After the race at Martinsville this past Sunday, David Reutimann has become the top villain in NASCAR for many fans. The race was running along smoothly with three fan favorites - Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. - all out in front. Then Reutimann's car stalled and came to a stop, causing a caution and making the pack of cars closer together.
When the race restarted and Reutimann was cleared off the track, cars trying to get to the front caused a major collision, knocking Johnson and Gordon out of the race and causing Earnhardt to fall back. The race was won by Ryan Newman a few laps later, but most agree he wouldn't have had a shot if not for Reutimann's car trouble.
The big criticism of Reutimann is that he stayed out on the track even after he knew the timing belt on his car had snapped. Several racers remarked that Reutimann should have gotten to pit road and off the track to avoid affecting the race, reports ESPN.
"I would like an explanation on why that happened, from him, his crew chief, somebody," Earnhardt told the news source. "But there's no, it doesn't seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track... I would like to hear a good excuse to be honest with you, because I'm sure it would be laughable."
Reutimann has explained he was trying to keep his team in the top 35 of the point standings. Teams in the top 35 automatically qualify for every race, and it can be tough for a team outside of that range to get into a race. For an underfunded team like Reutimann's, automatically qualifying is a big leg up.
As it happened, Reutimann did not finish the race and his team is now on the outside looking in - at 36th overall. Complicating matters is the fact that Reutimann shares a car with Danica Patrick. Patrick isn't scheduled to race until May 12th, but unless her team improves between now and then, the female driver could find herself out of the race - something that NASCAR wouldn't want, considering their promotion of her. Thus, many fans are arguing that Reutimann stayed on the track in order to get points for Patrick - an idea Reutimann roundly rejects.
"I needed to run two more laps to stay in the top 35 - for me. For me! Not for Danica Patrick. She's not the reason I did this," he told the news source. "I knew the tie rod was an issue, and [the car] wouldn't keep up speed. But figured I could make it another lap or two and that would have kept us in top 35. People are making it complicated, but it's really that simple."
NASCAR has no race this Sunday - one of just two skipped races between now and November. Thus, fans have plenty of time on their hands to dissect the Martinsville race and talk about what Reutimann should have done differently. However, it's not criticism that Reutimann is indulging.
"Those yahoos bad-mouthing me - I hope they're never in my situation, but if they were they'd do the same thing for the same reasons," he told the news outlet. "If they tell you different, they're not telling you the truth. Looking back would I do it different and avoid this storm of crap? Absolutely."