CONCORD, N.C. — Regardless of how the rest of the season is going, David Reutimann can count on Charlotte Motor Speedway for respite.
Reutimann’s only Sprint Cup victory to date occurred in the track’s 2009 Coca-Cola 600. A year after that stirring upset, Reutimann matched his best finish of the current season by finishing fifth in NASCAR’s longest race.
At 40, Reutimann, from Zephyrhills, Fla., is only 112 races into his Cup career. He never made it to NASCAR’s premier series full-time until 2008, though he competed in 26 races in ‘07.
"A guy coming right out of high school and going Cup racing doesn’t appreciate it, maybe, as much as a guy like me who’s done it a little differently," he said. "Nothing wrong with that.
"Trust me. I wish I would’ve been 18 years old, coming out of high school, and had an opportunity to do Cup racing. I would’ve loved to have done that. It just wasn’t in the cards for me at the time. If you were 18 or 20 years old, or even mid-20s, you were too young. They wanted guys who were more seasoned because they didn’t tear up as many cars."
It was Jeff Gordon who changed all that. Gordon, of course, has won four championships and 82 races. He’s younger than Reutimann. "Gordon shows up, and all the rules changed," said Reutimann. "Everybody wanted a young guy because he (Gordon) was producing on the race track. You’ve got a guy like Mark Martin. I’m not saying I’m a Mark Martin, but when you’re out there racing that guy and he’s kicking butt, it makes you feel really good.
"It makes you feel like you maybe have a little bit of longevity. You never know. In the end, if you run well on the race track, they’ll probably keep you around no matter how old you get." Is there still room for a late bloomer? Why, sure. "Forty is the new 30, anyway," said Reutimann. "That’s what I’m going with."
Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (http://nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org.