Reutimann crosses engine off the list of potential problems
By BRANT JAMES
Published January 18, 2007
DAYTONA BEACH - David Reutimann knows there are a myriad of unknowns surrounding Toyota's introduction this season into the Nextel Cup series. Durability, power are always concerns.
But after being involved in the manufacturer's truck series launch and logging more test time than any Toyota driver so far, the 36-year-old Zephyrhills native said the Cup program is at least as advanced as the truck program was before its inaugural season in 2004. Reutimann said his cars have struggled with dragging the racetrack and rubbing wheels, but he isn't worried about engine problems.
"Since I've been doing the Toyota deal I've had two motor failures in three years, so those guys are on top of their game," said Reutimann, a Cup rookie driving Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 00. "I'm worried about getting in the race, I'm not worried about it breaking."
Two of three MWR cars, neither of Team Red Bull's and one of Bill Davis Racing's new Toyota programs did not exist last year. Waltrip's No. 55 existed as a Dodge with BDR but did not finish in the top 35 in owner points. Only Dave Blaney's No. 22, which finished 26th in points, is guaranteed entry into the season-opening Daytona 500.
Toyota won four of 25 truck races in 2004, nine in 2005 and 12 last season. Reutimann was the 2004 rookie of the year and Todd Bodine won a championship for Toyota last season.
Matt Borland, crew chief for Dale Jarrett's No. 44 at Michael Waltrip Racing, was pleased with the Toyota engine's horsepower last week during his test session, saying it was "a lot better" than the cars he has recently had at super speedways with Ryan Newman at Penske Racing.
"I think the biggest thing for us is durability," Borland said, "and making sure we have 500-600 miles in a weekend. Then after that we think about performance and power."
Reutimann's crew chief, Frank Kerr, expected the motors Toyota brings to Speed Weeks to have increased horsepower.
Though MWR and BDR have been in the middle of the speed charts and Red Bull has appeared slow, it's difficult to judge where Toyotas rate in preseason testing. Many teams experiment with different setups and packages, even using devices for information-gathering sake that would not be legal in competition. And some hold back so advances aren't mimicked in the copycat atmosphere of the open garage.
SPARK PLUGS: NASCAR invited teams to test their Car of Tomorrow on Wednesday and Penske Racing took advantage. Kurt Busch led the morning session with a best lap of 191.188, 7 mph faster than the next-best car. The COT uses a restrictor plate with larger holes than current models. ... Kyle Busch will test Hendrick Motorsports' COT today at Lakeland.