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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coca-Cola 600

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Coca-Cola 600

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Coca-Cola 600

Rodney Childers
David Reutimann
Buzzie Reutimann
Michael Waltrip
May 25, 2009


CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA

KERRY THARP: We should be joined by our winning driver, David Reutimann, in a few seconds, and crew chief Rodney Childers. We have team owner Michael Waltrip at the podium and we'll roll with Michael.
Congratulations with this victory, Coca-Cola 600. Your thoughts about your initial win as the owner of your own race team?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: It's incredible to be able to progress from where we were in '07 as a new organization, and then compete all throughout the latter half of '08 and into '09 at a level I've been really proud of. We've seen cars run in the top five, a couple of solid finishes for me last year late in the season with a chance -- late in the race at Daytona with a chance to win.
I'm real proud of the progression and real proud of the job that David did today. Obviously his crew chief made an awesome call. I think they were surprised that more people ahead of them didn't make the same call. But what a great call.
You got to be proud of the result because these things are really hard to win. David and I both have been in position to win races before, had fate take it away from us. So I like to think of this as payback. David won the race, and I couldn't be happier.
KERRY THARP: Speaking of David Reutimann, driver of the 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota. David, your thoughts, emotions? I imagine those minutes out there on pit road seemed like hours and hours. Congratulations on this win today.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think we sat on pit road eight hours today is what it felt like. We just kept waiting. Rodney and I talked. I was like, I've been in situations like this before, obviously not in a Cup race, but different situations. This deal never goes my way, so I don't see why it should now (laughter).
We talked about what we were going to change on the car when we came down pit road. Rodney told me, I'm either going to get us a win or lose us 10 spots, one or the other. It's a gamble. I said, I'll stay out. That's what he told me to do. That's what I do. When I'm told to do something, I generally do something. Don't say nothing, Mike.
With that being said, I'm proud of the whole organization. Everybody has done a great job. Man, it's fun, but it felt like I was out on pit road for a month. I wanted either the sun to come out and it quit or just pour. It just kind of stayed in between. Mike assured me that's what it needed to do, we were going to be in good shape. I told him he was crazy. I continued to tell him there was no way this was going to work.
I'm still waiting for Mr. Helton to come down and say, Hold up for a second, we changed our minds, we're going to do something different, try to finish the deal tomorrow (laughter). I've been avoiding him I think for that.
KERRY THARP: Crew chief Rodney Childers, talk about that decision you made that ultimately led you to Victory Lane.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Like David said, I didn't even put much thought into it, to be honest with you. I told him, Hey, we're running 14th, to make the adjustments we need to make, we're going to lose four spots on pit road and come out 18th. There's 24 cars on lead lap. So we either take a chance on winning this deal or we restart 24th. We stayed out. Like David said, it seemed like it was never gonna end standing out on pit road. Definitely wore my shoes out, for sure.
It's just a cool deal. I've always wanted to win my first race here. It means a lot to me, this track. Born and raised 30 minutes from here in Moorseville. You know, I think when I was about 12 years old I told my parents I would win my first race here. At the time I thought it was going to be as a driver. It all turned around to work out good.
Just really proud of all the guys. You know, they deserve this. We kind of gave a couple of them away this year. We've just worked hard as a team. It's a lot of fun.
KERRY THARP: NASCAR is a family sport. At the far right we have father of David Reutimann, Buzzie Reutimann. Your thoughts about your son winning this race today?
BUZZIE REUTIMANN: I'll tell you what, if you could have heard our driver whining out behind the wheel of that car, I was sitting there, Rodney said, Stay out, I thought, Oh, no, we made a mistake. If they restart this race, we're going to get killed. He complained about everything there, too tight, too loose, pushing the front end, car was going backwards, I'm getting run over out here, all that sort of stuff. I have to hand it to Rodney, he did make the right call.
I tell you what, people, it's been a long road. It's taken us a long time to get here. I'm afraid I'm going to wake up in the morning and find out I'm dreaming all of this. Wow, words can't describe how great a father would feel to see his son to win a race. Seeing that number 00 up on top of the board, one of the greatest feelings in the world.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for this championship Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota.

Q. David, what did your daddy say to you during the rain delay? What has it meant to have Rodney, somebody you competed in earlier years, be your crew chief?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I actually think dad was probably as nervous as I was because he kept coming over and asking me if I wanted anything to eat or drink. I said, no, I don't want anything to eat. You should drink something. I'm fine, I don't want anything to drink. I think he was as nervous as I was about it.
I told dad the same thing, these things don't ever go our way, I don't know why it should now. It felt really good to do that. To have Rodney and I race against each other in different series before, nobody expected us to have any kind of success I think right off because it takes time for a crew chief and a driver to gel. But we just brought Rodney in. Man, I like what he does. He doesn't ever really get excited. I get excited. I get on there. His standard reply is, 10-4, man, we'll make it better. And that automatically calms you down and I need that because I get hyper a lot of times. It doesn't always benefit us.
I'm proud of the guys. We had good pit stops today. We didn't have exactly the car we needed, but we were working on it to get it to that point. Rodney made the great call and got us the win. That's what it comes down to.

Q. Michael, can you talk about why David is one of your drivers. He's not young, you had to find sponsors for him every year.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Not that good looking.

Q. Very few top 10s in the first few years. Why is he here?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: We couldn't find anybody else (smiling). Works for cheap. Don't ask a whole lot out of anybody. So it just worked out for us.
Well, I will now tell you the serious answer to that question. My brother started a truck team. We wanted David to drive the truck. He was our first choice. If we could get him, that's who we wanted. He was successful at the truck. We moved him into the Nationwide car. He was successful there. We knew the commitment that he has to racing. He is all in when it comes to racing a car. He was born and raised in the back of a hauler chasing his dad all over the country racing dirt cars and winning races. So it's just a part of his DNA, it's who he is.
He was a guy that was an easy sell for me to Aaron's because of how he handles himself and the way he races a car. His first year in Cup, of the three years in '07, he clearly outran the other two. He was the fastest guy we had. '08, that was the case again. So every race that he would run, every lap he would make, it proved to us that we made a good decision.
I love David. He's a great person. The reason why we were smart enough to pick up on him was because Joe Nemechek gave him a car to race a few years back. I think he went to Memphis and sat on the pole or something. I knew David Reutimann, but it was a Nationwide car and he just got in it and was fast.
So what he did prior to coming to us, it just showed us he had the ability to be a guy that could be special. We were real fortunate. I think David will tell you that it's been more of a family relationship for the Waltrips and the Reutimanns than owner/driver/employment. We believe in him. We love him. It started with Darrel. He did a good job there. Everybody at Toyota appreciated the way he did things. We were able to sell him into the sponsors as he progressed into the Nationwide car and into the Cup car.
But I will say that there was nothing -- the best part of the whole day today was a couple things. But one was when his dad hugged him, winning one of these races. That's incredible, great feeling, because of their history. For me as an owner to get to hug my driver, that was something that I dearly missed today with not winning the Daytona 500. I was waiting for him to come hurt me because he would have hugged me in a way that hurt. I kind of warned David, I'm feeling pretty good about this hug I'm fixing to give you. So that hug was for David and it was also to sort of make up for something that I missed out on when I won a race one day.

Q. David, I noticed during the 2 hours, 3 minutes you stood out there on pit road not eating, not drinking, not doing anything, that you never got an umbrella. Were you afraid if you put an umbrella up, that was going to jinx something?
DAVID REUTIMANN: No. I just knew leaning on the car was working. So I figured I shouldn't change up my system any. Mike is like, You're not going to leave, are you? Mike, if a tornado, hurricane comes, doesn't matter, lightning, I'm staying right where I am till the bitter end or till we go back green again. I wasn't going to move.
I was leaning on the car, it was still raining, so I'm going to stay where I'm at and see what happens.

Q. Rodney, were you a little surprised that the 13 cars ahead of you didn't do the same thing?
RODNEY CHILDERS: I don't know. You know, once you get, I don't know, from about 12th to 25th, that's when people really make a big gamble. The weather had been so sporadic all day, you really couldn't tell what was going on.
You know, the guys in front of us, they probably thought that we would end up going back green and finishing the deal out. They had good enough track position that they didn't want to give it up, either.
We were kind of in a spot, like I said, we were gonna lose some spots, but it was a gamble that we were willing to take. Like I said, I don't know what they were thinking, but I'm glad we did what we did.

Q. David, is the Aaron's sponsorship a full-season sponsorship or is that kind of unfolding or partial?
DAVID REUTIMANN: It's full for this year. But for next year, it is not. We're looking to fill in for the next year. If you'd like to get on the car, you can talk to Michael. If anybody wants to get on the car, you can talk to Michael (laughter).

Q. TV showed a bit of the exchange with Tony Stewart in the break. If you were on the lead lap, I'm unclear what his beef was, why he had an issue with you actually racing for position.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, what you do in a situation, when you have a very long race, a guy runs you down from half a straightaway or another car gets to you, at that point it doesn't really pay off for anybody to race one another. So generally kind of the unwritten rule, everybody does it, you motion a guy by and let him go so you don't hold one another up. Doesn't make any sense to race hard at that point in the race.
I think Tony felt like I raced him a little harder than I should have. That's all it was. That's all it was. Tony and I are cool. I talked to him. He gave me a phone call on the way in. Tony Stewart has in many ways been one of the guys that's helped me out the most because there's been many, many times where I've been in his way and there's been a lot of those times, especially my rookie year, he never came down and chewed me out, got all over me or anything like that. He always tried to help me. This is another situation where he was just trying to help me.
Yeah, I mean, we didn't see eye-to-eye on it. I think he's one of the best guys out there, one of my heroes. That's what bothered me so much, you don't want your hero being mad at you. In the end, there's really no problem. I think there wasn't a whole lot going on. Maybe was good for TV for the short amount of time, although it was not intended to be that way. But, yeah, in the end, no big deal. Tony and I are good.

Q. David or Michael, if you were the franchise before today, what are you now?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Go ahead, Mike.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: We took that off his car because I think it went to his head a little bit. He started running into stuff. We said we're going to remove that. Now he won, so we're not going to put it back on there.
But, you know, he has been and in my opinion will always be the cornerstone of MWR because of what he's accomplished for us, especially getting his first win. We wanted people to notice him. He was doing so many wonderful things. So we nicknamed him that.
He's actually the one that told us to take it off the car, right?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah. Things weren't going too good, so I figured we better try something different (laughter).

Q. David, you're the sixth guy to score his first win in the 600. The other guys are David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte, Matt Kenseth and Casey Mears. Your reaction to being listed among that group?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I mean, to be listed -- there's some pretty significant names on that list. Although, yeah, honestly I really didn't even know how to feel about this whole thing. When you try so hard and you struggle and things are starting to go your way and then they don't, over a while you maybe become to the point where you're like, I don't want to get my hopes up and get too pumped up because you don't know what's gonna happen. Now I'm having a hard time relaxing and enjoying the moment. I know I will.
That's one of the last things that Tony Stewart told me on the phone, Enjoy 'em because they're hard to come by. You're talking about a guy who's won a lot of races. He knows how hard they are to come by. It's an honor to be on a list with some of those guys, very talented guys. Man, this is probably one of the greatest days of my life with the exception of the birth of my daughter. This is pretty cool.

Q. David, you came up in an era when the sport was looking at a lot of young drivers. Were you ever worried that you might have gotten passed up because there was that youth movement or was that ever a concern as you worked your way up from Busch and Truck?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah. Through many interviews, I sat where people asked me, How does it feel to know you probably will never get to the Cup level? I would ask them why. They would say, It's a longshot. It's a longshot I even made it this far, so why should I start worrying about the odds?
It's one of those deals with I figured if I acted the right way and did the right things on the racetrack, did those things, at some point somebody would want me somewhere. I was hoping anyway. So I was just racing. That's all I was trying to do, keep my head down and focus in on what we had to do at the time, hoping at some point maybe somebody may notice.
When I started racing, I wasn't racing to be an NASCAR driver. I was just racing to race, to be able to be like my dad, make a living at racing. So, you know, when I was at East Bay Raceway running for $350 to win in a late model feature, I wasn't concerned about being here, I was concerned about making it to next week. That's been the mentality my whole life.
Now as you come up and you finally get this opportunity, you're like, Wow, this is really, really big, more than I could ever imagine. Things like this don't happen to guys like me. It doesn't. You guys know that. How often does it happen? Can anybody here tell me? It doesn't happen. I'm thrilled. I know I'm blessed to be in the situation I am with the team I am, the car owner, the people that surround me. So I never take any of that stuff for granted, never, ever. Not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for what I have, good days or bad, because opportunities like this are few and far between. I've been blessed to be in the right situation.

Q. Could you identify the pit crew member that FOX was referring to as Billy Bad Butt all afternoon.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think I missed that. Was the guy bald?

Q. Yes.
DAVID REUTIMANN: That would be Dwayne Bigger. He's a mechanic. I hated that kind of happened. But he's my crew guy. Anybody up and down pit road, even if their driver is wrong, we're going to take up for their crew guy. I hated that happened. I didn't want him and Tony to have any kind of altercation. That would have never happened. I hated that it went down like that.
He's doing his job. I don't want anybody to fault him for that. I wish it hadn't gone down like that. But in the end, you know, crew guys stick up for their drivers. At least when you got a good crew they do. Like I said, I've had guys stick up for me even when they knew a hundred percent I was wrong, they still stood right there with me and made sure I didn't get beat up.
Tony is a pretty big guy. He didn't say he was going to beat me up.

Q. David, what exactly were they saying to each other? Do you like that nickname for him?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think he likes that. There's definite T-shirt possibilities for that at some point.
No, they were just -- you know, I was like this is kind of getting out of control a little bit. I was trying to be the voice of reason in there. So I don't really know exactly what was said.
Really at the end it wasn't all that big a deal. I think Tony was a little aggravated. Tony is a fiery guy. That's just his nature. Dwayne is equally as fiery. You put those two personalities together, you have those kind of things happen sometimes. In the end, it's really no big deal. It's not a problem, you know, I don't think.

Q. David, did you have to stay by your car during that whole time or was that your decision? Can you talk about the rain would start, stop, were you ever looking like how much wetter does it need to get before they finally call this thing?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I was thinking that a lot. I got out of the car, I leaned up against it. I knew when I got out of the car it was raining. I was leaning up against the car, it was raining. I just said, I'm just gonna stay here. Plus it was a pretty good walk back to my pit box. I thought we were going to go back green, so I didn't want to waste too much energy. I was happy where I was.
When I got out of the car, originally there wasn't a whole lot of people around there. So I could just kind of think about what was going on. As the day progressed, it got a little more congested down there. You know, nobody made me stay there. I just didn't want to go any farther.

Q. Did you think about how wet it needed to get?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, it would never rain hard but it would just be kind of steady. Made it very difficult to get the race in. I was thinking, Man, at some point when is enough enough? But I understand what NASCAR is doing. They're trying to give the fans a race, a full race, what they paid for. They're doing their best to do that. I totally respect that. At the same time you're standing out there, there's more weather coming, it's off and on, off and on. How long do you drag the deal out?
In the end, you're at the mercy of what they're trying to do. I think they did the right thing by trying to get the race in at all costs. The fans deserve that. I think that was the right move.

Q. David, I know you've told this story a million times, but what shop were you at when you got the phone call? You said you thought people were playing pranks on you.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I was actually at home fixing to have dinner. I was working at Nemco Motorsports for Joe Nemechek. I was trying to drive a Nationwide car for him. I moved up there and sponsorship kind of fell through. I was working in the fab shop building crush panels, side skirts, other stuff like that. The guys were always busting on me. Dwayne was one of them. He's been with me that long. They would get on the loud speaker, Roger Penske is on line one, Richard Childress is on line two. All kinds of guys. This would go off and on during the course of the day.
Then I got home. Phone rings. I pick it up. The guy said he's Darrel Waltrip. Come on, I can't even get home and they're bugging me. I stuttered. I started to say like, Man, you guys just leave me alone. The caller ID was on the back of the phone. I flipped it over and looked. It was not a number I recognized. Certain wasn't a 704 area code. The name Waltrip was attached to the end of it. Wow, this is for real. It was Darrel Waltrip calling me at home just before dinner. That was phenomenal.
I had never spoken to Darrel Waltrip in my life. I watched him on TV, that was it. I never shook his hand. Never even set close to the guy. Never got a chance to see him in the garage. Never had any interaction with him at all except for that one night at home. Said he had a truck team, a Toyota truck team, was wondering if I was interested in driving it.
I offered at that point to drive to wherever he was and sign on a dotted line. It's been a great relationship. Mike is right, it's been like a family deal. He's been like a second dad to me. He chewed my butt just like my dad has before. Every time he's done it, it's made me a better driver. I owe a lot to Darrel Waltrip and the Waltrip family.

Q. Michael, does this make your decision about your role next year more difficult or easier, knowing you have a team that's now a winning team, and maybe now you can step aside?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I don't know that it affects it at all. I just want to drive a car. I want to be the best I can be in the NAPA car. That's all I'm focused on. I really respect what David and Rodney are able to extract from their car. I love to see our cars running well. So there was a point during the race today when I was probably the fastest of our cars, but we couldn't put a race together.
I don't think it's gonna affect my decision what I'm gonna do going forward one way or the other. It just makes me real proud to be able to say that we had a plan and we were able to execute it.

Q. I noticed the 55 team also went in with the 00 into Victory Lane. How important is this to Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole and how important is it to morale for both teams?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I will say, and Rodney has worked at other places before, but I think our team, MWR, is more cohesive than anyplace I've ever worked certainly. We all want to see each other do well. It's genuine. Whether you are an Aaron's guy or NAPA guy, you just wanted to be there to hug. Same way with Marcos' team. They're a part of our organization. That's something I'm proud of at MWR. Some of the folks that worked in other places, they said, This is just a good place to work. People like coming to work here. When you have that going on, then obviously you're going to get results, things are going to go better if that's the attitude of your employees. That's something I'm really proud of.

Q. David, what is it going to be like to see your name on that trophy they have this year? Did you try to lift it?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I definitely didn't try to lift it. I knew it looked pretty big. Mike told me before, have you seen the trophy because it's really, really big and heavy. Yeah, I mean, they gave me a ring. That's stuff that nobody can take away from me. It's pretty amazing that we're going to be on such a cool trophy. I mean, it amazes me that all this cool stuff is happening right now. It's just such a blessing to be a part of this deal.
Yeah, I'm looking forward to actually seeing it on there and actually seeing it, 'cause that will make it real I think to me. I can't wait for that.

Q. Do you have a place for it at your house?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Do I get one? We'll probably put that at MWR.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I think you should take it home.
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't have a place for it.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Might have to sleep with it a while. I've got a couple stories about some trophies I'll tell you later (laughter).
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I never saw that one coming. I'll find room for it somewhere, for sure. I would add onto a house to house that baby. Really, I get a duplicate of it? Nobody told me that. Why am I always the last one to find out this stuff?

Q. Michael, is David still so much fun to mess around with that you guys still do prank calls and stuff on him?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: No. You know, he's earned his position at MWR, so nobody messes with him much. I shouldn't say that. They do kind of jacks with him a lot.
DAVID REUTIMANN: All the time.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Like why he doesn't come to the gym, where he's been, what he's doing.
DAVID REUTIMANN: No prank calls. For the record, I go to the gym. I don't work out with Michael because his trainer is completely crazy.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Yeah, but she gave me my first ab. That's big.

Q. David, you're six points out of 12th. Talk about the win, what that can do as far as your Chase hopes, momentum, motivation.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, our team's pretty self-motivated. I don't think we need to do anything in that way to motivate our guys. Gets you closer to pack to where you're supposed to be. We've been inside the top 12 a good portion of the season, slipped back a ways. The only way you're going to get back in the hunt is to run well and finish well. We've run well the last couple weeks. We just haven't had the finishes to show for it.
That's great. I'm glad it got us closer to where we need to be. But we got to get deeper inside that top 12 in order to kind of solidify ourselves. If you do have a bad race, it doesn't hurt as bad. Where you are right now, things can change so quickly, everybody is so close in the points, you have a bad race, you're back to 15th again. You have to do all you can to avoid that.

Q. There will be some people who question the calling of the race, probably those who did pit. Talk about the effort that went into the last two days, trying to get this in. Do you think the fans got what they hoped for?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I mean, I've never questioned NASCAR's commitment in their decision-making process. Last night, people were like, We should wait longer. It wound up raining all night. That decision was obviously the right one. There's weather coming now. NASCAR knows it takes close to two hours to dry a track, so that decision was the right one. There's been men and women working here for three or four days trying to get this event in. You have to have some compassion for them, as well.
NASCAR went as hard and as long as they could to try to dry it. When they saw it wasn't going to happen, they made the decision.
Who deserved to win the race? Who won the race off pit road? Who stayed, who didn't? You can argue that all day long. I think given the information and the call that Rodney made, he being the first one to make it, I just would hang my hat on that.
As a winner of a rain-shortened race before, eventually they'll quit asking all those questions.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to everybody from Michael Waltrip Racing.



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