Our series of driver interviews continues this week with Michael Waltrip Racing's David Reutimann. We sat down with Reutimann at Bristol.
SBN: Who is the most underrated driver in NASCAR?
DR: Well, I think there's a lot of drivers who don't get the attention they should. I think Robby (Gordon) takes a lot of heat for a lot of different things, but he's an exceptional talent. He's definitely got the ability, it just hasn't worked out with the situation right now. People forget that Robby's won some pretty big races, but he's just not in an ideal situation for him right now.
AJ (Allmendinger) is another guy that's really, really good. I think nobody ever paid him any attention until this year. Up to that point, he definitely didn't get the credit or the attention he deserved for what he was doing.
SBN: Is there any non-win in your career that bothers you more than others?
DR: There's always a lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda deals. I think the Bristol race last year where we blew up, it felt like we had the best car that day – although it was early in the race and anything could have happened. And the second Texas race last year, it felt like we had a car that we should have won with.
So there's a couple, but I think you can say the same for any driver. We've all got races we should have won – even at the dirt level on up – and for some reason didn't.
SBN: If you could pick teammates aside from your current ones – manufacturer and sponsor conflicts aside – who would you like to team up with?
DR: AJ would probably be one of the guys, for sure. We just get along, both on the racetrack and off. Heck, our rookie season when we'd go out for driver intros, nobody would really ever talk to us, so we'd just talk to each other since we were both in the same situation.
We had a lot of similarities – new teams, same manufacturer – and we had to share a lot of the same things in common, going through the same struggles.
I also think probably Carl Edwards. He's a guy I think I could learn a lot of stuff from. And then you could throw Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson in there, too. (laughs)
There's a ton of 'em that would be great teammates – well, in theory anyway. The only guy I really know well is AJ.
SBN: What driver did you want to be like when you were growing up?
DR: I just wanted to be like Buzzie Reutimann (his dad, a legendary dirt racer). I didn't really care about anybody else. I would say every Cup driver, however many wins they've had in their career, still don't add up to what he's got.
Whenever he's in the garage area, he's the best driver here.
SBN: When you retire someday, what do you want your retirement story to say about you?
DR: To me, maybe I just want people to remember I was even here to begin with. It's just one of those situations where nobody ever gave me a shot to get this far anyway.
As far as what people think, I hope they'll think I did a good job driving the car. Won some, lost some. But in the end, when it comes down to it, I don't really care.
SBN: What's a memorable post-race escape you made from the track after a race?
DR: I usually end up riding with people, so I don't have to drive. Usually the rides are pretty G-rated, because we have rental cars. But there's been many trips down the shoulder of many different highways. Thousands of traffic cones have been sacrificed in the cause of just getting back to the airport.
I'm not particularly a guy that likes to fly, and sometimes we have to take a helicopter to get to the airport. Sometimes those flights are a little bit tricky. But other than smashing cones, there hasn't been a lot to talk about up to this point.
SBN: Who is someone famous you'd like to meet?
DR: Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones). Just because he's Keith Richards. Any guy that's done as much stuff as he's done and is still alive, I'd really like to find out what his secret is. (laughs)
SBN: Last year, there were a couple types of seasons: Jamie McMurray won some huge races but missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup; Jeff Gordon didn't win any races but contended for the championship. Which would you rather have?
DR: If I could go out and win 10 races and not make the Chase, I'd rather have that. Now obviously, if you win 10 races, you're going to be in the Chase – there's no way around that. But I would always opt for wins.
You're not going to be a champion if you're not in the Chase, but man...wins are great.
SBN: Where does your motivation to win come from?
DR: I can't explain it. I don't know what drives me to do it, it's just there. I don't need inspiration – just getting in the race car and doing what I love to do is inspiration enough. I don't need anything else.
SBN: How different is your personality inside the car and outside it?
DR: I'm probably not the right guy to ask that. Outside the car I'm pretty mellow, but inside the car I can get a little bit, uh, maybe a little excited. It's a work in progress.
SBN: If you could switch lives with someone from a different sport, who would you like to be?
DR: Well, football guys get beat up a lot – that's a tough way to make a living. So I'm going to have to go with Shaun White. He gets to do a lot of cool stuff. He does some neat things.
SBN: What if you could take a year away from the sport and go do whatever you wanted to do, then come back knowing you had a ride guaranteed? Would you want to do that?
DR: No. No. I don't want to take any time off.
SBN: Let's say you're going to win the Sprint Cup Series championship. Would you rather have it clinched before Homestead, or would you like to win it with a pass off Turn 4 of the last lap?
DR: It would sound better to win it off Turn 4 coming to the checkered, but I'd rather have it wrapped up. If there were five races left in the Chase, I'd want to have it wrapped up.
For the fans, I think it would be much better to have the first one, obviously.