Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. Since the Chase drivers already get plenty of publicity, we thought this would be a good way to get to know some of the non-Chase drivers a little better. This week: Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann.
What's the best race you've ever driven?
DR: Probably the Nationwide race that we won in Memphis (October 2007, with a race-record 25 cautions). We actually missed the Cup race so I showed up in time for qualifying. Somebody else had practiced the car, and we sat on the outside pole – the only laps I had made in the car were for qualifying. Even with all the yellows, we just completely dominated the whole entire race. I know everybody remembers all the yellows – it was one of those deals where we had restart after restart after restart. It was terrible. It took forever.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
DR: As much as it pains me to say it, probably Kyle Busch. I kind of think the results speak for themselves, you know? It seems like everything he sits in, he goes fast in.
If you were to advise a new driver, who is one driver you would tell him to learn from and one driver you wouldn't?
DR: The guy to go learn from would be Mark Martin and the other guy not to go learn from would probably be me (laughs). 'Cause I could probably tell a lot of stuff not to do. I've been through the whole show of what to do wrong and how to do it wrong. If there's any poster child for doing it wrong on several different occasions, I'd say it's probably me.
When is the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph at the track?
DR: If you can't get access to the hot garage area, generally it's best when you're walking out to qualifying or walking back from qualifications. Most drivers try not to sign after they get on pit road, just because at that point you're thinking about your lap and the stuff you've got to do. I think a lot of fans forget that, but also that's probably the only time they get a chance to see the drivers. A lot of people don't have a lot of luck with that because (as a driver), you're out there, you're near the car, you're trying to concentrate on what you're fixing to do.
What is one thing people may not realize about you?
DR: Most people don't realize that I have any kind of personality whatsoever. You don't get to hang out a lot in different situations, and even when you do, you're out in public. And I'm a relatively quiet person and pretty private, so that's probably a lot of reason for that.
What's the worst track on the NASCAR circuit?
DR: Any road course. Pick one. We're getting better, but still not a huge fan.
If you were put in charge of NASCAR, what is one thing you'd change?
DR: The first thing that comes to the top of my head, I feel like is one of the dumbest things we do but is something so simple we don't ever really think about: Having the eighth man (on the pit crew) to pull off a tear-off. Why do we necessarily need to wait three-quarters through the race until they finally decide it's OK for the eighth man to go over and pull a tear-off off? I mean, give me a break. Really. You've got all your guys back there. Send one guy over the wall, let him pull off a tear-off, maybe give somebody a drink. I mean, that's probably one of the dumbest things we do.
Outside of NASCAR, what driver do you most admire?
DR: Buzzie Reutimann (his father, a short-track legend). And that's B-U-Z-Z-I-E. Not a ‘Y.' Everybody puts a ‘Y.' SBN: Have you always felt that way, even growing up? Absolutely. He was greater than Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip. I mean, I was fans of all those guys, but you know, I don't care how many victories Richard Petty has won: My old man has won twice as many, at least. When my dad walks in the pit gate, there's not a soul in the garage area who's won the sheer volume of races he's won. He probably hasn't won the highest (level) races, but as far as sheer volume, I don't think there's anybody who can compare to him.
How long do you see your driving career lasting?
DR: Until they fire me. It would be great (to drive at Mark Martin's age), but I'm not quite sure I have the staying power that Mark Martin does. Obviously, Mark has done a lot beforehand. Heck, I want to win races as bad as anybody does. The difference between a guy who's gotten his start later in life as opposed to younger guys is I had the opportunity to dream about being a big-time racer a lot longer than all those other guys. So I wanted to be that a lot longer than any younger guy has. The fact that some of the guys are younger means absolutely zero to me.
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
DR: I'm just saying me. What the heck? I don't have anybody else I'd put. SBN: Will that be your first one? I think it'll be my third in a row. I mean, we're going big, we might as well say that! (laughs) Make you sure tell them that's in a joking manner! People will be like, ‘Who does he think he is?'
Do you have any superstitions or race-day routines?
DR: I don't have any superstitions, per se, but there's just things I do. When I'm getting dressed, everything is to the right: Right leg in the uniform first, right sock on first, right shoe on first. I get in the car and buckle the belts right shoulder first. Everything has to be done to the right first: Right glove, then left glove. It's just a routine, more than anything, I think. It just calms my nerves and gets me settled down. If you have a little ritual you do on a regular basis, it just feels familiar and you can kind of get into that. I guess that's why. Either that, or I'm a complete flake. I'm not sure. It could be all of the above.
Would you rather be known as a great driver or a great person?
DR: Probably a great person. I mean, I have an eight-year-old daughter, so at the end of the day, me being a great person as opposed to a great driver is probably more important in the long run.