Weighing in on Reutimann, Martinsville vs. Bristol and the Truck Series
David Reutimann, pre-stall. (ASP, Inc.)
by Dustin Long
Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had much to talk about in regards to Martinsville. From their thoughts on David Reutimann trying to make it to the end but causing a late-race caution to the racing in both the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races, Fan Council members didn’t hold back in what they had to say.
DO YOU SIDE WITH WHAT DAVID REUTIMANN DID?
One driver said there was “no logical reason” for David Reutimann to end up stopped on the track at the end. Reutimann apologized afterward and said, “I was just trying to stay in the top 35 (in car owner points — he fell out of the top 35), which is why we were trying to limp around out there.” Who do you side with? Reutimann for trying to stay out or those who were critical of him? Here’s how Fan Council members voted:
53.3 percent sided with drivers upset with Reutimann, saying he should have exited the track sooner. 46.7 percent sided with Reutimann and staying out to do all he could to remain in the top 35 in car owner points.
What Fan Council members said:
• If a car/driver has mechanical problems, I think they are obligated to get the car off the track for their safety, as well as of the others. In this case, his decision changed the outcome of the race!!!!!!
• David did what anyone else would have done and if they say they wouldn’t they’d be bald face lying!
• Absolute bonehead move on his part. He affected the outcome of the race.
• Reutimann is in a position no other team has ever been in — trying to stay in the top 35 to satisfy a commitment made to another team. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Also, while the caution definitely changed the race why is Clint Bowyer not the one people should be focused on? Or Ryan Newman? Them driving 3-wide into turn 1 at Martinsville had much more of an impact than David Reutimann did.
• I’m not a big Reuitimann fan, however I can’t fault the guy for trying to do what was best for his car. Yeah, its unfortunate he stopped where and when he did —and changed the outcome of the race. But, you know, every race’s outcome is changed by all kinds of things — some notable and some not.
• While I empathize with Reutimann, he should NOT have stayed on the track. I feel particularly bad for him because he has always been a good guy who never deliberately caused any problems for anyone & you could tell by his post-race interview he felt genuinely awful. However, IMO there is never a good reason to screw up a race, especially with so few laps left, when you KNOW your car is not going to survive.
• I 100% side with Reutimann on this. NASCAR has created this mess with the top 35 (rule) and the driver and crew were doing everything possible to stay in the top 35. Only solution is do away with the damn top 35. It is the worst thing that has happened to our sport in the history of NASCAR.
• I see both sides and, unfortunately, there was no good outcome on either side of the argument.
• I understand the desire to stay in the top 35, but there comes a time you need to Get. The. Damn. Car. OFF. The. Track!
Staying in the top 35 is crucial for Tommy Baldwin Racing. Reutimann’s choice did not force Bowyer to dive-bomb Gordon, nor did it force Newman to tap Bowyer. The real problem was with the lack of common sense and lack of respect displayed by Bowyer and Newman. They chose to make moves (to win at all costs) which cost the strongest cars in the field. Reutimann, well aware of his weak position, was doing the best he could with what he had. The same could NOT be said for Bowyer and Newman.
• I get what people are saying, but it is tough for the “non super teams” to compete in Cup. They have to scratch and claw there way around week after week, so being in the Top 35 is very important. Plus, there is the obvious added pressure for Reuti because it is Danica's car and they NEED it in the Top 35 for her Darlington start. I was more annoyed with Bowyer, to be quite honest.
• He was black flagged. Get off track when black flagged.
Martinsville Speedway. (ASP, Inc.)
GRADING SUNDAY’S CUP RACE AT MARTINSVILLE
52.0 percent called it Good 37.9 percent called it Great 8.5 percent called it Fair 1.6 percent called it Poor
What Fan Council members said:
• The end was wild. Start & middle the same old boring racing!!
• Best race this year so far. Lots of good side-by-side racing and a great and exciting finish. Plus, no rain!!!!!!
• Maybe my expectations for Martinsville are too high. I have been going twice a year for the past 7 years and this is the first time I ever left disappointed. A wild finish does not make a good race. It was just overall boring.
• All the action that’s been missing from Bristol for the past 4-5 years. Not as good as last year’s spring Martinsville race, but it was still a great one to watch nonetheless. With the way most of the media have talked about the fans wanting the “old” Bristol back, they make it out as though we aren't real fans of racing because that's what we want. But just look at how absolutely entertaining the race was Sunday from green to checker and I ask was that not some real racing we saw? There was everything you could want: Side-by-side racing, long green flag runs, retaliatory bumps (not intentional wrecking), entertaining pit strategies, and multi-car wrecks, not intentional but caused by the circumstances. It was great but yet they want me to feel bad because I'd like to see it at Bristol as well as Martinsville? Sorry but I want it at every track.
• The first 490 laps reminded me of Bristol two weeks ago. It was business as usual with no noticeable incidents. There was more bumping and banging but it was tame. The few laps before the Reutimann caution were exciting watching the 24/48 battle it out again at Martinsville. The last two restarts obviously spiced up this otherwise semi-boring race.
• Best race of the season, so far. Now if Bristol can get its act together.
• That was the first Martinsville race I have seen that was a little boring...
• I was at race and action around track all day. Great race. Ending was exciting too!
• I love racing at Martinsville. Can we race here 4 times a year? Definitely the next track on my bucket list!
• That’s short track racing at its best. Even the long green flag runs had good side-by-side racing. Why NASCAR doesn't run more races at these type of track I will never understand.
WHICH CUP RACE WAS BETTER? BRISTOL OR MARTINSVILLE?
84.7 percent said Martinsville 15.3 percent said Bristol
What Fan Council members said:
• I enjoyed both races, but found Martinsville bit more exciting. I felt passing was easier and the best cars were able to get to the front.
• Beatin’ and Bangin’! Rubbin’ is racing on short tracks and Bristol doesn’t have that anymore. Road courses have more collisions than Bristol does now. Just hope Bruton doesn't screw it up more.
• Martinsville was by far the more entertaining race from a TV viewing perspective.
• I picked Bristol because I liked the side-by-side racing, which Bruton is now going to try to do away with.
• I choose Martinsville only because of the ending. The first 490 laps were like a normal race at Michigan or California (or Bristol). Lots of racing, but lacking excitement. If Reutimann had not stopped on track, the 24/48 battle would have provided some excitement to the checkered flag. But nothing beats a restart in overtime.
• I love both tracks. Every time I watch the race it makes me even more unenthused to watch the 1.5 (milers).
• It seemed that at Bristol no one could pass and at Martinsville there was passing going on all over the place. Jimmie was able to come up thru the field twice.
• I’m choosing Bristol because I like the side-by-side racing. But to compare the two, that’s not fair to either race track. I got to see the exact race I expected out of both tracks. I know there’s a call to change Bristol back to the old Bristol, but I’m not sold on it. I also think that fans that voiced their opinion better be careful what they asked for.
• The expectations for Bristol are SO high that anything less than all out beatin’ and bangin’ will be a disappointment.
DID YOU WATCH THE TRUCK RACE SATURDAY?
Last Saturday marked the Truck Series’ second of the season (its first race was more than a month ago at Daytona). Fan Council members were asked if they watched the race and why or why not.
61.3 percent said they watched the race 38.7 percent said they did not watch the race
What Fan Council members said:
• Always watch the truck races! Looking forward to seeing them revive racing @ Rockingham!
• Best racing in NASCAR hands down. I wish the trucks got more notoriety.
• Some of it, but got tired of seeing Harvick dominate, so I left. Think they have too long a break in between the 1st and 2nd race.
• Love the truck series, too bad we had to wait a month for the second race. If NASCAR is serious about the Truck series, I feel they need to be more consistent in the scheduling of races. How could they expect the casual fan to keep interest in the series?
• What? There was a truck race?? (Insert cricket chirps here.)
• Couldn't watch it. Was on the road from Virginia Beach to Lynchburg then on to Martinsville… Listened intently on Sirius MRN feed!!!!!!!!!
• Yes I love watching every NASCAR event I can and the past year or two I’ve really gotten into the Truck and Nationwide series. NASCAR did a brilliant thing when they did the choose-one-championship rule because now these two series really are developing their own identity separate from the Cup series even though the last Nationwide and Truck races were won by Cup regulars.
• Sorry, truck races just lack excitement for me. They look like little low power die-cast hot wheels that don’t really belong on a race track. I do understand they fulfill a needed training level to help introduce and provide a training platform (for) the next generation of Nationwide and Sprint Cup drivers.
• Too long of a break and honestly just forgot about them...
• Wasn’t at home — had no control of the set at the home where I am staying as a guest. They were nice enough to let me watch the Cup race.
• Was on the campus of Michigan State University seeing a production of “Memphis.” Culture on Saturday, racing on Sunday!
I was at Legoland with my family. We were celebrating my son's 10th birthday. So, family won out over a race. Otherwise, I would have watched the truck race.
Fans can join the Backseat Drivers Fan Council by sending Dustin an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
From the Spotter's Stand
In last year’s Windy City run, David Reutimann won his first Cup race without an asterisk while old man Jeff Gordon made the 600th Cup start of his career.
Reutimann seemed apologetic after stumbling into a rain-shortened 227-lap win at the Coca-Cola 600 in 2009. But no one could question the Tums 00 Toyota after a gut-wrenching race to beat Carl Edwards and Gordon to the line in a green-white-checker finish.
Jimmie Johnson led the opening 92 laps of the night. But uncharacteristic miscues led to a 25th-place finish. Expect the 48’s mistakes to be corrected, however, as the 1.5-mile tri-oval of Chicagoland Speedway will (inexplicably) host the first Chase race in 2011.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Negotiating a smooth entry into Chicago’s sweeping turns sets the car up for a good exit, which is where the passing is going to take place. Chicago is all about handling on the track’s surprisingly weathered surface. Racing at night normally increases grip on a cool track surface, but Chicago’s bumpy ride doesn’t guarantee that. It’s close to Kansas, but thanks to a back straight with a really gradual, almost unnoticeable curve, it’s unique in its own way. I don’t really think that curved back straight makes any difference at all in terms of setting the car up.”
Fantasy Stall Looking at Checkers: Jeff Gordon, with a win and seven top 10s in 10 Chi-Town starts. Pretty Solid Pick: Richmond winner Kevin Harvick, who won the first two races here. Good Sleeper Pick: Do not overlook Brian Vickers’ stats at Chicago. Runs on Seven Cylinders: You’d think this would be a Greg Biffle-type track, but it’s not. Insider Tip: We’re in the Chase now, so teams like the 48, 18, 24 and 99 will come to play.
Classic Moments at Chicagoland
Before Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon swapped pit crews at Texas last year, the most notable team swap in NASCAR came at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. in 2005.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters the USG Sheetrock 400 mired at 16th in the point standings while his teammate, Michael Waltrip — and former crew — ranks 17th. Although Matt Kenseth thoroughly dominates the race, Earnhardt’s crew chief, Steve Hmiel, makes a gutsy two-tire call during the final caution period, giving the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy valuable track position. Junior holds off Kenseth in clean air over the final 13 laps to earn his only win of the campaign.
Following the race, Jeff Gordon gives Mike Bliss a black eye at the airport after the two tangled to bring out the final caution that set the table for Hmiel’s pit call.
NASCAR’s running of the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway last weekend should have been the culmination of all things grand — one that left an indelible image on the core of race fans everywhere. Suffice to say, the result was not exactly a 2001 event at Talladega or the 1994 Brickyard 400. Instead, it was what one could have reliably expected: just another 1.5-mile race along the lines of Las Vegas, Kansas and —excuse me while I cough a little bit — Chicagoland.
While it was certainly refreshing to see the grandstands full (once people actually got in) at the Kentucky race, coupled with the announcement that the Nationwide Race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly O’Reilly Raceway Park, which begat Indianapolis Raceway Park) is being moved to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, part of NASCAR’s popularity problems are becoming readily apparent:
The tracks hosting NASCAR races are terrible.
You’d be hard pressed to find a track built in the last 15 years that comes remotely close to fostering racing the likes of which was commonplace at some of the more storied NASCAR locales — particularly ones that have lost a date or are little more than termite estates now. It took Auto Club Speedway (i.e., California) 14 seasons of competition before it hosted a race worth finishing, which has been reinforced by the dwindling attendance and its loss of a race date. Kentucky was little more than another race at Chicago, albeit with twice as many gracious and geared-up fans, some of whom waited over five hours to get in, while many others — estimated to be as many as 20,000, but more likely around 5,000 — gave up and went home. Inexcusable on the track’s part, by the way.
The decision to move the Nationwide Race form LOR/ORP/IRP to the Brickyard is even more befuddling. Part of the motivation is to help sell packaged ticket bundles that include the Nationwide and Rolex Grand Am Series (the latter on the former Formula One road course) to fill the stands at the speedway, which have become glaringly empty in the last few years. Credit the tire fiasco of 2008, the economic impact on the Midwest, the general malaise that has overcome NASCAR as a whole since 2007 and the sport’s message becoming more mixed.
For a circuit like the Nationwide Series that barely fills up the frontstretch at any one track, how is it going to look on TV when just a smattering of people are occupying seats by the flag stand at the big track? That said, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone within the sport who is not toeing the company line about the Nationwide Series at Indianapolis as a “great opportunity.”
It is great for those competitors who have never raced there, and may spur some sponsorship interest. However, for the fans and those Nationwide teams that compete and struggle to show up on a regular basis, it simply compounds an already growing problem. How are Nationwide teams to compete with their Cup counterparts at a track as one-dimensional as Indy, while a short track like the one down the road puts them on an even keel for a change?
Lucas Oil Raceway by ASP, Inc.
I was on hand at the track formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park in ’07 when Toyota scored its first Nationwide Series victory with series stalwart Jason Leffler and fellow Toyotian David Reutimann in hot pursuit. There was racing throughout the pack, a clear view of pit road from virtually any seat and a full grandstand, to boot. The next day, while at the Brickyard 400, no one could have been aware of what was transpiring between Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, until Smoke let loose with one of his more memorable post-race interviews that was broadcast over the PA system.
What’s more, that race was one of the few that had a relatively full crowd, and considering the typical margin of victory at a Nationwide race, I fail to see how the move helps anyone.
What is doubly frustrating is that the tracks NASCAR should be at — or looking at visiting — are largely ignored. Since 2000, the margin of victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway — which lost a date to Kentucky — stands at 1.14 seconds, with some of the most memorable last-lap, down-to-the-stripe finishes in the sport’s history highlighting its finishes. The margin in Saturday night’s Kentucky race was .179 seconds, courtesy of a late-race, double-file restart. With the exception of the start of the race and a lap 142 restart, there wasn’t much memorable about the evening with the exception of Jamie McMurray’s smoke show in Turn 2 and the aerial view of traffic backed up for miles on I-71 (not that TNT acknowledged the significance of the shot).
The Nationwide race at Road America last month, which looked like musclecar bumper cars, drew over 50,000 on a Saturday — with half of the track not visible or even having a place to stand and watch. The NNS attendance at Daytona, a track synonymous with stock car racing? 50,000. There are clearly tracks NASCAR should be entertaining to entertain, rather than racing at a venue just because the guy who owns most of the tracks owns it.
Considering NASCAR needs to reach as many fans as possible, racing at as many new venues and in new areas of the country is necessary. Five years ago, I was of the mindset that NASCAR should predominately run in the southeastern United States, but make an effort to visit most every area of the country at tracks at least twice. That was fine. It helped build the sport and NASCAR could reap the benefits.
An attempt to build newer tracks in untraditional markets, however, has run into stiff opposition.
The planned Bristol-esque track that was long-rumored to be built on Long Island fizzled, and when a big push for a track to be built in Washington state in 2007 was broached, the speaker of the house in the state’s legislature accused Richard Petty of having a DUI, while another house member stated publicly that, “These are not the kind of people you would want living next door to you. They’d be the ones with the junky cars in the front yard and would try to slip around the law.”
Considering the precarious position the sport remains in as the economy dictates what survives and what dies, Jeff Burton’s sentiment is right on target: Going to different markets and areas of the country are key, but only if it produces a better product.
NASCAR was arguably at its best in the early- to mid-1990s, with exponential growth, interest, excitement, appropriate coverage to pique curiosity and a lack of over-saturation. Each time a new track was built, a little piece of the past died, though. That will come with any evolutionary step, but is it too much to ask for the old favorites like Atlanta and Darlington to not be substituted for calamities like the tracks in Fontana and Kentucky?
This isn’t to say that NASCAR’s oldest tracks haven’t had issues of their own. I once sat in traffic reminiscent of Kentucky’s going to Michigan International Speedway in the ’90s. When Charlotte Motor Speedway brought the term “levigation” into our vocabulary, it did so by destroying the finest 1.5-mile track that motorsports had ever known. And regardless of how brightly Bruton Smith paints the walls yellow, it is not the same track it once was.
We’ve all watched as chunks of the track at Martinsville and Daytona started flying around, while North Wilkesboro never really looked much different when it hosted its final race in 1996 than its first 40 years earlier. The difference is each of these places provides something special, having been witness to some of the greatest moments in the sport’s history. If they are going to be replaced by new locations, is it too much to ask that they produce something tangible — beyond ROI for ISC and SMI — in return?
New tracks are needed in NASCAR, no question. The problem is, the ones that are awarded new dates continually resemble the same ones that no one cares about in the first place. That points to a downward trend — and at the absolute wrong time for a sport that has some distinct challenges that lay ahead.