Reutimann Wins Rain-Delayed, Rain-Shortened 600
David Reutimann outlasted Mother Nature to score his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in Monday’s rain-plagued 50th Coca Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Reutimann and his crew chief Rodney Childers elected to stay on the track as the field came to pit road during a caution flag on lap 221 for rain, taking the chance that the weather would play in their favor.
After two hours of standing in the rain and waiting it out, NASCAR finally called the event official after 227 laps, giving Reutimann his first victory in his 75th career start at the same track he made his Sprint Cup debut in 2005.
Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon also elected to stay out and were credited with second and third, respectively. Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.
With the victory, Reutimann becomes the sixth driver to score his first career Sprint Cup victory in the Coca Cola 600, joining David Pearson, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Casey Mears.
And he did it all without leading a green-flag lap, the first time since Bobby Labonte pulled off the feat in the 2000 Southern 500 at Darlington.
“It certainly wasn’t the prettiest win, but somebody has to win these thing,” said Reutimann. “Rodney (Childers) made a great call and told me to stay out.
“We needed to come in and work on the car and make it as good as we need to anyway and we’re probably going to lose some positions on pit road so we just stayed out and took a gamble.
“When you envision yourself winning your first Sprint Cup race you envision it a little bit different. It’s so hard to win these deals that we’ll take them any way we can get them.”
A third generation racer, Reutimann made his mark as a modified driver, following in the footsteps of his father, Dirt Motorsports Hall of Fame driver “Buzzie” Reutimann.
Reutimann’s win was the first for a Toyota in the Coca Cola 600, and the first victory for team owner Michael Waltrip, who knows a thing or two about winning rain-shortened events, taking the 2003 Daytona 500 in similar fashion.
“You got to be proud of the result because these things are really hard to win,” said Waltrip “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.”
Monday’s race was postponed from Sunday due to heavy rain showers that blanketed the area all weekend. The race finally got started Monday afternoon under threatening skies with Ryan Newman leading from the pole position.
Kyle Busch moved to the lead from his outside pole position to grab the lead on lap three and led 64 of the next 70 laps before rain brought out the red flag on lap 80.
Racing resumed after nearly an hour delay with everyone eying the weather as the race approached the halfway point, which would make the race official.
Busch continued to lead as defending race winner Kasey Kahne pulled into second and began to close in, pulling to within several car lengths when the caution flag waved for the sixth time on lap 221, bringing most of the field to pit road.
Knowing the changes they would need to make to their car would put them deep in the field, Reutimann and his team took a chance on the weather and stayed on the track along with Newman and Gordon.
Edwards won the race off pit road, followed by Vickers, Kyle Busch, Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.
And that’s where they finished.
For Newman, the decision to stay out salvaged what could have been a disastrous race for the pole sitter, after being forced to pit early for loose lug nuts that put him near the rear of the field, although it was Newman, and not he crew chief Tony Gibson, who made the call.
“We talked about it down the back straightaway,” said Newman. “We decided if everybody pitted in front of us, we were going to stay out. Then at the last second, (Gibson) goes, Come in, we'll put four tires on. Me, I'm like, Come on, you can't chicken out on me. I stayed out.
“In the end, it's the right thing to do. If it would have went back green, we would have had to come in, go back to last. Who knows if it would rain 20 laps later. Just strategy. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.”
Gordon’s third-place showing was his best finish since winning at Watkins Glen in 2003, and a big shot in the arm for a team that’s struggling to stay in the top-35 in owners points.
“For me this is a momentum builder for us,” said Gordon. “Success breeds success and I think this will only help us. We’ve been focusing really hard on our race cars and this is another clean race car that we get to bring home so that will help us as far as building up ammunition to go to the race track with.”
The top five in the point standings remains unchanged with Jeff Gordon continuing to lead over Tony Stewart by 44 points, followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmy Johnson and Denny Hamlin.
* Denotes Rookie
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