Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Three David's Battling NASCAR's Goliath

Three David's, all battling the Goliath of racing at NASCAR's pinnacle. David Ragan, David Reutimann, and David Gilliland. In their first year, they were all vilified by their more experienced peers, but are now earning respect in the garage. They all have some very strong similarities, going far beyond the common first names.

Family Legacy - Each David comes from a family rich in racing heritage.

  • David Ragan's father, Ken, had 50 Cup race starts over a career spanning 8 years. His best finish was 11th at Talladega in 1984. He also managed 600 Racing, the Harrisburg plant that produces Legends, Bandoleros and Thunder Roadsters.
  • David Gilliland's father Butch is also well-known on the short track, but his history is primarily West Coast. Winner of the 1997 Winston West Championship, Butch also raced 12 Craftsman Truck races and 10 Races at the Winston Cup level.
  • David Reutimann's father is known to the world as Buzzie. Buzzie is shown as having only raced in one 'Grand National' race back in 1963, but that was a top ten finish! He is best known for his hard-charging style on the short tracks. There are four generations of racers in the Reutimann family.

The history of the David's:

  • Ragan worked in the shop of Dash series driver Cam Strader, and also prepared the late model cars that he was to drive in 2002. Ragan worked countless hours preparing the cars that Strader would race to the 2001 series Championship.
  • Gilliland grew up working on the cars owned by his father. Indeed, at the age of 20, Gilliland was awarded the Champion Crew Chief of the Year award after his father became the 1997 NASCAR Winston West Champion.
  • Reutimann's whole family history is nothing but working on cars. Generations have raced out of the Zephryhills Florida garage, where the 4th generation is now hitting the tracks.

As much as they are similar, there are also some noticeable differences.

Ragan is the youngster of the group. Born in 1985, he is certainly the youngest when stacked up to Reutimann' age of 38 and Gilliland's 32 years.

How they got started:

  • After a handful of races in the upper levels, Ragan was able to snag a ride through Jack Roush's driver tests.
  • After spending several competitive years in the late model series on the West Coast, Gilliland entered just a couple of truck races, and a limited Busch schedule, before he snatched the checkered flag at Kentucky, thereby catapulting him into the Robert Yates ride.
  • Reutimann worked his way up from Late models, then drove a handful of Busch series races before driving for Darrell Waltrip in the Truck series. That most certainly opened the door into his ride for Darrell's brother Michael, where he is currently driving both the Nationwide and the Sprint Cup series.

Their current Cup rides:
  • Ragan is driving the #6 car for Roush-Fenway Racing. He sits 17th in the points.
  • Gilliland is driving in the newly rebuilt Yates Racing #38 ride, and is sitting 22nd in the points.
  • Reutimann is driving the #44 car for Michael Waltrip Racing. He is currently at 27th in the points.

Crew Chiefs
  • Ragan - 20 year veteran Jimmy Fennig
  • Gilliland - 1st year Cup CC, one year in Busch as a Crew Chief, Cully Barraclough
  • Reutimann - 11 year Cup veteran Ryan Pemberton

  • Ragan- state of the art from Roush-Fenway Racing
  • Gilliland-struggled last year in equipment that was not drivable by even the likes of team mate Ricky Rudd. Now working the the equivalent of a start-up organization, running partly unsponsored. Yates Racing is buying cars and services from Roush-Fenway.
  • Reutimann-struggling last year, not only in a start up team, but the first year for the Toyota first year attempt in NASCAR.

All three drivers are talented. All three are being noted as up and coming drivers. And all three have shown marked improvement in the last year. All three, eventually, will show that they can compete on equal footing with the Goliath's of NASCAR. It will be worth watching how their careers progress.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meandering among the Loudon Marbles.

This year's first race at Loudon is over. Finally!

  • I fully understand that the enjoyment of watching a race goes hand in hand with the results of my particular driver, For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sonoma, and I hated watching today's race at Loudon. And yes, it depended totally on how my driver fared.
  • Major belated props to David Gilliland for last week's podium finish at Infineion Raceway. He impressed fans and peers alike, receiving accolades from the likes of Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon, along with a host of media writers and broadcasters. He deserved every bit of the praise.

  • This week was not so good for either Yates Racing team! The COT proves that it is very fickle, and if the set-up is slightly off, the driver and crew chief will spend the entire race chasing the track, and chasing the set up.

  • Add Jamie McMurray to the Hate List for the Junior Nation. While the rear-ending of Jr seems to have been pointless, many fans forget there is a tremendous amount of things that drivers have to react to, including suddenly closing in on a car that comes down to try and pit. I firmly believe that McMurray would never have purposely taken his own car out of the race in that manner.

  • The 4th of July Fireworks happened a week early, when Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya had their little tiff on track. Kyle was quite amusing in his post-race interview, with his air of injured dignity. Juan Pablo, however, boldly admitted he wrecked Kyle on purpose. After visiting with his new friends in the NASCAR hauler, he left with a 2 lap penalty. (David Gilliland's fans thank you for that JPM! It gave us an extra sorely needed finishing spot!)

  • Sadly, the shenanigans of the above two wrecks will take away from the win of Kurt Busch. In fact, I am sure there will be discussion that the top 6 cars did not deserve their finishes, as they never ran up front during the race. However, each of those cars played their strategy brilliantly, and therefor deserve their finishes just as ANY other fuel race. ALL races are, to a degree, fuel management races. Sadly, the controversies of the two wrecks will over-shadow any joy for the fans of those drivers.

  • Oh, and major props to Casey Mears. He got the word last week that he was the odd man out at Hendrick Motorsports. And of course, this week he runs the best race of the season.

  • Silly Season has turned into a huge merry-go-round. The NASCAR World is watching for Tony Stewart to declare his intentions, so that we can watch all of the other dominoes fall in place. The only true domino I wish to see would be the ones of sponsors declaring their faith in Yates Racing, to ensure the continuation of the organization in the sport.