Reutimann, Speed lead Toyota 1-2 in Homestead
David Reutimann captured his first career pole in his 63rd career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start on Friday in qualifying for the season-ending Ford 400. Scott Speed qualified a sensational 2nd to make it an all-Toyota front row with Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick 3rd and 5th. Championship contenders Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson will start 4th and 30th respectively.
Reutimann toured the 1.5-mile track with a lap of 171.636 mph to claim the top spot.
"Before I went out a friend of ours that used to take pictures of my dad's coupe all the time gave me a business card with a picture of my dad's coupe on it so I put it in my pocket," Reutimann said. "Maybe I should start carrying that more often with me. Either that or my old man was driving the car."
With a comfortable lead in the points Johnson just needs to bring the car home in one piece and he will win his third straight title.
"Just the fact that we are starting in front of Jimmie, that's a small victory for us," Edwards said. "The better chance we can have, the better pit stall selection we can have the more traffic he's in, all of those things add up to a better chance for us to make this Cinderella story happen and come from nowhere and win this."
Johnson clipped the outside retaining wall during his qualifying lap and was able to only turn the 30th best time of the session.
"I had some trouble coming to the green," Johnson said. "I lost some time trying to take the green flag and get going from there. So it's probably not the qualifying effort that we wanted, but we had a great practice and have a great car and we'll be just fine.
"We'd love to start up front and we'd love that first pit stall pick because we all know how important that is. But it's just not for us today, but this team, in the past, we've shown our strength many times."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 1st
How was your car during the qualifying lap?
“The car drove really good. The track is getting a little cooler, so that always helps a lot. The guys around me gave me a great UPS Toyota. Ryan Pemberton (crew chief) and the guys have done a phenomenal job. We’ll keep plugging away at it to see if we can get it good in race trim -- that is the goal now.”
How is your car in race trim?
“It seemed to be pretty good. We made some fairly long runs. We ran the top and ran the bottom a little bit. We were good enough to stop and work on qualifying runs. All in all, anytime you can unload and be close like that, it always helps your weekend go a lot better.”
What do you think has been the reason for Michael Waltrip Racing’s advances this season?
“There are so many differences now than what we had before. It’s pretty phenomenal. The first part of the year was just trying to build the organization, get stronger and get better. As our cars got better and our pits stops better, we started working our way up. It’s a bunch of things combined that makes Michael Waltrip Racing what it is right now. More importantly, the guys back at the shop that work so hard to get these cars so good for us when we get to the race track. I’m really proud of them.”
What does it mean for you to get your first-career NSCS pole?
“It feels great. We got a fairly late draw and we got a little cloud cover so that helps us a little bit. Sometimes that stuff works for you and sometimes that stuff works against you. The car unloaded pretty fast and we just worked on it a little bit at a time and before I went out a friend of ours that used to take pictures of my dad’s coupe all the time gave me a business card with my dad’s picture on it so I put it in my pocket. Maybe I should start carrying that more often. Either that or my old man was driving the car. Either way it was a good lap and I’m proud of my guys. It gives us a good starting position so I am pretty excited about that.” How much momentum does this give your team for the off-season?
“It’s a great way to start your weekend. Starting up front and getting a great pit selection, that aside our team is a second-year organization. Last year we were just worried about getting in races, much less even worrying about poles. Our team has come an extremely long way. We still have more ground to cover, but I think we’re getting closer. I’m proud of what my team’s accomplished, proud of my guys and the work-ethic they have and I’m proud of as far as we’ve come. We just keep plugging away at it and hopefully get some more of these lined up and some wins as well.”
Have you been able to track the progress this season?
“We were making a little bit of progress, but I think our main jump in getting into the situation where we are now is getting our new 600-series car. When we started building our own cars in-house, that’s when things started changing. Not that our cars were bad before, but our newer cars -- we had geometry that we worked on during pretty extensive testing. The cars are much, much lighter by an extreme amount. Overall just a better car when we showed up at a race track. Almost right away when we started bringing those cars with the stuff that we had worked on in testing through our engineers and help from Toyota Racing Development and all those things -- we started running better. Michael (Waltrip) had the first car at the Indianapolis race and that was the very first one. He got banged up so he didn’t get a chance to show and we know that race was a little different anyway. As the season has progressed from that point on, I think we have seen steady progression and all due to the fact that we have had the new series car that we are building in-house. I think that has been a big turning point for us.”
How aware will you be of ‘Chase’ drivers behind you on Sunday?
“Unfortunately, I’m not really intelligent enough to really focus on anything other than what I’m doing in most cases. You know the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) is in the situation that he’s in and you know some of the other guys and the situation they’re in and you don’t want to be the guy that decides the outcome of what happens in the ‘Chase.’ At the same time, I have to represent my team and we’re trying to shore up some sponsorship stuff for next year so we need to go out there and run well and possibly get a top-five would help that cause. That’s my goal is to go out there and do my thing and maybe not interfere with anyone else’s thing as far as that goes. I’m just focused on what I’m doing.”
What is the status of your team at Michael Waltrip Racing?
“As far as I know I feel like we should be ok. Obviously things change as the day’s progress, but I would like everybody to stay. I like everybody that’s around me and would like to build on that. Hopefully we will have that -- the organization is much, much stronger than it was last year. If you lived what I lived every race last year -- you guys saw me throwing up on pit road and stuff like that.
How fun was that to cover, really?
I have been able to move on from that and now we have our first pole so that’s coming a long way in a short amount of time. I still get sick sometimes though -- just not in front of you guys.”
Are there any negatives to starting on the pole?
“I think there is definitely pressure -- pressure to perform. You try to get out there, get a clean start and try to click off some laps and obviously lead a couple laps and get a couple points. Come down pit road and get everything going in the right direction. It’s a good way to start off you’re weekend. It’s maybe a little added pressure because you’re starting up front and everybody is looking at you. That’s a good position to be in, but at the same time it’s just kind of business as usual once you get out there and get going.”
What are your thoughts on the testing ban for 2009?
“I think there is a pretty huge financial benefit not to have testing because testing in some cases costs almost as much as it does to race sometimes. You still have the expensive motor and travel and stuff like that -- not to the extreme, but testing is never cheap. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction -- I don’t know. I know some race tracks, it’s unfortunate for them because they have to rely on that extra income of Cup teams coming in there and practicing. I don’t have a problem with it as long as it’s the same for everybody -- that’s the main thing. I think if they opened up testing it would make the teams with smaller budgets fall that much farther behind because they just don’t have the budget to do it. Some teams just have the budgets to go race and that’s it. At this day and age I think you should be happy with that.”
SCOTT SPEED, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 2nd
Are you surprised with your qualifying lap?
“That was lap nine for me on the track today. The car is definitely really close and I definitely felt more confident coming in here even though we got so little running in practice. The car was just right. My job is going to be a lot more difficult keeping it up there on Sunday. Obviously I wasn’t in the car long enough to mess it up today. For sure it was exciting and it’s going to make our job more pressured tomorrow by starting up front, but we’re taking our time. There’s a lot still to learn and we’re getting closer everyday.”
How good was that qualifying lap?
“I didn’t exactly get a lot of laps in practice. I think that helped us because I didn’t have enough time to mess it up. The car came out pretty good and we didn’t really change anything all day. I was just getting familiar with the race track because these Cup cars are a lot different to drive around here than the trucks. This is one of the tracks where that difference is a lot. It was a good thing that we got to go right from practice and into qualifying rather than switching with the truck. I just drove it in the corner and it stuck. Honestly, there was no magic.”
Did you think you would make the jump from ARCA to NSCS as quickly you have?
“I think success is largely related to results. As much as I would like to take credit for winning a truck race in Dover and racing well in the trucks and in certain situations, honestly it comes down to what equipment you’re in and what situation you’re in. We saw clearly when we got into the Cup level in the 84 car -- we struggled a lot. It was definitely a lot more difficult than we anticipated. That is just one of those things -- I don’t think by any means that I am anymore successful than any of the other guys that have come in here. I think I have a great support group -- I think Red Bull has made very good decisions in where they’ve put me and helped me progress and helped me to learn this sport. Honestly, everyone has been really friendly -- all the drivers and everyone I have ever talked to has been helpful. That is definitely one of the contributing factors for sure.”
Do you see the ban on testing in 2009 to be a detriment?
“That’s tough to say -- certainly the more track time that I get, the better. As we saw today, I literally had a total of nine laps at this track in a Cup car ever. What helps me the most is race time. Of course, testing definitely helps because getting a handle on what the car wants and how to communicate that information to the crew chief is another big part of this cross over where I’m learning a lot as we go. The race time is what’s going to be the most beneficial for me and where I think I’m going to learn the most. It would be better to have it, but I don’t think it’s going to kill us
Is your teammate going to ask you questions after you out-qualified him today?
“There’s two corner -- sometimes you hit them right and sometimes you don’t. My qualifying record is in the 30s and I honestly can’t tell you that I did anything different. The car was just right. Hopefully it stays there for the race. Brian (Vickers) is a lot more qualified for the job than I am right now so I don’t think I’ll be giving him any advice anytime soon.”
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