Commentary

A dynamic father-son duo

Updated: June 16, 2011, 2:51 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- David Reutimann was running late for an interview, and his father let him know it.

"C'mon on," Emil "Buzzie" Reutimann, 70, yelled into his cellphone as he sat behind his son's No. 00 Sprint Cup hauler at Pocono Raceway. "I'm waiting for you, drag ass."

A few minutes later, David arrived -- slightly out of breath after running back from a prerace appearance -- to one of his father's "it's about time" comments.

"Some of us have to work for a living to pay for all the cars you wreck," David, 41, said with a laugh.

Then it was game on.

For the next 10 minutes the two went back and forth with one-liners like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Beavis and Butthead. They were so outrageous that it was hard not to laugh to the point your eyes teared up, so naturally funny it was suggested they needed their own television show.

Playful chiding aside, as we approach Sunday's annual celebration of Father's Day, there may not be a better father-son relationship in NASCAR -- in the world -- than this one. Neither can remember seriously being mad at the other, which is almost unheard of. They actually enjoy hanging out and doing things together, although things for them almost exclusively revolve around racing.

"I don't know if there is a father and son that has a better time than we do … as long as he does what I tell him to do," Buzzie said.

[+] EnlargeDavid Reutimann with parents
Courtesy Michael Waltrip Racing David Reutimann got an early start in racing. That's he in the middle, flanked by dad, Buzzie, and mom, Linda.

Again with the jokes. Buzzie and David wouldn't be who they are without them. But underneath the wisecracks is a respect that bonds them more than any funny line.

David is the first to admit that his father is the better driver. He'll argue that Buzzie is the best driver ever in stock car racing, better than Richard Petty with 200 wins and seven titles and Jimmie Johnson with five straight titles, even though he made only one start in NASCAR's premier series.

He'll tell you that had Buzzie -- who was legendary on the dirt-track circuit on the East Coast with more than 1,200 wins -- gotten a break like David did with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2006, he would have proved it.

"It's almost like an indebtedness, because David would do anything for Buzz because he knows Buzz gave up everything for David to get this opportunity," said Ty Norris, the vice president and general manager of MWR. "The reason Buzz is around so much is because David wants him to share in this whole experience, an experience that Buzz never got to do as a driver.

"It's unbelievable how close they are. They're rare. I've never seen anything like it."

Role reversal

Buzzie leaned back in the director's chair and recalled the December charity race at East Bay Raceway in Florida, the last time he and David were on the track together.

"I sort of let him beat me," Buzzie said.

"No way," David interrupted. "He took a butt-whipping home."

The two went back and forth before Buzzie ended the dispute with, "Like I was saying, sometimes I let him win to make him feel a little better."

Buzzie began building cars for his son about 30 years ago in his shop in Zephyrhills, Fla. There were lean times, times when they barely had enough money to put food on the table and go to the track. There were times when they spent the night in the car because they couldn't afford a hotel.

A few years ago David returned the favor and began building late-model modified cars for Buzzie with high school friend Brian Pattie, the crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya. Buzzie, who typically wins a dozen times a year, recently drove one to victory in the feature at East Bay.

"He's my developmental driver," David said jokingly.

The reason David is so good at building cars now is Buzzie made him learn how to at an early age.

"I'd say if you're going to wreck it, you're going to fix it," Buzzie said.

It doesn't work quite the same way when Buzzie wrecks one of the cars David and Pattie build.

"He just asks for a new one," David said. "Since I can remember he never tore up race cars -- ever. I only remember him being upside down one time as a kid. In the last two years he's been upside down twice in my cars. I'm not sure that's a good trend."

Uncle Buzz

Shawn Reutimann laughed as he saw "Uncle Buzz" all miked up outside David's hauler.

"He's a maniac," he said.

Shawn is the 37-year-old son of Buzzie's brother, Wayne, a pretty good racer in his own right. He spots for David on Sundays and helps Buzzie whenever he can.

"Uncle Buzz, a legend in his own mind," Shawn said.

[+] EnlargeBuzzie Reutimann
ISC Images & Archives/Getty ImagesThat No. 00 is well known up and down the East Coast.

Said Buzzie, "He's one of those damn kids that made a mess around the shop, too."

Buzzie was referring to the mess that David made as a kid and still does today, leaving cracker wrappers and week-old, half-full Coke cans scattered around the shop with his tools.

Shawn was like a son, spending most of his summers working in the shop with David and Brian, sometimes helping raise enough dust in the nearby field with race cars to ruin a clean load of laundry hanging on the line. He knows as well as anyone how close David and Buzzie are.

"You couldn't ask for a better father-son relationship," Shawn said.

The Reutimanns, in case you haven't figured this out, love cars. It seems they have since Emil F. Reutimann moved his family from Switzerland to Tampa, Fla., in 1920 and opened the first Chevrolet dealership in Zephyrhills in 1925.

Buzzie took the love of cars to a new level with racing. Legend has it that while working on a family car modified for racing, his father walked by and said, "That's the nearest thing to nothing I've ever seen."

Being the prankster that he is, that seemingly the entire family is, Buzzie taped two zeros on the door. The family has been racing under 00 ever since.

David believes that number could have been famous had Buzzie taken advantage in 1963 of an offer to buy the car he drove to a 10th-place finish at Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa, a race won by Petty, in his only NASCAR appearance.

"When he walks through the gates he's the best driver here, hands down," David said. "Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., I don't give a rat's golden butt who it is, if you put him in equal equipment at any given racetrack, he'll outrun them."

Most famous Reutimann

David was signing autographs after his qualifying lap at Pocono when a woman dressed in anti-Kyle Busch clothing shouted, "Where's Buzzie? I want to get his autograph."

David, a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series, shook his head and laughed.

"More people want his autograph than mine," he said.

David Reutimann He's out of his mind, I promise you. But I've never met anybody that has a passion for the sport as much as he does.

-- David Reutimann on his father, Buzzie

It's true, particularly in the Northeast and Florida, where there might be more T-shirts with Buzzie's name on them than David's. But David doesn't mind. He's proud of his father and all that he has done for him.

"He's out of his mind, I promise you," David said. "But I've never met anybody that has a passion for the sport as much as he does."

That passion is why Buzzie probably won't spend Father's Day weekend with David in Michigan. He planned to originally, but after learning there's a race in Ocala, Fla., with a $1,000 payout, he's leaning toward driving.

"I'm pretty sure he'll be in Ocala racing for $1,000 to win," said Pattie, who says he wouldn't be where he is were it not for Buzzie. "That's how he is. He's a racer. And I don't think it's really a big deal if he misses Father's Day.

"As much as those guys spend time together, every day is Father's Day to them."

After only a few minutes of listening to them poke holes in each other behind David's hauler at Pocono, that was easy to see. It's a relationship most sons would kill to have with their father.

"For as much time as we spend together, it's amazing we haven't tried to kill one another," David said.

Again with the jokes.

If they don't have the best father-son relationship, they definitely have the funniest.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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