Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Reutimann On MWR: "It Feels Awfully Personal"

One week after being informed that he will not return to the #00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota next season, driver David Reutimann said he remains confused and hurt by his firing.

“We knew the season had been pretty bad, and we weren’t very excited about that,” said Reutimann on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody. “But we had some things in the works for next year, and I really felt like 2012 was going to be better for us. Now, it doesn’t look like that opportunity is going to be there.”

MWR announced last week that they will replace Reutimann with veteran Mark Martin in 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races next season, with team owner Michael Waltrip and an unnamed third driver splitting the balance of the schedule in the #00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota. Reutimann said he was attending the SEMA Trade Show in Las Vegas last week when he received a call from Waltrip informing him of his release. “I was in the lobby of the hotel last Tuesday morning, waiting for my ride to the show when I got a call from Michael. He said there there was an article out somewhere (in the media) talking about me not coming back next year, and that we needed to talk. I’m not sure when he had planned on telling me, but I think (the story) forced the issue a bit. It sped up the process of him actually telling me what was going to happen.”

The third-generation driver insisted he had no prior indication that his job was in jeopardy. “I hadn’t been told anything,” he said. “I had asked around a little bit, and felt like we were all pretty clear about the direction we were going to go (in 2012). It certainly didn’t involve me getting fired. I didn’t have any indication that’s how things were going to happen.”

Waltrip has claimed the move was made at the behest of Aaron’s CEO Ken Butler, who “picked a future Hall of Famer to drive the Aaron's Dream Machine." Reutimann said he is still unsure what happened to force his release, saying, “Michael and I haven’t caught up to talk about what actually happened. All I have to go on at this point is what he has said publically. I’m sure I’ll talk with Michael at some point. He has actually reached out to have that happen, but we haven’t found the right time to do it.

“At this point, though, I don’t know that it really matters. I don’t know when (MWR) had planned on telling me, but maybe it’s better now, with a couple of weeks left to talk to people. They could have waited until after Homestead and said, `Oh, by the way, grab your stuff and leave.’”

Reutimann said his firing and the reality of finishing the 2011 season as a lame-duck driver have been difficult to accept. “It’s hard,” he said. “I’m a pretty emotional guy to begin with, and there are guys on that team that have been with me since the Truck Series. There are guys who left other organizations to come work with me on the #00 team. That’s a great group of guys.

“I feel like I have played at least a small part in helping to build MWR,” he said, “They gave me an opportunity and I appreciate that, along with the opportunity Aaron’s gave me. But I also feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to help build the organization and be a guy they could rely on. That’s why it’s difficult at the end of the day to put this in perspective and not be hurt by it.

“I know people say, `It’s just business,’” said Reutimann. “But that’s nothing but a catch-all to try and make you feel better. It doesn’t really work, at least from my end. At the end of the day, it all comes down to, `You’re not needed anymore. Thanks for everything, but we’ve got a different direction we’re going in.’

“It’s only business when it isn’t happening to you,” he said. “When you’re the guy in the middle of it, it doesn’t feel like business. It feels awfully personal.”

Reutimann said he is determined to finish his tenure at MWR on a high note. “These last two weeks are not going to be easy, but it’s still my sponsor and my team until the checkered flag waves at Homestead. I am going to go out there and do the best I can to try and win races. I’m going to go out the best way I possibly can.”

Asked if he feels any animosity toward the man who will replace him next season, Reutimann said, “I don’t really know. Mark had to do what he had to do, and that’s the end of the story. You can’t blame a guy for taking a great opportunity, evidently, and as long as he feels okay with it, everyone should be able to move on with it and go forward.”

The Florida native said has no idea what his future holds, but hopes to catch on with another NASCAR team. “Just being notified last week, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to talk with anybody,” he said. “Right now, it’s too early to tell. I’ve had a conversation or two with different people, and a couple of folks have called to see what was going on. But there’s nothing that would put me in any kind of seat next year. There are a lot of rumors out there about me going here, there and everywhere, but I haven’t crossed that bridge with anybody.

“I wish things hadn’t gone down the way they did,” said Reutimann. “But now, it’s time to focus on something different and figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”


  1. Anonymous10:36 AM

    I feel for reutimann. It just don't feel rite for that to happen. They could have told him sooner so he could find a new ride. I know this is bad to say but joey should go and David should step in.

  2. Brando in WA10:40 AM

    I appreciate David’s honesty—how do you not take it personal? Business is just business when it involves products or services, but when YOU are the product/brand the line becomes very blurred.

    I think David is a great guy, never really saw him as the flagship driver of any race team though. I’d love to see him re-establish his identity as a Nationwide Series Championship Contender.

    Good Luck Rutie.

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM

    That was just a classless way for MRW to handle this. I now know what team/sponsor I will never root for

  4. Anonymous12:36 PM

    Sorry MWR, when I am mad I can't type

  5. Anonymous12:49 PM

    ...David feels absolutely "kicked to the curb" from people he trusted. ( He shoulda' known.After-all, Mikey never let him talk in ANY tv commercial they ever did together... )

  6. Dann in Ohio1:35 PM

    There is no loyalty in the sport no matter what is said. I hope MWR makes good on the contract and there is no need to drag it into court. MW needs to give up the nice guy, ah shucks, I love everyone persona he puts on.

  7. Anonymous2:05 PM

    I am extremely disappointed in Michael Waltrip. And I am extremely disappointed in Ken Butler/Aaron's for this reason: Rutie has been photo-shopped out of the most recent Aaron's commercial -- the scene where he and MW, standing on either side of the Aaron's car, echo the "Nobody" being sung by the solo blondie. Now it's just "Mikey". It's my understanding that sponsorship goes until the end of the season. Mighty small of Aaron's to snip Rutie out of the commercial.

  8. anonymous internet genius2:08 PM

    This is what i do not understand about this deal? aarons money was going to be shifted to 15 to fill out where 5 hour was only a partial sponsor for bowyer and the 00 was to become a part time with balance of aaron money. now they say 00 will run all races with mark, mikey and a driver to be named. seems like shady math to me.

  9. Anonymous3:46 PM

    Since nobody else seems to be saying it, I will- Mark Martin is selfish. He has absolutely no concern for other drivers' careers, as long as he gets his convenient schedule so he can do what HE wants to do. I know racing is a cutthroat business, but there is a certain amount of human decency that should kick in at some point. Mark has made it clear that he just doesn't care about that. Reutimann is responsible for every bit of the small amount of success that MWR has had, and he gets kicked to the curb so Mark can have his part-time fun. You can talk about sponsors and business all you want, but the fact of the matter is if Mark wasn't willing to do it, there would have been no "business" to do in the first place.

    At some point, you just have to accept that your time in the spotlight is over and step aside. I would say step aside gracefully, but we're WAY past that point. Mark just doesn't seem to be willing or able to do that. It's one thing to take over a ride from a guy like Mears, who was obviously not getting the job done in the 5 car. It's a whole different thing to take a ride from a guy who is supposedly the "franchise", has made MWR at least somewhat relevant, and has been incredibly loyal. Mark just doesn't care, though. All he cares about is himself, and doing what he wants to do, no matter who gets screwed in the process. I don't what the feeling is in the garage area about this whole situation, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mark has lost respect from his fellow competitors. I know for a fact that is the case with fans. He has crossed the line from "lovable old guy that just loves to race" to "the Brett Favre of NASCAR who just won't go away." It's sad to see, especially when other drivers' careers start to become affected by it.

  10. Wow, pretty harsh. It seems to me that every driver who fills a seat in NASCAR does so at the expense of another driver. If David Reutimann hadn't been in the #00 these last few years, maybe some younger driver would have been. And yet, I don't hear anyone busting on Reuti for taking someone else's ride.

    Does it suck that Reutimann lost his ride? Absolutely. Was it handled badly? You bet. But blaming Mark Martin for taking a ride that was offered to him is out of tline, in my view.

  11. Anonymous4:22 PM

    I’ll play Devil’s advocate here. Calling Mark selfish is way off track. Does a selfish person assist in handpicking his successor? I think by definition a selfish person would hold that coveted ride until he fully retired or was forced to leave. He was doing, what he felt, was best for Hendrick and the 5 team.

  12. Anonymous5:15 PM

    Dave- I understand your point, and it is a valid one. But, wasn't the ride "offered" to him because it was well known that he was actively seeking a part-time gig that fits his schedule? Again, that just reeks of selfishness to me. It just seems to me that Mark has a sense of entitlement that he should be able to do what he wants, when he wants. I don't see any other drivers with this type of attitude. Certainly, he has an enormous amount of respect in the garage area, and rightly so. He just seems to do what he wants with not much concern for others, and that just rubs me the wrong way. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Reutimann himself alluded to this with his comments last week about "looking out for number one" and not wanting to do to someone else what he had done to him. He has taken the high road and not come out and openly criticized Mark, but it's obvious how he feels about the situation.

  13. Mark has earned the right to race as long as he wants, and as long as someone will give him a ride. I know wit's easier to have a "good guy" and a "bad guy" in situations like this, but it's seldom that simple.

  14. Anonymous5:52 PM

    I am more so than anything disapointed in Michael, I have supported Mike since he started racing in NASCAR. What Michael did was exactly what happened to him several times early in his NASCAR career. Mike was the most unstable driver until Dale Sr offered him a job driving. Even when he left DEI he had to pay for his ride at Bill Davis. My point being is that Michael know how Ruti feels and he still fired him. On the flip side of it all, maybe it wasn't Mike but Ken Butler looking to get someone to work with his son. Thats a whole different story. Mikes hands may have been tied by his multi million dollar sponsor.

    Good luck Ruti. You are still the real deal!!!


  15. Anonymous5:55 PM

    Too bad the 'Franchise' nickname never stuck.

  16. Anonymous10:02 PM

    I just find it very sad that a true gentleman and loyal employee got treated like dirt by Michael. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. No matter who made the decision it was handled in the worst way possible. Reuti brought up a good point. I wonder when they were going to tell him had it not been leaked? I could understand if he had did something like "Krash" Busch did and got fired, but David was the most loyal driver you could ask for and a Sponsor's dream. You never had to worry about anything out of line being done by him. Too bad a honest, good driver, driving sub par equipment gets the boot. He deserved so much better from MWR. I guess there is no room for Christian, honorable guys at MWR.

  17. Anonymous12:07 AM

    At least now we'll know with total clarity whether Reutiman's performance has been limited talent or second rate equipment since Waltrip has replaced him with a championship winning driver.

    Wait, er, nevermind.

  18. Anonymous7:42 AM

    Waltrip is a joke. This was more than likley the only offer Martin had. Hope you like the back of the pack Mark.