Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Don't blame David Reutimann or Danica Patrick, blame the system

David Reutimann single-handedly changed the finish of the Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, albeit accidently.

Reutimann caught some serious heat from fans and people in the sport after stopping on the frontstretch with four laps to go. His car was obviously down on power several laps beforehand, but Reutimann and his team decided to stick it out and hope they could limp to the finish.

Unfortunately, the car didn’t make it and NASCAR officials had to throw a caution. That caution set up a green-white-checkered restart that ended up with the top three drivers all day, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, wrecked in Turn 1 while Ryan Newman went on to win the race on the following restart.

Obviously, everybody was upset that Reutimann’s caution caused a mess that ruined the days for the top three cars and gave the win to what was a 10th to 15th-place car that day.

However, Reutimann was a man caught between a rock and a hard place. NASCAR only guarantees starting positions for the cars in the top 35 of the owner points standings. Reutimann’s #10 car was right on the edge and would’ve made the top 35 had he completed one more lap. Instead, he sits one point out in 36th and will have to qualify in on time in two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway.

Many people looked at the #10 car as the car Danica Patrick will race in five weeks in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. That’s true, and her big-money sponsor Go Daddy certainly doesn’t want to risk her missing the race because she didn’t qualify fast enough.

But, five weeks is a long time to make up one point.

Make no mistake, that #10 team wanted to be in the top 35 in points heading to Texas for their own sake. Sure, there might be some sour consequences for the entire Tommy Baldwin Racing organization if Danica Patrick doesn’t make the Southern 500 field, but they also have to take care of their own business. Missing a race does nobody any good.

Let’s move the situation forward and say a driver on the cusp of a Chase spot needed one more point to make the playoffs in the final race at Richmond but had a motor coming apart. Would people crucify that driver if he didn’t make it around and brought out a late caution that changed the end of the race? Or, would they praise that driver and say he pushed it to the limit and tried as hard as possible to make the Chase?

Either way, the situation Sunday was not a good one, but NASCAR’s current system creates desperation for teams on the top-35 bubble. More than any previous situation, Sunday’s events should have given proper fuel for the top-35 rule haters to scream from the mountaintop.

NASCAR doesn’t have a perfect system right now, and it may even be part of the reason those teams on the bubble can’t find any sponsorship. Who would want to sponsor a car that might not even race on Sundays?

It would be nice to have teams race straight up each week to make a race, but there is too much money involved. Imagine if Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed in qualifying and missed a race. That wouldn’t be good for business.

If there is anything positive to take out of the situation late in the race at Martinsville, it was proof that NASCAR teams and drivers put their full effort into what they do. Sure, the start and parkers don’t race to win, but they park early in a race so that some day in the future they will be able to race for the win.

Tommy Baldwin Racing is a perfect example of a team that had to build through start and parking. Right now the organization still isn’t strong, but it is moving in the right direction.

People will say what they want about points racing and drivers taking it easy, but that might be a little bit more of a myth than some people would like to believe. If they have a chance to race for the win, no driver is going to sit back and let someone else win.

Wins in the Sprint Cup Series are extremely difficult to come by, and the absolute joy of winning a race should be plenty of motivation for drivers to give it everything they have.

Reutimann didn’t have a good day Sunday, but he did give it everything he had. Keep that in mind if something similar happens late in the season to a Chase contender.


  1. Poor David...he's signed on as the eunuch in the Patrick harem. He's driving the glory wagon, but not getting the benefits. Poor David...He didn't think his cunning plan through.

  2. Would love to see a 25 point penalty applied here & then the danica issue for Darlington is done (except they'll take it from Blaney...baldwin & ruet (who I used to think highly of) I hope the karma from this follows them through the season...& if I was Blaney sponsor last week I'd be pulling my cash out (being pulled off the track to try & get danica an extra point) due to being a second class citizen on a no class team...Signed Earner (not a JJ or Jeffy fan)

  3. David was NOT running for the win! If you're a lapped car what do you do???? Get out of the way of the leaders damnit! The G-W-C is the worst thing that has happened to nascar, along with the free pass. Every week they have to have a GWC. How good are these drivers if they cant finish a race clean? If i were in charge....the 10 car gets no points for M'ville! There are plenty of other good race teams that can make a race on speed! DANICA is the only reason that the 10 car is allowed to keep their points. NASCAR is a business, unlike every other REAL sport. How would you like to see your football lose a game because of a technicality?

  4. I don't like the top 35 deal either. However I don't think NASCAR is going to do away with it. One way to stop an event which happened at Martinsville is to give the same points to cars finishing 25th or 30th and lower. That would keep wrecked cars off the track.

  5. Anonymous III - That's an interesting idea, but there could be a lot of other issues with that. It might drive the low-funded teams out of the sport because they would never score a point. I know you could say, "Well just run better" but the financial playing field would have to be much more even before I think that situation would be possible.