David Reutimann earned a bit of vindication Saturday with his win at Chicagoland Speedway.
Reutimann knew he needed to win another race to legitimize his status as a Sprint Cup race winner. His first career victory came with a bit of an asterisk, or a “dark cloud” as he calls it, when he won last year’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Reutimann won the race by staying on the track while the rest of the leaders pitted just before rain washed out the conclusion of the race.
Reutimann was desperate to win again, this time under green-flag conditions, to score a second career victory and erase that asterisk.
His status as a Sprint Cup winner, he says, is a bit more legitimate now.
“To [win and to] be able to go out there and fight for wins and have good finishes, a shot at getting in the Chase, I think it makes you a little more legitimate in the eyes of a lot of different people,” Reutimann said.
Reutimann wasn’t the only Sprint Cup driver who needed another win either to solidify his standing as a “legitimate” winner or to establish himself as a consistent winner.
Here’s a look at some others who need another victory to raise their stock in the Sprint Cup garage.
1. Joey Logano
Logano won as a rookie last year at New Hampshire under similar circumstances, picking up the win when he held the lead as the rain came.
Logano, 20, has run better this season, scoring two top-five and seven top-10 finishes, but he has struggled to gain the respect of some of his peers after run-ins with Kevin Harvick and others.
Another victory would likely silence his critics and prove that Logano is mature enough and has enough experience to win at NASCAR’s top level.
His success in the Nationwide Series (seven career wins) and runnerup finish in the Cup race at Martinsville earlier this year shows he has the talent to get it done. Now he needs another win to prove it.
2. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex looked like a rising star when he won at Dover in 2007 and made the Chase For The Sprint Cup in his second full season with Dale Earnhardt Inc.
But he has done little since, struggling in 2008 at DEI and in 2009 at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The two-time Nationwide Series champion needs to win again to remind fans that he can get the job done and to prove that he has what it takes to challenge NASCAR’s elite drivers.
Big things were expected this season with the move to Michael Waltrip Racing, and Reutimann’s triumph provided further hope.
But Truex has just one top-five finish, has led just eight laps and has fallen to 20th in points. He needs to pick up the pace to prove he is a legitimate contender.
3. Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya made the Chase in 2009 and was expected to be a top contender again this season, but has struggled through one bad break after another.
His cars have been fast and he has run near the front, but Montoya still has just one Sprint Cup victory. He won on the road course at Infineon Raceway in 2007, but has yet to win again.
Though he has already proven he is a legitimate contender, Montoya needs to win again, particularly on an oval, to solidify his status as a consistent threat.
Keselowski began his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series in the unique position of having already won a Cup race.
But his stunning victory at Talladega Superspeedway last year was a bit tainted. Two big crashes knocked several top contenders out of contention and shuffled the field, leading to a showdown between Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and the surprising Keselowski, who was driving a limited schedule for Phoenix Racing.
Keselowski and Edwards made contact heading to the checkered flag, sending Edwards’ car spinning into Newman’s and launching into the catchfence. Keselowski took the checkered flag while Edwards climbed from his battered car and jogged across the finish line.
Keselowski has struggled through a tough first full season, which included his own airborne flight at Atlanta courtesy of Edwards.
He needs to win another Cup race to erase the controversy and mysterious circumstances surrounding his first win.
5. Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has made the Chase twice, so it’s hard to believe he has just two Sprint Cup victories.
The first came in 2007 when he dusted the field at New Hampshire in the first race of the Chase. The second came in 2008 at Richmond, when Kyle Busch wrecked leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. late in the race, opening the way for Bowyer to take the lead.
With two wins in his first three seasons, Bowyer was expected to emerge as a big winner – one with more than two career victories.
He has proven to be a consistent performer that can make the Chase, but he hasn’t led many laps in the past two years and has just 22 career top-five finishes.
He needs to win again and run up front more often to prove he is a serious threat to win races.
6. Jamie McMurray
How does a driver with four career victories, including this year’s Daytona 500, wind up on this list?
Because he has become the new Mr. Restrictor Plate.
McMurray’s last three wins have all come in restrictor-plate races. His only non-restricted win came in 2002 when he stunned the field at Charlotte by winning in his second career start and in relief of the injured Sterling Marlin.
Since then, McMurray has been inconsistent, winning at Daytona and Talladega in four years at Roush Fenway Racing and this year’s Daytona 500 with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
But as Keselowski proved last year, Daytona and Talladega have proven to be tracks where just about anyone can win under the right circumstances.
After winning NASCAR’s biggest race, McMurray has struggled, slumping to 18th in points. Though he has three runner-up finishes – at Talladega, Darlington and Charlotte – he has remained inconsistent.
Since his first career victory was such a shocker, and since his second win didn’t come until five years later, there’s always been questions surrounding McMurray, questions he can’t seem to shake.
Another win in an unrestricted race would go a long way toward answering those questions.
Six years ago, Sadler looked like NASCAR’s next big star. In 2004, he won two Sprint Cup races and made the inaugural Chase for Robert Yates Racing.
But he hasn’t won since.
Sadler finished 13th in points in 2005, but has finished no better than 22nd in points in four seasons with the Ray Evernham/George Gillett/Richard Petty organization. He is currently 27th in the standings and says he likely will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports next season.
Sadler’s career appears to be at a crossroads and he desperately needs another win, or at least some strong performances, to resurrect his career and solidify his future.
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