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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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Tears flow as Reutimann slips into Daytona 500
Daytona notebook: Zephyrhills family celebrates making the big race.
By BRANT JAMES
Published February 16, 2007
DAYTONA BEACH - David Reutimann and his father, Buzzie, stood atop the transporter hugging, a sobbing mess, as a wave of race cars rolled to a stop on pit road below.
The Zephyrhills natives had nearly stripped the bolts holding the guardrail as they watched the last 10 laps of the first of the two 150-mile qualifying races Thursday. They watched domino after domino fall that would put the 36-year-old Nextel Cup rookie into his first Daytona 500 and second start at NASCAR's highest level.
After fours days of moping when he failed to qualify his No. 00 Toyota on speed, and after two hours of watching scenarios play out in the first of the two races Thursday that could get him in Sunday's 500, Reutimann was in. Boris Said's 12th-place finish, second best among 10 drivers who needed to qualify on time, had made Reutimann's 14th-best qualifying time good enough.
There was relief. There were tears. And more tears.
"I think the pressure of trying to get in this field is far worse than just going out there and running the race," he said, rubbing his eyes. "I was on top of the trailer just praying. That's all I could do just to remotely keep me from going nuts."
If Mike Bliss had made up a few more feet on Said, he would have taken the 500 berth from Reutimann. As it is, he'll start 40th Sunday.
"Thrilled. Great. Couldn't be happier," said Lee White, vice president of Toyota Racing Development after three of seven Toyotas attempting to qualify made the 500. Dave Blaney will make it four in the manufacturer's inaugural Daytona 500 because his No. 22 Bill Davis Racing program was in the top 35 in owners points last season. Team Red Bull was the only Toyota team not to place a driver in the race as Brian Vickers and A.J. Allmendinger each failed to finish.
Reutimann's car owner, Michael Waltrip, started last and finished eighth in the first "twin" to cap a day in which he apologized for his team cheating. To make matters more complicated for Waltrip, he spun out Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the first qualifier, causing an accident that ruined former 500-winner Ward Burton's hopes.
Buzzie Reutimann, a legendary short-track racer who made one start at NASCAR's top level in 1963 at Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa, collected hugs and was still bawling as he followed his son's car as it was pushed onto the grid for the second 150 race.
"It's been a long trip," he smiled.
In his qualifying race, Reutimann exited after 33 laps due to an electrical problem.
DREAM ENDS: James Hylton, 72, came up nine laps short of the 500 because of a faulty clutch and a late-race restart. "I'm disappointed because I was locked in the eighth place there, and that was where I needed to be," said Hylton, who last qualified at Daytona in 1983. "And then the dadgum caution come out. I knew I was a dead duck because the clutch worked, but it was like you had to bleed the clutch. You couldn't shift. I had to shift without the clutch."
CUTDOWN: Roush Fenway Racing president Geoff Smith said he will have a "free year" to figure out how his organization will eliminate a Nextel Cup program to comply with the four-car cap by the 2010 deadline. NASCAR allowed Roush, the only team currently with five Cup programs, to eliminate by attrition when primary sponsor contracts expire. All but Diageo, which distributes Crown Royal, the primary sponsor on the No. 26 Ford driven by Jamie McMurray, lapses before the deadline. The team officially announced Wednesday that Boston Red Sox owner John Henry's Fenway Sports Group had purchased a 50 percent stake in Roush's team.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Brant James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 893-8804.