DAVID REUTIMANN, No.00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
What was racing like before you made it to the upper levels of NASCAR? "It starts with having all volunteer guys on your team and going to races that you really can't afford to go to and having to rely on running well in order to have enough money to get home. I operated for years -- when I had my own stuff -- just by going to the race track, buying tires, writing a check that had no money in the bank to cover whatsoever basically. Then winning the race, running home to get to the bank Monday morning when it opened with the money so the checks wouldn't bounce. That was the way I operated. That's not the way to operate, but that's the only way I could because I didn't have any money. Putting seven guys in one hotel room because you could only afford one. Getting up, driving to a race track and racing all day and then driving 12 hours home after the race because that's just what you did. That's racing -- that was life. That was my life and I did it every weekend and I really didn't care because I was racing. When you rely on racing for your income, you don't race all year, you have an off-season, so you have to run around. I ended up working for UPS a little bit as a jumper for $8 an hour, doing things like that just so I could make it through the off-season. The whole time we'd build my race car stuff and go and do it again. That was just the way I did it. If I hadn't gotten the opportunity I had, I'd still be doing the same thing. I don't think I would have changed anything."
What's held your team back from making the Chase? "Consistency. We need to be more consistent and that's what we've been struggling at. Struggling, that's a pretty big word. We haven't struggled, but we haven't been as consistent as we need to be so we can be where we need to be when it comes time for the Chase to roll around. We're going to be more consistent and do a better job in certain areas, myself included. We're going to continue to refine our product. In the end, I think we're going to be where we need to be if we focus on being consistent and doing it the right way."
Will the new points system and who is allowed in the Chase make getting in more difficult? "I think so. It's plenty tough as it is. They certainly haven't made it any easier. It's not supposed to be easy. It's a championship -- it's supposed to be that way."
Is making the Chase your goal this year? "If you can't get in the Chase, then there's obviously no chance for the championship. It's one thing to get in the Chase, but you see the guys that do well in the Chase ratcheting their programs up when it matters. It's funny how Jimmie Johnson may struggle or appears to struggle at various points in the year. Those guys don't ever get excited, they just know what they have to do, when they need to do it and it seems like they just go along doing the things they need to do with their focus on knowing what they have to do when it comes time to ratchet the intensity up. There are two drastically different approaches. One is getting into the Chase and then when you're in it, it's all or nothing at that point."
Do you feel like Michael Waltrip Racing is ready to be a regular Chase contender? "I think we're there, I just think we need to do a couple things a little bit better to be where we need to be. Obviously we're against teams, the teams we're talking about have spent a lot of time and we've not, which that's no excuse to do what we need to do. In the end, not making any excuses, we're at the point where we need to be, have good people placed, good partners -- we just have to continue to improve our product and be better. Being more consistent for the 00 team. Winning the race one week and running 30th the next is not going to cut it. A bad race, a rotten day for you needs to be about 15th and that was a horrible day. You need to be in the top-10 -- 12th actually needs to be a bad day. You look at the guys that are making the Chase, that's the area they're running in. A bad day for you needs to be 12th, a good day or decent day needs to be top-10. Obviously top-fives are better. We need to do that consistently in order to get in the Chase and we need to be that kind of team running on a consistent basis."
Are there any tracks where you need to make big improvements? "Our 1.5-mile program is pretty good. I think our speedway program is decent as well. Obviously the road course deal is what it is. It seems like we need to be better at the flatter type race tracks. I think our 1.5-mile and race tracks that have some bank to them are going pretty well, the flatter type race tracks like Phoenix, Martinsville and Loudon -- places like that we need to get better at those race tracks. We've run well there, so we know we can run well, we don't do it consistently. That's what we need to do."
Are the flatter tracks better suited to your driving style? "I would have thought they would have, coming from a background of short, flat race tracks -- I thought we would have been better there. I don't feel like I'm better at 1.5-mile tracks, I just feel like our cars are better at those. We have a better product for bigger race tracks and we just need to make our product a little bit better for the flatter type race tracks. We struggle there a little bit. I know Rodney (Childers, crew chief) is working awfully hard to make it so it's not like that any more."
What would be your dream season? "I've had plenty of nightmare seasons, so you can go back to any of those. A dream season would be getting in the Chase and winning some races, winning some poles and being a factor in the Chase. Obviously, a dream season would be going and winning (the championship). That's everybody's dream here. I think it would be great to get in the Chase and not fall off the face like nobody pays attention because you're out of it right away. Be there to the end. Be one of the guys that people are watching, saying this team can do that. That would be really cool, more than anything, I'd like that."
How do you spend your time away from the race track? "Off the track, it's just working on my dirt cars. That's my golf, that's my fishing, that's anything else anybody else does to relax -- that's what I do."
Does your dirt racing help you with Cup Series driving? "I don't know if it helps me, but it helps me take my mind off that side of things. If you think about something constantly, chances are you're going to have a better chance to mess it up. Sometimes you need to get away and do something to hit that reset button. Going to my shop, building cars and doing things like that -- that does it for me."
How will racing under the lights at Texas in April be different than in years past? "We race a lot under the lights. Some races we start during the day and go into the evening, the track changes. What you end up seeing is when the track gets cooler, speeds go up and racing seems to get a little more intense. Texas -- that's a fast race track. It'll be a really neat event. I love racing under the lights because it makes the cars look different and makes everything look different. People always ask if it's harder to see when you run under the lights, I think you can see better under the lights because there's no glare of the sun in your eyes and none of the other things and everything seems to pop out at you. It's a neat deal and takes you back to the times when you were racing Friday and Saturday nights and you were a short track guy, only on a little bit bigger scale."
Will the racing at Daytona be different with the new track surface? "You used to worry about your car handling at Daytona. The cars would run 14, 15 laps and start sliding around. Really, basically that's all gone. It's going to be like Talladega now where everybody is going to stay in packs. It is probably a narrower version of Talladega. When you take all of us who are trying to run three and four wide, and you put us on a much narrower race track and we're going to still try to run three and four wide, there's a lot of opportunity for a lot of different things to happen. I think it's going to be a great race. I'm really excited about it. They've done a phenomenal job. Pit road is great, it's just beautiful and the race track as well. It'll be pretty intense, though."
-source: toyota motorsports