Reutimann Still Searching

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David Reutimann had a decent season in 2004 but recognizes it could have been much better.

Despite capturing 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, Reutimann failed to reach other goals, such as a race win and a spot in the top 10 (he finished 14th) in the final points standings.

For that reason, any talk of a sophomore jinx is the furthest thing from the 34-year-old competitor's mind.

"I try not to think about that stuff ... I feel more confident this year than last year."

Reutimann, who heads to this week's World Financial Group 200 as the defending Bud Pole winner, went on to finish third in the 2004 race, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' first at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Historically, being rookie of the year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has been anything but a jinx. In 1999, Greg Biffle returned to win a season-record nine times. Brendan Gaughan posted six victories in 2003 and - a year ago - Carl Edwards went to victory lane on three occasions and finished fourth for the championship.

"Being rookie of the year always helps," said Gaughan, who won twice but - like Reutimann - failed to crack the top 10. "It helps confidence; it helps the team. It helps everybody feel better.

"To us, we just knew we were better and we went out to prove that we were better."

Reutimann, a Florida native, agrees. There's too much going on without tossing superstition into the mix.

"Your standard challenge every week is the level of competition," Reutimann said. It's not an easy thing to win a pole or run up front. There are not many challenges to overcome at Atlanta other than what you face every race weekend."

A year ago, Reutimann shared the Atlanta front row with fellow Raybestos Rookie contender Robert Huffman - the first time in series history that freshman drivers qualified one-two.

Now Huffman is his teammate at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, a positive move for both drivers, according to Reutimann. Reutimann enters the season's third race ninth in points; Huffman is 11th.

"That's really beneficial to both of us," he said of the expansion to a two-truck team. Huffman was third among rookies in 2004 and 23rd overall.

Atlanta this week will be dramatically different than a year ago when the race was run in the afternoon with qualifying and happy hour a day earlier. On Friday, time trials take place in early evening following which the field will be impounded for a 9:15 p.m. ET race start.

"There are a lot of questions to be answered," said Reutimann, likely speaking for many in the garage. "You have to figure out whether (the track) is going to tighten up or it it's going to stay the same. It's anybody's guess on what it's going to do.

"We've never run there under the lights. It's going to be a neat deal."

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