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« Hamlin should be considered a pre-race favorite at Martinsville | Main | Bowyer just did what a racer ought to do »

Top-35 rule played major role in Martinsville’s late race chaos

By admin | April 1, 2012

By Richard Allen


It seemed as if Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway was destined to be an historic occasion for Hendrick Motorsports as it looked for all the world as if that organization would claim its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory on the half-mile track. At one point late in that event, HMS cars placed 1-2-3 in the running order and appeared unstoppable.

However, things went awry for the sport’s most powerful organization with only two laps remaining in the 500 lap race. David Reutimann’s car stalled on the front stretch bringing out a caution and setting up what would prove to be a wild finish. Then leader and HMS driver Jeff Gordon lined up for the ensuing restart on the inside of the front row in the double-file formation with teammate Jimmie Johnson alongside. Those two drivers had led a total of 440 laps to that point.

With fuel supplies running low in many tanks among the lead cars, most of the teams on the lead lap called their drivers to the pits for fuel and tires during the caution period. This allowed Clint Bowyer, who had just taken on two tires and fuel, to line up on the inside of the second row.

What happened next will be talked about for some time to come. Bowyer drove to the inside making it three wide with Gordon and Johnson going into the first turn. The cars got together and set off a sheet metal bending crash that involved several cars, including the top-3 machines.

Ultimately, Ryan Newman went on to claim the prized grandfather clock winner’s trophy as Gordon, Johnson and Bowyer were left to point fingers and place blame. While those three drivers didn’t share the same viewpoint as to who among them was most responsible for their crash, they and most everyone else was willing to name Reutimann as the culprit for creating the caution that led to the race’s chaotic conclusion.

The #10 Tommy Baldwin Racing car had limped around the track for several laps at a very slow rate of speed. Both driver Reutimann and car owner Tommy Baldwin pointed out that the car had suffered a broken tie rod, which greatly diminished the car’s steering and caused the slower pace.

“He drove around there with no brakes until it finally just come to a halt,” Bowyer declared. “It’s unfortunate.”

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who finished 3rd had his thoughts on Reutimann. “It doesn’t seem like there could be a logical reason for him to end up stopped on the track,” the popular driver insisted. “He was running around slow. You got a problem, you really get down and get on pit road. I don’t believe he had any trouble getting down.

“I would like to hear a good excuse to be honest with you, because I’m sure it would be laughable.”

The explanation was far from laughable. Here was the problem faced by Reutimann and Baldwin. That car was in danger of falling outside the top-35 in the Sprint Cup owner point standings. Being inside the top-35 guarantees those teams a spot in the next race while being outside the top-35 leaves a team open to the possibility of missing the next event.

Reutimann pointed out that he continued on the track despite his car’s disability because he was trying to score every possible point for his team. And more, the #10 car is the ride for which much maneuvering was done just prior to the Daytona 500 so that Danica Patrick would be assured into the starting lineups of the limited number of races she plans to run.

No doubt, there is a great deal of pressure, either real or imagined, on the TBR organization to see to it that Ms. Patrick is locked into her races. The former IndyCar driver is next set to race at Darlington in a few weeks.

In the end, Reutimann’s ability to limp across the line one more time kept him ahead of Kyle Busch in the race’s final rundown, and thus earned a point that might have been lost had he stopped a lap earlier. However, the #10 did fall from the top-35 in the owner standings by one point.

There is no question that Reutimann made a poor choice by staying on track when his car was so obviously disabled. This piece was not written to defend his actions. But it must be considered that the circumstances of the current system left him with little other choice.

Bowyer just did what a racer ought to do ->

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11 Responses to “Top-35 rule played major role in Martinsville’s late race chaos”

  1. Sue Rarick Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 6:52 am

    I find it laughable a driver that hasn’t won a race in 3 years has anything to say.
    Maybe if SHR is that concerned with keeping the #10 car in the top 35 they could at least make sure they aren’t doing it in a 3 year old car.
    I’m a Reutimann fan and it kills me to see him having to points race. But Nascar is all about points racing and fuel strategy today.
    BTW the Indy cars put on a heck of a show yesterday. And nobody ran out of fuel.

  2. Charles Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 6:59 am

    That race was the most boring of the races I seen all year, until the caution flag at the end!

    Think Gordon lead over 300plus laps and Johnson over 100, very little lead changes! Not everyone goes to see Hendrick win his 200th .

    Nascar should be glad of Reutimann caution, infact some owe him a apology…alot of the Fox-Speed, and drivers were throwing him under the bus without getting Davids explaination!

    Also wonder how Jeff Gordon finisthed only two positons behind Jimmie Johnson, afterall.. they wanted Jr to push him because he must been out of fuel…then had to be pushed by the aid of wrecker…thought you would lose or get penalized for having to get the wrecker…

  3. Dan Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 10:00 am

    couple of thoughts, What lap was David given the Black Flag for the first time. Why didn’t NASCAR allow Jeff and Jimmie to race to the White flag, the Yellow came out on lap 499, Jeff and JJ were within yards of the SF line where the white would have waved and then the yellow would have ended the race, thus avoiding the GWC? I’m a Hendrick hater but after Charlotte and David was not in the racing grove why not let them race back to the checkers?

  4. mr clause Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 10:49 am

    The blame for this does not fall on Rootie or the 10 team. All of the blame falls on NASCAR, all of it. This was a collision of the stupid top 35 rule, the points selling NASCAR allows, the protection, pampering, promotion of Danica. NASCAR has become managed by mismanagement and that they do well. This collision had to come at some point and it’s a shame it had to fall on a good guy like David. Sadly I guess he should be getting used to it by now.

    It’s becoming very easy for the supposed elite drivers of this sport to forget where they came from and what the struggles are at the bottom. Of course some of them never had to start at the bottom did they. Hey Jr, wasn’t it Davids mission to protect your driver?

  5. midasmicah Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 10:52 am

    You take points racing (the chase), the POS thing they call a stock car, and the top 35 rule and mix it with pampered drivers who don’t seem to want to mix it up these days. The end result is boring racing. Even the small tracks have fallen victim to this follow the leader, parade racing. Sadly the fans are the ultimate victims here. And then na$car wonders why the TV ratings AND the track attendance have taken a nose dive the last few years. I’ve been a na$car fans for 30+ years and it’s gotten harder and harder to watch. na$car is not the “must see” week-end sporting event it used to be on my calendar. I still watch most of the races, but not with the zeal I used to.

  6. Scott Beasley Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    NASCAR is to blame for this, they put the teams in these stupid situations. Get rid of the Top 35 rule and make everyone qualify! Get rid of this stupid points system and go to a Formula 1 style of points system. Give only the Top 25 finshers points. This would end the practice of a wrecked car coming back onto the track to get to “valuable sprint cup points” and have cars on the track that are able to race. It would also end the stupid chase and make each race mean more so people will know they have to win! NASCAR cares only about keeping control of the sport and have lost all vision of how this sport will make it in 10 yrs.

  7. Steve Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I can see why Mikey and Darryl would be upset at Reutimann. He doesn’t drive a Yota anymore and it ruined Hendricks milestone day. The Waltrips are pathetic.

  8. Tony Geinzer Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Rich, I hate to pull my “Inevitable” button again, but NASCAR needs to junk the Top 35 and the Chase as remember what DeSpain said about the strange connection of Motorcycles and NASCARs? Its all true and I would have stood for 300 and Night Racing at Martinsville.

  9. Jonathan Says:
    April 2nd, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    I understand the top 35 rule. It’s all about the money. What NASCAR needs to stop is the points swapping. If a team goes under then that spot in the top 35 just goes away. If a team is bought out then the previous owners points go away. If you start a new team you get to race your way in. Also dont blame David he is currently sitting 32nd in points. Danica’s poor finishes are more to blame for them not being in the top 35. She should have to go to Darlington and race her way in.

  10. Chris Fiegler Says:
    April 5th, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    If David Reutimann Part Ways with Tommy Baldwin Racing who will share the #10 Chevrolet with Danica Patrick? Do you think that Danica Patrick will be in more Sprint Cup Series races than her scheduled 10 Probably Every race except that when she has to race in other Venues different from the Sprint Cup Series Such as Kentucky in September, Montreal in August, Iowa in August & Road America in June.

  11. Russ Says:
    April 7th, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I’m confused. Reutimann does his not my fault thing. Says it was a broken tie rod or something. Then the car just stopped.

    Excuse me, if a tie rod breaks, how does that make the car just stop? Can’t be steered, sure. Might hit something? No doubt. Just stopped? I wonder.