With the only series racing this weekend being the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Mid-Ohio, it’s time again for another edition of “Throwback Thursday Theater,” but this week, we’ll take a bit of a detour and look back at a race at a track that is no longer on the Xfinity Series schedule, but delivered a special moment during the 2007 season at Memphis Motorsports Park in the Sam’s Town 250.
As the majority of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were competing in Atlanta on that late October weekend, the NASCAR Busch Series was holding down the fort in Memphis, preparing to take on the three-quarter mile oval that had produced close racing during its time on the schedule.
Only a few Cup Series regulars had made the trip over from Atlanta to race at Memphis that Saturday, with David Reutimann, driving for Michael Waltrip Racing and winless in his career, and Carl Edwards, the Busch Series points leader, being the main two.
Starting on the outside of the front row, Reutimann made it clear from the beginning of the race that he was going to be the car to beat throughout the event as he would lead the first 39 laps of the race, only being bumped from the lead by Jason Keller and Ron Young under the third caution of the day between laps 40 and 44. Reutimann regained the lead on the ensuing restart and held point over the field for the next 74 laps, which included 10 caution periods during that span of the race.
Despite losing the lead to Mike Bliss, Stephen Leicht, Marcos Ambrose and Keller, who shared the lead over the next 54 laps and another four cautions, Reutimann fought his way back into the lead with 81 laps to go. Reutimann would then have to survive the final eight cautions, including one that came out on lap 250 of 253 as it looked like he all but had the win in the bag, to score his first career Busch Series win.
In total, Reutimann left no doubts as he led 194 laps on the day to take home the win, despite having to endure a total of 25 caution periods throughout the race. He was followed to the line by Bliss, David Ragan, Ambrose, and Jason Leffler to round out the top five.
“It feels like a dream,” said Reutimann. “We’ve been trying so hard and we’ve been so close so many times. Today we were finally able to put all of the pieces together and then finish this thing. The Aaron’s Dream Machine was fantastic.”
While a first win in any division is special for a driver, the race at Memphis was made even more special thanks to the paint scheme that Reutimann was running that October day.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a non-profit hospital located in Memphis that specializes in life threatening diseases and illnesses in children, had put on a contest with some of the children at the hospital to design the paint scheme for a number of cars that would be running in the Sam’s Town 250 that weekend and Reutimann’s car was one of those with the special paint scheme.
Wiley King, an 18-year old from Mississippi that was being treated at the hospital, just happened upon the contest and submitted his entry that was chosen for Reutimann’s car. As a guest of the team, King and his father were at the track to cheer on the team in the race and even though King’s vision was too poor to see the cars, he watched the race by feeling the rumble of the cars passing by and with his father providing commentary on how the race was progressing for Reutimann.
As Reutimann crossed the finish line to win the race, King’s father leaned over and said to his son “We won!” and King said “Wow, that’s my car! That’s my car, mine!”
“For us to have a day together to sit down and holler over the roar of motors, ‘He’s in first!’. When the day was over, I couldn’t talk, but it was the best hoarse I’ve ever been in my life,” said King’s father about the day.
“It just makes me forget that I’m sick and that I have a tumor. It makes me feel like a normal kid and I think that’s the most important thing,” said King. “I’m never going to forget it. It meant so much. I mean right now I’m about to cry. I wish I could do it again and I wish I could do it every day for the rest of my life if I could. St. Jude and NASCAR made that come true.”
“He’s my new biggest fan and he definitely gained a fan because I’m a fan of his. What I do is nothing compared to what he does on a daily basis,” Reutimann said of King and the relationship the two forged.