"State" of the Sport: Floridians Bring Talents to NASCAR Busch Series * Enjoyable Off-Season: Crew Chief Shane Wilson 'Never Happier' After 2006 title * Game Time In The Garage: NASCAR Busch Series NFL Playoff Predictions DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
"State" of the Sport: Floridians Bring Talents to NASCAR Busch Series
* Enjoyable Off-Season: Crew Chief Shane Wilson 'Never Happier' After 2006 title
* Game Time In The Garage: NASCAR Busch Series NFL Playoff Predictions
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 20, 2007) -- David Reutimann (No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota) is a native of Zephyrhills, Fla., about a two-hour drive from Daytona International Speedway.
His career route has taken much longer -- 10 years since he began racing on short tracks in NASCAR's Southeast Series -- but he has arrived at Daytona to begin the 2007 season having finally reached the pinnacle of his profession -- with a ride in the NASCAR Busch Series and in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Reutimann's Florida connections are a major force behind his rising career. He comes from a racing family -- his father Buzzie is an East Coast racing legend who won a reported 1,200 features and 20 track championships in the 1960s and 70s.
Lakeland, Fla.'s Joe Nemechek (No. 87 NEMCO Chevrolet) gave Reutimann the break that helped move him into NASCAR's national series level. And Brian Pattie, crew chief for the No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates NASCAR Busch Series team, is a boyhood friend who also was influential in Reutimann's career development.
"He (did) a lot for me as far as giving me my first shot to go Busch racing," Reutimann said. "So I owe a lot to Joe Nemechek. And Brian is my best friend on the planet. He kind of pulled out all the stops to get me where I am. He actually bothered Joe so much that finally Joe just said 'if you just shut up we'll let this guy drive something'."
"David is an awesome driver and a good friend," said Nemechek, the 1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion who won the title with his own team. "I wish he was driving for me."
Reutimann ran in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series the past three years for Darrell Waltrip, while also competing in some NASCAR Busch Series events for Nemechek and Michael Waltrip. Last fall, his NASCAR career came full circle when Waltrip selected him as a teammate for his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team and also signed him up for a full season in the NASCAR Busch Series.
After waiting for breaks such as these, Reutimann was more than willing to step to the next level.
"Things like this don't happen to guys like me, quite honestly," he said. "Daytona is probably the closest thing to a home track that I have and I can remember coming over here for years and sitting in the stands watching the Twins. I couldn't get into the pits because I didn't have any credentials so I would sit or hang on the fence just like everybody else and try to figure out how I could get in there.
"It's kind of nice to be able to come through the tunnel and actually have a pit pass and not have to climb under the gate, go over the wall or bribe anybody with a hat."
Pit Stops: Around The Daytona Garage
Champion Crew Chief Wilson Finally Enjoys Off-Season ... Winning has a way of making everything more enjoyable, even the short NASCAR off-season. Crew chief Shane Wilson had that luxury over the last two months after leading the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick to the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series championship. "I was able to win a championship as a crew guy in (NASCAR Craftsman) trucks with Jack Sprague," Wilson said, "but winning a division up is more gratifying. I've enjoyed this winter more than I have in years. I realize how good last year really was." Despite the good feeling the title left, Wilson understands the 2007 season could be his toughest task yet. The veteran Harvick will share the ride with rookie Timothy Peters and Wilson knows series competitors will be aiming a bit harder at the team each race, especially when the rookie is in the car. "Everyone will be gunning to pass the 21," he said, "so we have to maintain our championship level or get even better."
Loyalties Prevail with NFL Playoff Picks ... The NFL playoffs reach the conference championship level Sunday and football fans in the NASCAR Busch Series garage kept their loyalties true to their home state or region. Kevin "Bono" Manion, who led Martin Truex Jr. to back-to-back NASCAR Busch Series championships before the duo moved to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series last season, is a Massachusetts native and predicted the New England Patriots will beat the Indianapolis Colts by seven points. Shane Wilson, is another Northeasterner (Vermont) and is also counting on the Patriots by a touchdown. Joe Balash, the NASCAR Busch Series director who is from Hobart, Ind., thinks his Colts will finally beat the Pats in the playoffs, citing the defensive improvement and kicking game of Indy. Brent Sherman (No. 36 McGill Motorsports Chevrolet) is from Wauconda, Ill., and hopes the Chicago Bears will prevail despite "Rex Grossman being so up and down." Eric McClure (No. 0 Hefty Chevrolet) is rooting for anyone but the Colts. "I'm from Abingdon, Va., and am a big University of Virginia fan," he said. "UVA fans and (University of) Tennessee fans kind of meet in the middle in that part of the country. My (UVA) teams are terrible, and (former UT quarterback) Peyton (Manning) even married a UVA girl. Those Tennessee fans just yap, yap, yap. So I'd like to see them suffer."
Test Session Doubles Up On Sunday ... Saturday's test was the second of the three days that encompass the first of two sessions for NASCAR Busch Series teams. On Sunday, teams in odd positions in 2006 owner point standings after July 12, 2006 will begin their first day of testing, creating a crossover in the garage. Up to 30 teams represented by nearly 50 drivers will be participating on what will certainly be the busiest day of the overall five days of testing. The second session is scheduled to include drivers such as J.J. Yeley (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Chevrolet), who moves to Phoenix Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series to team with Mike Wallace (No. 7 GEICO Chevrolet), also scheduled to participate in the second session. Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Armor All/American Red Cross Ford), Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) and David Gilliland (No. 25 Freecreditreport.com Ford) -- Hamilton's Team Rensi Motorsports teammate and the driver who won arguably the most influential race in series history when he did so at Kentucky last year -- will also be in attendance.
Lap leaders ... Joe Nemechek had the fast time during Saturday's morning single-car test session, registering 49.207 seconds/182.901 mph while Kyle Busch (No. 5 Spectracide/Sta-Green/Delphi Chevrolet) had posted the fastest single-car run time during the first two testing sessions. Busch's 49.165 seconds/183.057 mph was posted on Friday. Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) was the fastest overall through Friday's afternoon drafting session, registering 48.311 seconds/186.293 mph. A quick glance at today's top times:
Sunday's Final Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Fans watching NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona test sessions also have one more chance to ask questions of their favorite drivers plus enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's NEXTEL FANZONE on Sunday. Among the Fan Fest opportunities: Driver question and answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $10 for each session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.