tampabay.com

Reutimann plays waiting game

By BRANT JAMES and TIMES WIRES
Published October 1, 2006


KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Zephyrhills' David Reutimann feels better about his chances to be named the driver of Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 00 Toyota Nextel Cup entry for 2007, but admits waiting is difficult.

Reutimann, 36, a full-time truck series driver, said Waltrip and team general manager Ty Norris have been increasingly encouraging as they continue to pitch him to co-sponsors Burger King and Domino's Pizza.

"I think there are still some hurdles we have to overcome there, but I'm feeling like in the next couple weeks we'll be to the point where we at least make some kind of decision so everybody knows, including me, because it's tough not knowing," Reutimann said. "You want it to happen, but sometimes you want to know no matter (what) the outcome is so you can just move on."

Reutimann is already signed to drive a Busch Series car for Waltrip in 2007. He qualified eighth and finished 13th despite spinning out late in Saturday's Busch race at Kansas Speedway, won by Kevin Harvick. Tampa's Aric Almirola also was involved in a wreck and finished 39th.

Harvick's victory in a caution-filled Yellow Transportation 300 means mere formalities stand between him and his second Busch championship. The victory made him the first Busch driver to win seven races in a season since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it en route to the 1998 title. Harvick had five victories when he won the title in 2001.

Harvick's win, the sixth straight victory in Busch and Nextel Cup competition for Richard Childress Racing, was the 24th of his Busch career and gave him a 729-point lead over Carl Edwards in the standings.

HAPPY HOUR: Jimmie Johnson, who enters eighth in points, 136 behind Jeff Burton, led the final practice at Kansas at 172.855 mph.

NEW DEAL: Retired driver Rusty Wallace is more accustomed to a sharp business suit than a firesuit these days as he balances a career as a television analyst/entrepreneur and being a heavily involved spokesman/track designer for Iowa Speedway. He has a lot to do which, he said, keeps him from regretting his decision to retire after last season.

But he admits he misses not only the rush of competitive driving, but being involved more with his former team and replacement Kurt Busch.

"That is one thing I thought would happen a lot and it hasn't happened. I don't ever talk to him at all," Wallace said of Busch. "If he needs anything, I'll be here to help. But when it comes to the car, I haven't been called asking questions, and I thought that would happen. I thought the engineers would say, 'Rusty, the last time you were here you finished second and when we left we finished 32nd. What do you think we missed?' But that hasn't happened."

It seems both Busch and Penske Racing could use some input. Neither Busch, the 2004 series champion, nor Ryan Newman qualified for the Chase after combining to win one race. Busch is also groping to be the charismatic force Wallace was.

Wallace's competitiveness is still such that he hopped back in the ARCA car he was testing for his son, Steven, at Iowa on Friday and set the track record.

NHRA: Tony Schumacher led Top Fuel qualifying for the NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa. Other leaders were Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

FORMULA ONE: Series leader Fernando Alonso earned the pole for today's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. His Renault teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was second.