NASCAR Media Conference
March 11, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Cam Video Teleconference, live from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Our guest today is the driver of the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, David Reutimann. David's currently 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Earlier this season, at Las Vegas, he had a career-best finish in the series, 4th place. Coming out of Vegas, David also had his career-best points position in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which was 5th.
David, the season started out really great. 12th at the Daytona 500. You've kept the momentum going since then. What's been the key thus far as we've started off the 2009 campaign?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think when it comes right down to it, it's not any one thing that I can put my finger on that's made a difference. I think it's a bunch of different small things.
Obviously, I think towards the end of the last year where we actually started to get a better handle on the newer versions of our cars. I think about the three-quarter mark people started seeing some results on the racetrack, at least we did. And it finished up the season with getting the pole at Homestead and carried a little bit of that momentum during the off season.
We got a new crew chief with Rodney Childers. And my team engineer, he stayed on. So basically our same core group of people are there, just with a new crew chief.
And really it's those things, everything's kind of jelled rather quickly. And I'll tell you the start of the season has been really good for us. Although, the keyword being it's the start of the season. We still have a lot more racing to go.
All in all, I think with the progress that Total Racing Development has made, along with everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing, it's a combination of people working really hard and making good race cars right now and seeing the results on the racetrack.
HERB BRANHAM: Quick follow-up before we go to the media. What's it like to see the standings of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and see your name like right up there, theoretically, in chase contention now, although, as you said, it's early in the season?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Absolutely, a lot of racing left. But I've also seen my name listed on the outside of the top 35 before. And I like this a whole lot more.
But it's still early, and there's still a lot of racing. And you can flip back and forth with the point deal until things get going pretty well. But I think it just shows how far the organization's come with being able to be in the position we are right now, even though it is early.
Last year we weren't even remotely in the same section of the sheet. And so it's a big difference. And I like being on that side of the sheet a whole lot than being on the outside looking in, so to speak. We're making some good gains, and it's fun to drive the cars right now.
HERB BRANHAM: Questions for David Reutimann.
Q. This is sort of a parenting question. We're doing a parenting on pit road feature. And I notice you always have your daughter with you. And there are a lot of babies on pit road and toddlers and young kids these days. What kind of unique challenges or pitfalls do you find as a parent trying to raise your kid while doing the NASCAR circuit?
DAVID REUTIMANN: It's kind of a unique deal that we have. It's tough in those situations because of the simple fact that you're gone so much from home, and there's so much time that's spent away from your children, your family.
But the cool thing about it is NASCAR makes it so I can bring my daughter to the racetrack. I can bring her into the garage area and we get her a walk-through pass and she can be there with me. She can be there with me for driver intros and all those things and be a part of that. And she's been a part of that since basically since her birth. So she thinks to her it's a normal life for her. And I think it's something that would be pretty unique for most children, but it's very normal to her.
So I think just being on the road as much as you are and being away from family and having all those things happen, I think that makes it a little bit difficult sometimes. But on the same token, we have a team playing that, Emilia and Lisa are able to come to the races from time to time, when they can, which is quite often. And during the week I have opportunity to catch up for lost time.
So I think it's a good life. It has its own unique set of challenges. But I think NASCAR makes it as easy as they possibly can for families, and we certainly appreciate that. And for my child, she just thinks that's a normal life. So I'm grateful for that.
Q. This weekend, first off weekend of the year, how important is it for you to get away from racing, or is it more important to Lisa and Emilia. And the roll you're on, do you ever want it to end?
DAVID REUTIMANN: You always have the danger, you think if things are going well you have an off weekend, it's going to mess up everything that you've got going on.
But I think more important, it's more important I think for the guys on the crews, the road guys and the guys -- they don't obviously get the time off. But the guys on the road actually get a little bit time off because for me as difficult as it may be for me sometimes, I think it's twice as bad for those guys, because those guys are just on the road working their guts out week in and week out.
I think it's more important to have maybe off weekends for guys on the crew to let themselves get recharged a bit. And most of those guys have been working insane hours just trying to get ready for Daytona. Once Daytona starts, it never ends, seems like.
It's cool. Obviously you want to be there every week especially when you have things going your way. But I feel like we have things in place to be able to have a week off and still be able to run well. I have the confidence in my team and the guys around me and everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing. It's probably nice to have a weekend off. But at the same time I'm ready to get -- next week -- it's good to have a good weekend off, but I'll be ready to go about Sunday to go back driving again driving something.
Q. What are you doing this weekend? Are you running a team car with dad?
DAVID REUTIMANN: No. Unfortunately, there's not enough left of my dad's car to actually have a team car anymore. So I'm actually thrashing around getting my car finished so my dad can come up and get it, so he can start his season, because he destroyed his car during Speedweek.
I have to prepare my car, get it finished, send it down to him so he can start his season. And I'm having a new car built for him, new chassis. I'll finish it out up here. And when I'm done with that, he'll bring my car back to him, I'll give him his new car. No telling what state of affairs my car will be in when my car gets back to me. It's all kind of being that team owner kind of role that I've taken upon.
So it wasn't supposed to work out like that. I'm not sure this is how Rick Hendrick started, but we'll have to see where it takes us.
Q. My question is about heading into the short tracks at Bristol and Martinsville. How different can your approach be when you're pretty solid up in the points, not having to worry about things, as much as if you were trying to stay in the top 35?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Seems like you're always trying to stay somewhere, whether it's inside the top 12 or inside the top 35. So I don't think your approach changes any.
You're still going to try to go out there and be careful and finish the races, because those type of things, racetracks can get you in trouble very quickly. Martinsville and Bristol, both, racetracks where you don't even have to do anything wrong and you can get caught up in a situation that happens five or six cars ahead of you.
I don't think your mentality changes any. I think you still try to be as careful as you possibly can and still make sure you have a car in a good enough situation at the end of the race, and I don't think it changes a whole lot. At least for me anyway. Maybe you're actually a little more careful at these places because you know things can happen so quickly. But my mentality doesn't change a whole lot.
Q. David, you mentioned early on about not being even close to this side of the sheet last year and how you're having fun driving now. What was it like, or what's it like when you're on that other side of the sheet and not as competitive as you are now?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I can assure you it's not any fun, remotely, at all. But what you end up having is just two definite -- I'll say it correctly here in a minute -- definitely different scenarios than what you've had in the past.
Being outside the top 35, you're sick to your stomach every time qualifying time rolls around. You know you have to go out there and you basically have one lap to try to get into the race. And it's going to make or break your weekend. And that's the mentality you have. You unload and you're just a nervous wreck from the time the practice starts until the time you get into the race.
And you still want to go out and qualify good. You still want to do all the things you're supposed to be doing, qualify good and have the practice and stuff like that.
But the pressure is, different kind of pressure. The pressure to go out and run good in the race, as opposed to the pressure to just get into the race. And it's pressure in the same being, but it's a different kind of pressure. Because even if you go out there and you screw up and you lap, you're going to go home. There's no worse feeling at all than having that pressure on you. And sometimes when it does happen, you end up having to go home, which I've had to do in the past, it's just miserable. And I'm a miserable person to be around.
I was aggravated. I wasn't happy because we just were in a different situation. Now different kinds of pressures, different situations, but having a lot more fun doing it this way.
Q. Do you ever blame yourself in those situations?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I do, yeah. I mean, because depending on how bad the car is off or if the car doesn't drive good, I still put the blame on myself in those situations because I'm the guy driving the car.
Whether that's fair or not, I don't really know. But that's just the way I look at things. I look at things maybe I could have done this different or could have done that different.
And sometimes you go out there. And even if the car is not even close and you were to miss the race, I think as a driver you always look back and think, well, maybe I could have done this different and it would have helped the car, especially if you missed it by a couple hundredths. And that's a little bit hard to take, makes it even that much more hard to sleep at night. As a driver, for me personally, no far how the car was off I would still blame myself. That may not be the same for everybody. That's the way it is with me.
Q. I'm assuming you're a better person now?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't know if I'm a better person. I'm probably a happier person in the situation I'm in right now. I think that would be safe to say. But I don't know that it's made me a better person or not. I don't know if I'm a good judge of that.
Q. David, I want to ask you: There are some conversations about there having been no testing. And say like Roger Penske said the season, hard to draw any conclusions but that nobody is dominating the way Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards did, and that they, at Penske, during the off season, complained about not having testing but in the end they worked on things they needed. Does that play into where you are right now that there was no testing?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't think the lack of testing, I don't feel it's hurt us any. It was a situation -- I think a lot of teams said without the testing, the smaller teams weren't going to be able to catch up and it would broaden the gap. Again, if nobody's testing, nobody's testing. It kind of answers its own question there.
Where I feel like a lot of teams were testing and spending that money just because they felt like they had to because the other larger teams that had the budgets were doing that. So I do felt like it gave us a chance to focus our energies on some different situations and have a little bit more focus on what we're doing with our race cars and some different sims and different engineering things that we were trying to do to try to focus on those things and make our cars that much better.
So when we came out of the box we were that much more prepared. Obviously, when you don't test, you have the finances to allocate in different locations, whether it be different personnel or different pieces of equipment to make your cars better or just doing more things to make your cars better.
In the end, I feel the no testing deal was a benefit for us, the fact we could focus our energies on different things that would may be a benefit. Sometimes you're going to racetracks that may be a little similar to where you're kind of -- similarities but you couldn't go test at some of the racetracks you were going to go race at except for a couple times a year.
So you're spending a lot of money on things that may or may not help you, where now you can focus on things that are a little more isolated and you can hopefully get more out of them, I think. I think it's been a benefit for us.
Q. Can you talk about going to the short tracks now of Bristol and Martinsville and how you look at those tracks for yourself and your team?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I feel like we're definitely confident what we have going on, we definitely need to get better. We'll try to get better every week. But our mile and a half program has been pretty good since the start of the year.
I think our short track stuff, we have some work to do on that. We've done a little testing. We tested a little bit yesterday down at Rockingham, and that new test track that they built down there. And we're able to find a little bit stuff we hope will help us on the shorter racetrack.
I've got confidence on my guys and everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing that we can continue to do what we need to do, and we'll have good races and we'll have bad races like we had last week.
But in the end, I think we're a much better organization and a much better team. I feel we can excel at all the racetracks we go to.
Q. David, Aaron's, your sponsor, has been very loyal to Michael Waltrip Racing throughout the years. Have they spoken to you in recent weeks because of your performance? They've got to be pretty excited about that.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think they're pretty happy with everything. If any of you guys know Ken Butler, I mean that guy's on it. He lives and breathes everything that Aaron's does. And he's a major player in our racing program, along with Rob Loudermilk and Rich Lamprey and those guys.
They've been really happy with the progress we've been making. And I think that's why they want to be part of this deal. They've been very loyal to Michael Waltrip and Michael Waltrip Racing since the beginning, since there was a shop in the back of Michael Waltrip's house and that was a dream kind of started.
To be able to move along and still have Aaron as part of the program and a major player at Michael Waltrip Racing, major supporter, it's awesome. They're still there and still supporting not only NASCAR, but Michael Waltrip Racing.
And they kind of welcomed me into their family. It's a situation where Michael Waltrip was always their guy. Now they've welcomed me into that family. Michael Waltrip is still their guy, don't get me wrong. But I play a small role there, too. And they let me drive the Aaron's Dream Machine. They get what NASCAR racing is about, what NASCAR can do for them and what they can do for NASCAR. And I don't think there's a better sponsor in the garage right now than Aaron's. They're fun. They're real people, down to earth people. And we have a lot of fun with them.
Q. David, you talked a lot about the happiness you've had this year. I'd like to add Tampa is happy with you. But do you attribute the happiness to the tough guy inside you overcoming the struggle, or has running better done it all for you?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think if you come out, and I think it's all in the way you look at things. I mean, we definitely struggled. So we know how bad it can be, how tough it is and how tough this business is.
So that I think enables you to enjoy the good times when you're running well that much more, because you know how hard it is and you know how hard everybody had to work to get you to where you're running good because you've been on both ends of the deal.
I think some guys who come into the sport and right away start in with an established team and off and running and have great stuff right from the beginning, they don't know -- I don't think they appreciate it when they run as well as a team that's started from basically scratch and has run poorly in the past and now is running tremendously better than what we have and will continue to run better.
I think it makes you as a driver and as a team appreciate the hard work and dedication everyone's put into this, lets you enjoy the good times that much more. That's what we have now. Although we appreciate that nothing's for certain and we have to keep working as hard as we have and making the big strides that we have to continue to run well, because it's fun to run well. And when you run well all you want to do is keep doing it. So the guys are working hard to enable us to do that.
Q. Additionally, in general, do you think your confidence follows the good results, or does that confidence in a way cause the good results?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think -- that's a tough question. I think the confident part is a lot of times results of how you're doing on the racetrack. Sometimes it's hard to be confident whenever you're not running well.
You doubt yourself sometimes. You doubt what's been going on around you. I've been through all that. When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, if they give you a good piece to drive and everybody does their job, you can run well. Not only that, everything has to go well during the race, things have to fall your way no matter what team you're with.
I feel like running well boosts your confidence and sometimes when you're not running well it's hard to be confident, at least for me.
Q. David, earlier you talked about the pit crews and all the time that they put in, which is so true. But people sometimes forget that it's a team effort. So with that in mind, could you explain to the race fans how important it is for those pit crews during the race to get you in and out of the pits?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think a certain emphasis is put on pit stops. And I think people just take for granted how tough doing a pit stop is and how much emphasis should be put on that, because we're out there on the racetrack and everybody's got good equipment and there's good teams. And it's hard to pass out there.
So as a driver, it's easier to pass guys on pit road than sometimes it ever is on the racetrack. You can have good pit stops and you can -- you can have a great pit stop, pick up a couple positions. You can have a pit stop that's off just a little bit and you lose six, eight spots.
I mean, that's how close -- the competition on the racetrack is close. I think the competition on pit road is even closer between the teams. And those guys, they're working out. They're making, doing pit stop practice couple times a day. They're pretty much a well-oiled machine.
And the amount of work and dedication that goes into what those guys do on a weekly basis just to see, just to see people just see a small portion of it on race day, but the amount of work that goes into that just getting to that point is insane.
I mean, those guys are just on it every day, practicing pit stops, doing things better, shaving hundreds of a second off what they do. No wasted motions. And it's choreographed to be that way.
And I don't think people -- I think you almost have to get down on pit road and stand behind pit wall, right at the pit box and watch what those guys do, and never ceases to amaze me how fast they can do pit stops, what they do. I think more credit needs to be given to the pit crews for what they do. I think the only time you ever hear anything is when they do something bad.
And I think that needs to stop, because it's a tough business. I wouldn't run out in front of a race car coming 55 miles an hour down pit road and take a chance that he's going to stop and not fly through his box. And those guys do it every week. So I think more credit needs to be given to those guys because those guys can make or break you on any given Sunday.
Q. David, if you stand back and just look at what's occurred in the series so far, what's been the most impressive thing you've seen, not as a driver, because you guys are certainly part of that, but as just an observer of the sport, what's the most impressive thing you've seen in these first four races?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Honestly, from the driver's side of things, you're so in tune of what you've got going on right now that you don't really pay a whole lot of attention to what's going on.
I think what I've been impressed with is some of the teams that have come in like Joe Nemecheck's team, and Tommy Bowman's team, those guys are coming in there, trying to make a go of it, just like the old school guys used to do it, where you would come in and you'd put -- you'd get all your money together and you'd get some equipment and go to the racetrack and you try to make the race and run well.
I think people, they get lost in the shuffle sometimes how much dedication, they're out there doing the same thing with eight guys as a lot of teams are doing with 30. And in most cases they're getting in the races and doing okay.
So I think that's what's impressed me as far as what I've seen. If you're there and you see those guys come in and unload and they're just a lot of -- a couple groups of guys, sometimes they're just volunteer guys. And, again, I think that gets back to NASCAR's roots a little bit, where that's where it used to be. You had a group of guys and you'd go race.
So to me that's impressive to not -- maybe they don't have the results on the racetrack, but what's impressive to me they're making it to the racetrack every week and they're making an attempt to be there and the dedication it takes to do that, that to me is very impressive.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, David.
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