Fate, and David Reutimann snatch win No. 200 from Rick Hendrick's fingertips
There is a reason people say to never count your chickens before they’re hatched, and similar types of expressions.
That is because the only thing certain in life is uncertainty.
No doubt, as he was running 1-2-3 with 4 laps to go at Martinsville, Rick Hendrick’s team was ready to unfurl the banner that said “Win No.200” and celebrate long into the night.
But then fate, and David Reutimann, intervened.
Nursing a car that was struggling to make it to the end, Rooty just couldn’t make it to pit lane (rather, he couldn’t make it again, he had many opportunities to park it before the car died; but stayed out).
The end result, a great battle to the end between Gordon and Johnson was lost, and the ensuing melee on a restart crashed both of them out and Ryan Newman went on to win the race. Hendrick still took 3rd with Dale Jr. -- who by the way in just a few points out of the points lead now after a great start to the season -- but he had to be fuming.
Victory was in his hand, and the 10 car bringing out the caution took it from him. The look on his face was so precious; as you could tell he just wanted to strangle someone. (Calm down Rick, you’ll win No. 200 and a lot more very soon.)
NASCAR did have a little chat with Reutimann’s team owner Tommy Baldwin after the race. When going to talk to NASCAR, Baldwin carried a broken part with him.
For the record, David Reutimann isn’t a bad guy (he does ‘love love’ after all; remember?). And he wasn’t happy he played a role in the finishing order.
“Number one, I just hate it. I don't even know how the race ended up finishing, but I just hate that I was involved in anything that changed the complexion of the race so I got to apologize to the guys that it affected. It broke a tie rod or something like that. I was just trying to limp around there. We needed to finish next couple of laps to try to stay in the top 35. Then the motor had been breaking up for the last couple of laps. Broke a timing belt or whatever down the back straightaway, and the motor just quit. I would not have stopped on the freaking racetrack. I would have limped it around there and come to pit road, which is what I was trying to do. The thing quit going down the back straightaway, and it shut off. I just didn't stop there intentionally. I know it sucks. I hate it for everybody that it affected, but I mean I can't get out and push the thing. You know, it shut off. It's that simple. Gosh, I can't believe I'm -- I was just trying to finish the day out and trying to stay in top 35, which is why we were trying to limp around out there. They gave me the black flag. We were coming to pit road, and it shut off. And that's far as I could go.”
Again, Reutimann really should have come in earlier, but in a way I don’t blame him. He was trying to stay in the top 35 in points, for both his sake and to help his co-driver in the #10 car this year -- Danica Patrick, who may have to qualify on time at some point this year if this keeps up.
Clint Bowyer, who was involved in the melee on the restart, was especially harsh on Reutimann
"Well, it pretty much sucked. It is what it is. I don't what the hell the 10 car (David Reutimann) was doing -- drove around there with no brakes until it finally just come to a halt. It's unfortunate. We had a good car. They (Hendrick Motorsports) had the cars to beat,” Bowyer said. “They should have won the race and we should have finished fourth there, but that's just the nature of the beast. When the car's got tires, other cars don't -- he (Jeff Gordon) spun the tires pretty hard. If I didn't go down there, the 39 (Ryan Newman) had already hit me in the rear and he was going to. I did and the 39 won."
Jeff Gordon said the race for the lead against Johnson was intense, but fun.
“It was pretty intense. You could see both of us how hard we were driving how bad we wanted that. You saw (Dale Earnhardt) Junior doing the same thing earlier in the race. I thought he was the car to beat. When he got by me, I couldn’t touch him. When Jimmie (Johnson) got out there, we made an adjustment on that last pit stop that I didn’t think was working that well for us. But it seemed like over the long run our car really stayed strong. Jimmie started getting loose getting in. He got into some lap traffic. He started kind of running defensive and when he did that I really was able to gain on him. I got inside of him and kind of shoved him up the race track. I didn’t want to see the caution come out from that point on. I thought we had the position to get the lead right there.”
Gordon said he knew that with new tires behind him and Johnson that the restart would be hectic.
“Restarts at Martinsville with old tires and a green-white-checkered is always going to be exciting and intense. Rarely does the leader win it (laughs). I was just hoping to get a good restart. I got a good jump, but then I spun the tires. I knew he was right there. I moved down a little bit but when he just shot down there I guess he got hit from behind. At that point I was just a passenger. It was unfortunate that it ended the way it did for us. It was sure a great day, something we can really hold our head up high about.”
Jimmie Johnson said the end of the race was ‘unfortunate’, but he knows these things happen.
“It’s just unfortunate with something stupid, last-ditch effort, dive-bomb or something along those lines wipes you out. But when you race long enough, you know that stuff happens. My frustration and certainly Jeff’s (Gordon) is to be the class of the field all day long and be up front and have something stupid like this take us out is frustrating and we want to get this 200th win for Rick real bad and we could have been 1-2 today easily.”
So next time you’ve got a sure win in the bag, hold on tight and finish up strong, because you never know when fate, in the form of a backmarker car falling apart, will throw you a curveball. Like Leon Lett dropping the ball before the goal line, the Hendrick team had one slip through their fingertips..
Denny weighs in
Interestingly enough, Denny Hamlin brought up that point on Twitter after the race, hinting that he thought the Baldwin team would again swap points if needed to get Danica into her next race, and force Blaney to qualify on time like he had to do at Daytona.
“Why is everyone so pissed at Reutimann? His car was broke. Wasnt the 5 broke too and knew it but stayed out till it blew up anyway?” he tweeted, following that with: “Heck u know what's coming anyway.. 36 will exchange points with 10 to make sure they are good anyway.. Poor Blaney”
Gotta love Denny stirring the pot and not being afraid to speak his mind.