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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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For driver's father, a mix of emotions
Buzzie Reutimann is happy son David has realized a lifelong dream, but he's concerned about what may lie ahead.
By BRANT JAMES
Published October 13, 2006
Amid the excitement and disbelief mixing with old friends in Buzzie Reutimann's back yard Monday night was the realization that life would never be the same for the guest of honor, his son, David. And it was a little discomforting.
Newly signed to drive in the Nextel Cup and Busch series for Michael Waltrip Racing next season, the 36-year-old Zephyrhills native had realized a lifelong dream, one his father had wished he had chased, one his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Emilia, had lived along with him. Their lives would change, too. More time away from home. More demands than his job in the NASCAR truck series.
"It's something me and my wife discussed when we knew it was a possibility," Reutimann said. "It's going to be hard work, but it's what I signed up to do. She's behind me like she always has been. Whenever we were broke and there was $5 in the checking account and I needed to go racing, she never asked me to do anything different."
And she's not now. They'll just have to work harder, she said, being a family.
"That's going to be a big adjustment for us," Lisa Reutimann said. "Emilia is in school now, so we'll just travel as often as we can. A lot of Friday afternoon flights."
Buzzie Reutimann, 65, has won more than 1,200 short-track events in a 40-year career and knows how skilled his son is, but a trip to monstrous, dangerous Talladega Superspeedway for the truck series race last weekend put a nagging thought in his head.
He had stared agape from atop his son's transporter as an 18-car pack roared down the front stretch during a Nextel Cup practice.
"I'm happier than I've ever been in my life and then I'm also scared. Afraid, you know?," he remembered. "What have you got your kid involved in?"
After the truck series race that night, Buzzie ran down to pit road for his normal hug of his son. He found David beaming.
" 'Dad,' he said, 'Boy, I wish I could do this every day.' I said, 'You can't do this every day. The old man can't stand it. I'll have a heart attack for sure.' I had worn off the bottom of my shoes walking back and forth and took two blood pressure pills."
The two are extremely close, communicating without having to say much sometimes, but they have no problems ripping each other to shreds if the laugh is good enough.
"He's the reason this whole deal worked to begin with. He's gone without a lot of things on his race cars so I can race," David Reutimann said. "It's not something I'm ever going to forget. I'm going to make sure he can race as long as he wants to."
David asked his father over the years why he hadn't pursued a career in NASCAR when the opportunity presented itself in the 1960s. Buzzie finished 10th of 22 in the only NASCAR race ever held in Tampa (Nov. 11, 1962, at Golden Gate Speedway) but continued on the dirt instead of following drivers such as Richard Petty and Fireball Roberts.
"That's one of the things in my life I would have done over again, is chase Cup," he said. "(David) teases me about that a lot of times. 'Dad,' he says, 'if you had went ahead and went Cup racing, I'd have been there a long time ago.' "
And this anxiety would have passed a long time ago.