Starting from the Back, Reutimann Finishes an Impressive 11th at O'Reilly Raceway Park Indianapolis, Ind. (July 27, 2009) -- Despite morning showers that continued into the afternoon requiring several changes to the day's schedule, the skies...
Starting from the Back, Reutimann Finishes an Impressive 11th at O'Reilly Raceway Park
Indianapolis, Ind. (July 27, 2009) -- Despite morning showers that continued into the afternoon requiring several changes to the day's schedule, the skies were blue and the weather perfect for the start of the Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Because of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) commitments for the day, Brian Ickler practiced and qualified the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota for David Reutimann. The Camry started out nearly perfect, but became unbearably loose following the first pit stop. Reutimann held on to bring home an 11th-place finish in his inaugural race in the No. 32.
Ickler, who will pilot the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota at Iowa Speedway and at Memphis Motor Speedway in October, was called upon to practice the car in Reutimann's absence. As inclement weather required schedule changes at both O'Reilly Raceway Park and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the new schedules overlapped NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying and NSCS final practice. Ickler again donned the traditional yellow and black Dollar General fire suit and qualified the No. 32 Camry.
Reutimann arrived on the scene via helicopter and quickly made the change from his Aaron's fire suit into his Dollar General gear. Running to driver introductions, he greeted the crowd and then made his way down to the car on the starting grid. As the cars circled the track, Reutimann and the other NSCS drivers who had missed qualifying and the driver meeting were put to the back by NASCAR for the start of the 200-lap race.
Reutimann immediately set to work and had climbed to the 24th position when the first caution of the night came at lap five for debris on the track. Having been such a short run, Reutimann did not have feedback on the car's handling. On lap 21, the second caution of the night came when the No. 88 made contact with the No. 11, sending him into the wall in turn one, collecting the No. 1 car in the process. Reutimann came on the radio and reported that the car needed to rotate through the center a lot better and that it was a little free off. Crew chief Trent Owens told Reutimann that they would make air pressure and track bar adjustments when they came to pit road. Running inside the top-15, Owens told Reutimann to only come to pit road if the leaders did as well. The leaders remained on the track, as did the No. 32 Camry. Reutimann restarted in the 11th spot.
On lap 31, Reutimann broke into the top-10. Three laps later, the night's next caution came out when the No. 15 tagged the outside wall of turn three. As the pace car came out onto pit road, the No. 99, who was leading the race, slowed to let it take its position. The No. 66 failed to slow and hit the No. 99 from behind. The leaders did not come to pit road and the race returned to green-flag conditions at lap 43, with the No. 32 running in the eighth position.
Reutimann remained quiet on the radio, focused on the short-track beating and banging. The caution came out next on lap 48, and he provided feedback to Owens.
"The handling is improving," said Reutimann. "The rotating in the center is not that bad at all now. The longer we go here, I would suggest we just do the tire pressure adjustment and not the track bar."
Owens agreed and added that they would still wait until the leaders pitted. "We don't want to get off tire sequence. If we did, they would kill us in the end for sure."
The action resumed on lap 52. Over the course of the next forty laps, true short-track battles for position broke out. The No. 32 went fender to fender with fellow drivers as they fought for real estate on the 0.686-mile track, sliding back to the 11th spot. On lap 90, the spinning No. 07 brought out the night's next caution.
Reutimann reported that the car was handling a little rough towards the end of the long green-flag run. "It is definitely a little loose now," said Reutimann. "I just feel like I wore the right rear tire out trying to hold onto it."
He came to pit road along with the lead cars for service on lap 92. Owens called for only an air pressure adjustment to work on the car's handling. The Dollar General team quickly changed four tires and added fuel. Owens leaned over from the top of the pit box to ask tire specialist, Mason Jennings, how the tires looked. Jennings informed him that the right rear was completely worn down, but not flat. "The right rear was worn down. I'd say that is as long as we can go here with these tires," said Owens.
When the race restarted on lap 96, Reutimann reported immediately on the car's handling. "Too loose! Too loose! I have no forward bite at all."
He continued to hold on but lost valuable track position. By lap 150, he slipped back to the 13th spot and continued to report that the Toyota was very loose. Reutimann and the Dollar General team waited desperately for the yellow flag as each lap clicked away. Finally on lap 167, the much needed caution was displayed when the No. 12 got loose and took a spin through the infield grass.
"Holy cow that was bad!" exclaimed Reutimann. "I don't know what happened, but it was a completely different car after that first stop."
"Something must have happened there," replied Owens. "Or it was a bad set of tires. We'll get that track bar down for you."
The leaders returned to pit road for their final stops. A very grateful Reutimann brought the No. 32 to his pit stall for service on lap 170. The team quickly changed four tires, made air pressure and track bar adjustments and added fuel. The race restarted on lap 174 with Reutimann running in the 13th position.
Reutimann remained quiet on the radio for the closing laps, gaining two additional positions to finish the night in the 11th-place.
"At the beginning of the race, the car was awesome," said Reutimann. "I thought we were going to be in really, really good shape. We came in and pitted and put tires on and really didn't adjust much. From that point on, we weren't very good anymore. It's disappointing. These guys worked hard and they are used to a lot better cars than this all year. It's just a situation where we didn't get all we could out of it tonight."
Brian Ickler will make his debut in the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota next weekend at Iowa Speedway. Ickler is no stranger to the Newton, Iowa track. He won the 2008 NASCAR Camping World Series East/West showdown and finished second in 2009 to mentor and sometimes boss, Kyle Busch.
Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Iowa Speedway next weekend for the U.S. Cellular 250 presented by Northland Oil and TMC Trucking.