But through the depths of despair came one shining light -- the then-rookie performance of David Reutimann. With the organization in shambles around him, Reutimann hung in there to score two top-15 finishes and earn rave reviews from garage observers. It was a small but solid foundation for MWR to build on, one that was turned into four top-10 finishes and a strong ending to Reutimann's sophomore season. Still, at the end of 2008 Waltrip had to make a difficult decision to keep his top driver or let him leave as a free agent. With sponsorship for just 18 races, he had to beg the chairman of Aaron's to back the No. 00 car for all 36 after major sponsor UPS chose to bolt for a younger, hipper talent in
Turns out it's Aaron's who's now getting the most for its money. Reutimann's gritty determination Monday kept him in contention on a day when a mental mistake could have left him 40th or worse at Charlotte. After slamming the outside wall on his own, he fought hard to stay inside the top 15, even inciting an argument with
Now 13th in points, Reutimann is the clear leader on a team that also includes first-year Australian sensation
Finishes like these are clearly unacceptable for NASCAR's Most Popular Driver. It's no secret the Car of Tomorrow and its tendency to make a race car loose hasn't really fit Junior's driving style. But it's also the job of the crew chief to come up with a setup that helps out. For almost a year, Eury has had the dubious honor of making the No. 88 car worse than when it started the race. And for all the times Junior has made mental errors -- his crew held up two pit signs Sunday because he's been missing his stall so often -- it's Eury's mistakes of adjusting in the wrong direction that will ultimately cost him the job.
One year later, it was clear Vickers had the fastest car at Lowe's once again -- and again, he got snakebit on pit road. During the first three caution-flag pit stops, the team lost a total of 20 spots to consistently leave them stuck back in traffic. That meant that even though Vickers was the fastest car on the track, by the time he'd get in clean air the car was so far behind the leaders he wouldn't have a chance to catch up. A quick pit stop under the race's final caution bumped Vickers up to fifth at the finish, but the team knows they could have just as easily wound up in Victory Lane.
It seems that expansion is part of the problem here, with Childress' new fourth team straining resources during a down economy. But that doesn't fully explain a winless streak for