|Reutimann (10) had issues Sunday.|
Leaders Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer all crashed on the ensuing restart, handing the lead (and eventually the win) to Ryan Newman and triggering criticism of Reutimann by a handful of his fellow drivers.
“It was pretty much a disaster,” said Reutimann of the final laps Sunday. “We had brake problems early, and we were just trying to solider on and get the finish we needed. Instead, we ended up getting right in the middle of a huge controversy. It’s nothing I needed, nothing the team needed and nothing I ever intended to happen. I wasn’t trying to mess up anyone’s day. My day was bad enough that I didn’t need to mess up anyone else’s.”
Reutimann said simultaneous issues with his steering and engine forced himto a stop at the end of Martinsville’s front stretch with just three laps remaining. “The engine issue started about 30 laps from the end,” he said. “The car would stumble off the corners and start breaking up midway down the straightaway. It was almost like a carburetor issue -- if we still had carburetors on these things—and we were just trying to hang on and finish the race.
“We had brake issues early on and the car had little or no brakes, so we were just trying to finish and stay in the Top-35. Then with five or six laps left, I went down into the corner and the left inner tie rod failed. I don’t know why, because we really didn’t have much contact during the race. We banged with a couple of guys like you will at Martinsville, and I guess it finally broke near the end. (Teammate Dave Blaney) had pulled off the track a few laps earlier, and we knew if we could finish in front of him, we would end up staying in the top-35 in (owner’s) points, which was our only goal for the day.
|Reutimann: "I just wanted to finish."|
“Ultimately, the motor just quit,” he said. “The only thing I can figure is that it was something internal; a timing belt type of deal, because the motor didn’t actually blow up. The thing just would not run, and I could not get back to pit road. If the motor doesn’t quit, I make it back to pit road, cross the start/finish line again on pit road and maybe we’re okay. If the front end isn’t toed out a mile because the tie road’s broke, it would probably have coasted around the race track and made it. But both things happened at the same time.”
Reutimann said he was unaware that while he struggled with his failing race car, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were waging a side-by-side battle for the race lead. “I didn’t have a clue,” he said. “I didn’t know who was leading, and quite honestly, I didn’t care. I was trying to stay out of everybody’s way and finish the race. Nothing against those guys, but I didn’t care what they were doing. I was trying to get my car to run two or three more laps, and whoever won the race was irrelevant to me.
|Bowyer, Gordon and Johnson crash.|
“I didn’t just stop on the race track for the fun of stopping,” he insisted. “Some people seem to think I just pulled out there and said, `OK, I’ve already run 490-something laps, so I think I’m going to stop now, just for fun. I didn’t want to stop the race, I just wanted to finish it.
“I apologize to everyone it affected, (especially) Hendrick Motorsports and their fans,” he said. “We ended up destroying what could have been great days for a couple of the Hendick guys. It’s heartbreaking, and people were saying some really sweet things (after the race). I don’t blame Tommy, and I don’t blame the team.“It’s my responsibility. I was driving the car. The fault rests on me.”
Reutimann said he will reach out to some of the involved drivers this week, to apologize for impacting the race. “I will definitely have a talk with at least two of them,” he said. “I will absolutely make a phone call to to let them know I wasn’t trying to screw them up. It doesn’t make any difference (what I say) and it doesn’t fix their day. They all deserved to finish where they were running, and they worked hard to do that. I didn’t want to be that guy. I don’t ever want to be that guy. It’s awful. Just freakin’ awful.”
He admitted, however, that there are a couple of drivers who should not sit by the phone waiting for his call. In his words, “(A few) of them have already said enough that I don’t feel like I need to.”