David Reutimann has taken Michael Waltrip Racing from a mangled mess at Texas to the front of the field.
Reutimann earned the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the 1 1/2 -mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway with a lap of 190.517 mph on Friday.
“I guess that puts an exclamation mark on just how things have changed,” said Reutimann, driving the No. 00 Toyota owned by Waltrip.
A year ago, the No. 00 was driven in Texas qualifying by Cup rookie Michael McDowell, who escaped unscathed from a horrific, tumbling crash when he slammed into the wall and rolled at least eight times before coming to a rest at the bottom of the track.
Two years ago, the first for Waltrip’s team, Reutimann didn’t get a chance to race at Texas after qualifying was canceled because of severe weather. The team didn’t have enough points to get into the field.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a miserable time in my life and we actually had a very good car,” Reutimann said. “People tend to forget that it wasn’t that long ago when we were struggling to absolutely make races. … Going out there and getting poles shows that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, and I think about those times often.”
Reutimann, 11th in season points, won his only other pole in last season’s finale at Homestead. Waltrip will start 34th Sunday in the Samsung 500.
Carl Edwards, who won both Texas races last year to become the track’s first three-time winner, qualified 13th.
Season points leader Jeff Gordon will start his Chevrolet on the outside of front row after a qualifying lap of 190.194 mph on a windy day. Texas is one of two active tracks where the four-time Cup champion with 81 race victories has never won.
Gordon was on the pole at Texas last fall and finished second. But he was last in the 43-car field last April, the second last-place finish in his 551 career races. The other also was Texas.
“We were pretty good here the last time, obviously, sitting on the pole. We were similar to that today,” said Gordon, who has a record eight top 10s at the track despite the strange quirks in his record.
Matt Kenseth will start third, followed by David Ragan, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne.