FORT WORTH, Texas — David Reutimann has taken Michael Waltrip Racing from a mangled mess at Texas to the front of the field.
Reutimann won the pole for the Samsung 500 at the 11/2-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway with a lap of 190.517 mph Friday.
“I guess that puts an exclamation mark on just how things have changed,” said Reutimann, driving the No. 00 Toyota owned by Waltrip.
A year ago, the No. 00 was driven in Texas qualifying by Cup rookie Michael McDowell, who escaped unscathed from a horrific, tumbling crash when he slammed into the wall and rolled at least eight times before coming to a rest at the bottom of the track.
Two years ago, the first for Waltrip’s team, Reutimann didn’t get a chance to race at Texas after qualifying was canceled because of severe weather. The team didn’t have enough points to get into the field.
“It was a miserable time in my life, and we actually had a very good car,” Reutimann said. “… Going out there and getting poles shows that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.”
Reutimann, 11th in season points, won his only other pole in last season’s finale at Homestead. Waltrip will start 34th Sunday in the Sprint Cup race.
Carl Edwards, who won both Texas races last year to become the track’s first three-time winner, qualified 13th.
Season points leader Jeff Gordon qualified second with a lap of 190.194 mph on a windy day. Texas is one of two active tracks where the four-time Cup champion with 81 race victories never has won.
Gordon was on the pole at Texas last fall and placed second. But he was last in the 43-car field in April 2008, the second last-place finish in his 551 career races. The other also was at Texas.
Matt Kenseth will start third, followed by David Ragan, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne.
Las Vegas’ Kyle Busch qualified eighth, and his older brother, Kurt, was 28th.
• INDY CAR — At St. Petersburg, Fla., defending champion Graham Rahal had the fastest time in practice for the 2009 season-opening race, the Honda Grand Prix, by covering the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary downtown circuit in 1 minute, 3.407 seconds.
Rahal made his IndyCar Series debut as a 19-year-old at last year’s race, holding off two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in a dramatic finish to become the youngest winner in a major open-wheel event.
• INDIANAPOLIS 500 — Richard Petty will make his first foray into the Indianapolis 500 as an owner when he fields a car for John Andretti in next month’s race. Petty will join fellow NASCAR team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi at Indy.