2009-05-28 / Sports

Reutimann Gets Coca Cola 600 Win

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

CONCORD, N.C. - David Reutimann, who did not pit under the last caution for rain, won the Coca-Cola 600 after NASCAR called the race at the end of 227 laps of the scheduled 400, for the shortest 600 in history.

Reutimann's win gave Michael Waltrip his first Cup win as a car owner.

"Somebody's got to win these things," said Reutimann. "Rodney Childers (crew chief) made a great call when he told me to stay out."

Reutimann was running 14th when the final caution came out during lap 221. All 13 cars that were ahead of him elected to pit for fresh tires. Only four drivers, Reutimann, polesitter Ryan Newman, Robby Gordon and Carl Edwards stayed on the track.

The gamble paid off for those four drivers, because after a twohour red-flag period, NASCAR declared the race official, giving the win to Reutimann, his first in 75 Cup starts.

"When I envisioned winning my first Sprint Cup race, I envisioned it a little different," continued Reutimann. "But it's so hard to win a Cup race that we'll take them any way we can.

"I've got to thank Michael Waltrip for giving me a chance. When he hired me nobody else had ever heard of David Reutimann."

Ryan Newman's runner-up finish moved him up to seventh in the points.

"We had more to gain than we had to lose by staying out," Newman said

Top-10 finishers: 1. David Reutimann, 2. Ryan Newman, 3. Robby Gordon, 4. Carl Edwards, 5. Brian Vickers, 6. Kyle Busch, 7. Kasey Kahne, 8. Juan Montoya, 9. Joey Logano, 10. Matt Kenseth

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished the race two laps down in 38th.

Not only was Monday's Coca- Cola 600 the shortest 600 in history, but it was also a bust from a racing standpoint. It was postponed from Sunday because of rain, then on Monday the race was interrupted five times because of rain, with the first red flag coming on lap 73 and halting proceedings for 56 minutes and 36 seconds. NASCAR was merciful to the drivers and fans to call it when they did, because there was more rain on the way.

Top-12 Chase Contenders after 12 of 36: 1. J. Gordon-1722, 2. Stewart-1678, 3. Kurt Busch- 1598, 4. Johnson-1594, 5. Hamlin 1575, 6. Kyle Busch-1540, 7. Newman-1538, 8. Burton-1472, 9. Kenseth-1460, 10. Biffle-1448, 11. Edwards-1431, 12. Martin-1428.

Bliss wins rain-shortened Nationwide race

CONCORD, N. C. - Better fuel mileage got Mike Bliss out front late in Saturday night's Nationwide Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Three laps after Bliss took the lead from runner-up Brendan Gaughan on Lap 167, NASCAR red-flagged the race because of rain and made Bliss' win official by calling the event 30 laps short of its scheduled distance of 200 laps.

Bliss and runner-up Brendan Gaughan were the only two drivers who remained on the track during a cycle of green-flag pit stops that started on lap 144.

"We stayed out as long as we could, and it paid off," said Bliss, who gave team owner James Finch his second unlikely victory in a month. Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Talladega in April driving a car owned by Finch. "I knew we had a pretty good car in practice and kind of worked our way into the top 10. We stretched our fuel mileage quite a bit, and that's why I'm here."

Asked whether he felt as if he had stolen the race, Bliss chuckled, "Yeah, I did - but from a guy who wins too much (Kyle Busch) - and nobody likes him."

Top-10 Nationwide Series leaders after 11 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-1714, 2. Edwards-1641, 3. Leffler-1541, 4. Logano-1495, 5. Keselowski-1473, 6. Keller-1296, 7. Ragan-1285, 8. Gaughan-1237, 9. Bliss-1234, 10. Allgaier-1210

Stewart/Haas racing; a big surprise

When Tony Stewart announced in 2008 he was going to accept an offer to become half owner of Haas CNC Racing, a Sprint Cup team, many fans questioned his decision.

Owner, Gene Haas had been convicted of mail fraud and was serving time in a California federal prison. While the financial end of it looked good for Stewart, there were many in the Cup garage who thought he might be taking on more than he could handle.

But Stewart, along with his teammate, Ryan Newman, are proving the skeptics wrong.

After 11 races into the regular 36-race schedule, Stewart is second in points, just 29 points behind Jeff Gordon.

But even better, he found his first victory in the 25th annual (non-points) All-Star Race at Lowe's. Stewart's first win as a driver/owner and first All-Star win came in a race that turned into a fender-banging, hot mix of hard racing in the final 10 laps. His win, combined with the string of recent successes at Stewart-Haas Racing, makes him one of the hottest drivers in Sprint Cup racing.

"It's been the whole team, man," said Stewart after his win at Lowe's. "They've been an awesome group of guys to work with up to this point. And that's the most gratifying part about it. It's about seeing those guys and seeing them celebrating and smiling in victory lane when I got there — and seeing how happy they were and the excitement on their faces. There's no check that you can write in any amount that's going to make up for that and could take the place of it."

Now that he's second in Cup points, there's much being said about him defeating the odds in the gamble he took in leaving a secure job driving Joe Gibbs' No. 20 Toyota.

But Stewart said co-owner Haas is the one who took the biggest risk.

"You really have got to give him the credit for taking the gamble and taking the risk and having us come be a part of this organization like that and trusting us to make some pretty big decisions and personnel changes," Stewart said. "That's not something that a lot of people in that position are willing to do and give up that kind of control to let a totally different group of guys come in and all of a sudden start changing things around, but Gene was willing to do that."

Newman didn't get off to quite as good of a start as Stewart, but he has run up front and is currently eighth in points.

"We haven't quite reached victory lane yet, but we can sure feel it and taste it," said Newman. "It has been exciting to be a contender week in and week out. The more you contend, the odds get better to see the checkered flag first."

The No. 39 and No. 14 Stewart Haas teams have performed well this season. The real question is what kind of additional momentum the teams will be able to garner from the all-star win. I think we'll see both Stewart and Newman take a checkered flag before the season is over - and who knows, maybe even more than once.

Weekend racing: All three of NASCAR's major series will be at the Dover Monster Mile.

Fri., May 29, Camping World Truck Series AAA Insurance 200, race 7 of 25; starting time: 8 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed Channel.

Sat., May 30, Nationwide Series Heluva Good 200, race 12 of 35; starting time: 2 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sun., May 31, Sprint Cup Autism Speaks 400, race 13 of 36; starting time: 1:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: Where is Tony Stewart's hometown?

Last week's question: Why has NASCAR suspended Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield? Answer. For failing two drug tests.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.

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