By DEAN REYNOLDS
MANSFIELD, OHIO – When promoter Cody Sommer announced the Sprint Car World Championship (SCWC) at his Mansfield Motor Speedway with a $100,000 carrot at the end of the stick for the winner of a 50-lap Sprint Car race, many marked this event on the calendar.
Aaron Reutzel, a Texas native who’s best known for his many 360 sprint car laurels, has been setting up his career to go 410 racing over the past few years. He then joined with fellow Texan Josh Baughman in the off-season to form a stout 410 team with the Mansfield event quickly put on the schedule.
The Baughman-Reutzel Motorsports team has been strong right out of the box etching their name in the World of Outlaws win list already for 2018. With the quick success they were in many person’s picks as a possible SCWC favorite to take home the 100 G’s.
Reutzel finished second to Carson Macedo in his Friday night preliminary A-Main and immediately locked himself in the 50 lapper and also in the dash that sets up the starting line-up for the finale. In that dash he took second to Tim Shaffer who was the odds on favorite by many. After all Shaffer has had some big event success by being a Knoxville Nationals winner.
The 50 lap SCWC for Reutzel came down to the last two laps. Two laps that will be talked about in Sprint Car lure, hopefully two laps that will put the event on the map as a yearly must see, must be at event. But….For Reutzel please excuse him if he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm. It was two laps where he saw $80,000 leave his hands with a snap of a finger.
“I wanted to pace myself a little bit more to have a shot at Tim but the kids, well I call them kids, Macedo, Hunter (Schuerenberg) and Brian (Brown) were setting what I thought was too quick of a pace,” Aaron told on how the race was panning out. “They forced me to pick the pace up but I could get back around them so I was doing the right thing in holding back.”
Reutzel did put himself in second and the chase was on to get to Shaffer who lead from the drop of the green.
“Tim had a real good pace off restarts, it took me a while to get going and catch back up to him,” he went on. “That was until that last restart with about five to go, I don’t now if he (Shaffer) didn’t know that start was coming but I go a good run on him on the outside and I knew I had a chance.”
The event’s drama peaked coming down for the white flag. Reutzel’s No. 87 had a good run off turn two and here came the Sprint Car slider in turn three, the pass for the lead and maybe the win. However, the crafty veteran must have had a hunch, he also dove down low and threw the block!
“He’s a veteran, he knew what to do, he could hear me coming. I mean he doesn’t have as many wins as he has by not knowing what to do. Tim Shaffer is one of the guys I idolize, he’s one of the most underrated Sprint Car drivers around. He’s won Knoxville, he’s a true bad ass,” Reutzel then had to set up for one last lap. “I tried to stay back but he blocked me. So I went right back to the top to get another run on him and this time I wanted to make sure he didn’t do the same move”
As the two went down the backstretch coming down for the checkered the next seven or so seconds would be talked about, well, I can say it, generations! Reutzel did set up for his move perfectly, he got under Shaffer in plenty of time so the veteran couldn’t throw the block this time and the pass was made….
The pass was made but for Reutzel the momentum was too much and his car got sucked into the outside wall. He still wasn’t lifting and with the Mansfield crowd going wild, Shaffer ducked back underneath and took the $100,000 to the approval of most.
“I just carried too much steam through the corner and I couldn’t get it wooed up enough and I got stuck in the fence,” Aaron continued about those seven of so seconds. “That was pretty much it. If I could have slowed it up about five feet sooner it would have been a different story. It all played out the way we wanted it to, it just didn’t work there at the end.”
When approaching Aaron at his trailer after he changed out of his clothes spent time with his loved ones while popping a cold one. Hey, no need to explain there. Then coming out this writer had to ask THE question… “Just give me your thoughts…” I wasn’t sure the answer but he’s a full-time sprint car driver with one passion and one only, to win. So it should have been predictable.
“I’m disgusted, I am really disappointed for my team, the sponsors, I felt like to drove a smart race to put ourselves in a position to get the win,” he went on with a low town in his voice. “We were just so close and it all came down to a few feet. This is a marquee event and we were so close so it’s tough.”
A driver that do understands the big picture still had time to put the personal disappointment aside and offer words for the event itself.
“I do hope the fans enjoyed it and Cody did well so he can keep the event going, the weather was so against everyone but Sprint Car racing need events like this,” Aaron finished up, “It was a good event and had a big event feel…I just wish we won it.”
Disgusted might be a tough word, to most it was an effort that words might not do it justice. A move that was all out that saw a Sprint Car slam the wall and still not giving up. Aaron Reutzel though is a professional that wanted to win, yeah the $80,000 less stings too, but he wanted to win. He doesn’t have to apologize in his disappointment and from this corner he will get a job well done!