[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]The shortest track on the circuit, the oldest track on the circuit, but Martinsville delivered a short track shot in the arm for NASCAR’s faithful. It was a shot that the power house of Hendrick Motorsports had a bad reaction to.
The class of the field this weekend was without a doubt Jeff Gordon. Towards the end Jimmie Johnson powered by under green even after a pit road penalty. But 7 laps from the end Jeff Gordon would make the pass on the 5 time champion to retake the lead. But that was when everything exploded.
With 7 laps to go David Reutiman came to a stop on the race track after limping around the track for nearly 3 laps. Bringing out the caution flag and setting up the Green White Checker finish. Reutiman had a left front tire that was practically falling off the car and had limped around the track for 3 laps in an attempt to maintain top 35 in owner points.
“Number one, I just hate it. I don’t even know how the race ended up finishing, but I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race so I got to apologize to the guys that it affected. It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35. Then the motor had been breaking up for the last couple of laps. Broke a timing belt or whatever down the back straightaway, and the motor just quit. I would not have stopped on the freaking racetrack. I would have limped it around there and come to pit road, which is what I was trying to do. The thing quit going down the back straightaway, and it shut off. I just didn’t stop there intentionally. I know it sucks. I hate it for everybody that it affected, but I mean I can’t get out and push the thing. You know, it shut off. It’s that simple. Gosh, I can’t believe I’m — I was just trying to finish the day out and trying to stay in top 35, which is why we were trying to limp around out there. They gave me the black flag. We were coming to pit road, and it shut off. And that’s far as I could go,” stated Reutiman post race.
The top two cars would not pit on the caution flag. They had over a hundred laps on their tires. Everyone behind them pitted for fuel and at least 2 tires. On the restart, Jeff Gordon stated, “I spun my tires there on the restart and I knew he (Clint Bowyer) was there. I just didn’t have anywhere to go and Jimmie didn’t have anywhere to go.” The melee sent the top three cars of Gordon, Johnson, and Bowyer to the back of the lead lap cars with significant damage.
The second Green White Checker finish would finish the race and see Ryan Newman as the winner. A.J. Allmendinger would finish a career high second. And HMS’s banner would be carried by the 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished a very strong 3rd after leading early in the race.
The victory by Ryan Newman would mark the 3rd in 6 races for Stewart Haas racing. “We were not a dominate race car,” Newman said. “Clint kind of cleared out Turn One for us and we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.”
The issue this race is the no. 10 car staying on the track even though he had an obvious problem. Spotters reported from the roof that the left front wheel was trying to fall off the car. But instead of pitting Reutiman was instructed to stay out as long as he could to secure the top 35 in points position. In the process of trying to continue to make laps way under speed the car sustained an engine failure and died on the back stretch of the track Reutiman says he coasted as far as he coast and that they had received the black flag and were trying to get to pit road.
I have a couple problems with this. One why would you even try to continue to drive a car that had steering issues or the left front wheel trying to come off when there are that many cars on that small of track? You put yourself and others at huge risk.
And although John Darby of NASCAR stated to Claire B Lange, “”it was a situation he couldn’t avoid and I don’t think it affected the outcome of the race.” Darby continues that anything could have happened, someone else might have spun, etc, so it’s “unfair to point fingers” at Reutiman. I respectfully disagree. First of all it did affect the outcome of the race. The wreck that ensued on the restart would not have happened if the caution had not come out allowing other teams to stop for fuel and tires. Could the front two have stopped? Sure they could have but track position is a premium in our sport today and it would have been incredibly risky for them to stop.
Secondly, you don’t call a driver to the hauler because their actions were all good.
Third, why was there a delay in throwing the caution by NASCAR? I understand not wanting to disrupt the flow of the race. I understand not wanting to affect the outcome of the race. But by not throwing the caution, NASCAR contributed to the risk that the other drivers and indeed Reutiman himself were in.
Do I think this makes David Reutiman a bad person? No I don’t. I think this makes David Reutiman a victim of circumstances. He has a co driver that apparently no one believes has the ability to qualify for a race without car owner points, which is pretty sad when you think about the fact that she is only a rookie in the series not in a race car. Frankly, if I were her I would be insulted that no one believed I was capable of that fundamental act. However, she apparently is lacking something because they are bound and determined she has to have that cushion. Who am I to argue with Greg Zipadelli’s success? He nailed it on the head in Daytona after all.
Congratulations to this weeks winners, Sammy Swindell in World of Outlaws in Merced, Kevin Harvick in Camping World Trucks, Will Power in Indy Car and Ryan Newman in Sprint Cup. Don’t forget Newman’s victory entitles you to a free Bloomin Onion at his sponsor, Outback Steakhouse on Monday if you mention his victory.
That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.