, and that's what you've got to try to do.
You've got to keep yourself in good situations like being at Michael Waltrip Racing, being with a good team and having people that believe in you. As long as you have people around you that believe in you and you believe in them, I feel like you can still move forward and keep those sponsors, keep people happy, and be one of those guys on Sunday that people pay attention to.
Q. It seems like everybody wants to chase Jimmie Johnson, obviously, year after year as it goes. But Jimmie Johnson after every race he writes down notes about the race. Do you think it's going to take an analytical driver like him to have a better job of catching that 48 team and surpassing them, or do you think it'll be kind of like a feel-type seat-of-the-pants kind of guy?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I think it's maybe a little bit of both, really. You take -- we actually all -- the majority of the drivers -- I think you'd be surprised to see a majority of the drivers do take notes after races and stuff like that. The reason you do that is not only to, while stuff is fresh in your mind, get it out there so you can maybe talk about it at the team meeting or whatever that you have on Monday or Tuesday or whenever you have them. We all have them.
I think it comes down to, okay, when you come back again, the crew chief has his notes; the driver needs to have his notes, as well, like all right, this is what the track did; this is what I did at such-and-such a time; this is what we fought; this is what I could probably do better when I go back. You do all those things because you go -- say like you go to California early this year and you don't go again until the end of the year. There's a lot of races in between, and a lot of stuff that fills up your head. So you write all that stuff down so you just have those notes in front of you so you can prepare yourself.
It's like preparing yourself for a test any time you go to race. You study, and it's like, okay, this is what I had, this is what we did, this is what I could have done better, and you hopefully apply that next time you go, and hopefully the weekend is better for you.
Q. Your job is all about adventure. Do the thrills that you guys get on the track, does that diminish your off-track activities? Do you do anything dangerous off the track?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't do much -- I drive a race car on Sundays, but other than that, my life is pretty well -- not anything exciting, not jumping out of airplanes, not wrestling alligators. I've cut way back on that, doing stuff like that.
I just like to hang out. I like to work in my shop and I like quiet time. So yeah, I get my adrenaline fix on Sundays, and I don't need much more during the week, just kind of hang out. I don't like to drive fast on the highways, just kind of cruise around and then try to go fast on Sundays.
HERB BRANHAM: David Reutimann, thanks so much for joining us, and best of luck the rest of the season in getting into that Chase this year.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Thanks, Herb. Take care.
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