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NASCAR Rookie Reutimann Sore After Wreck

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Nextel Cup rookie David Reutimann's crash at California Speedway left him so sore that ``everything hurts, down to my eyeballs and my teeth.''

Reutimann wrecked with six laps to go in Sunday's race at California when he was tapped by Greg Biffle, sending him crashing into the wall in one of the hardest hits NASCAR has ever seen. The accident was particularly frightening because Reutimann had an in-car camera in his Toyota that caught him slumped over his steering wheel as his spotter frantically tried to make contact with him.

``You all right, David? Talk to me, David,'' called Shawn Reutimann, the driver's cousin. ``He hit hard, guys, the 16 stuffed him into the fence. Come on David, it's on fire, you gotta get out, bud.

``You gotta get out, it's on fire, David.''

Reutimann said he was not unconscious, but the force of the hit had knocked the wind out of him and briefly rendered him unable to speak.

``It rung my bell pretty good, but mostly it just knocked the breath out of me so bad,'' he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. ``It stunned me a little bit and really just took me a moment. That's why I couldn't answer him. I couldn't get enough air in my lungs.''

Reutimann spent about 30 minutes in the care center at California, then rested his aching body Monday. He broke no bones and didn't hit his head, but his left foot was badly bruised from getting twisted in the pedals upon impact.

``It's swollen, a little bit purple, but I can walk fine,'' he said. ``Everything is pretty sore, my entire body, but each day is a little bit better. To come through a deal like that with just a bruised foot and some aches, that's pretty impressive.''

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the sanctioning body was pleased that despite the viciousness of the accident, all of Reutimann's safety gear worked and the SAFER Barrier withstood the impact.

Reutimann said he planned to be behind the wheel of the Car of Tomorrow on Wednesday and Thursday at NASCAR's two-day test at Bristol Motor Speedway, then will head to Mexico City for this weekend's Busch Series race.

In his first season at the Cup level, Reutimann is driving for Michael Waltrip Racing and has had a tense start to the year. Because MWR is a new team without owner points, neither Reutimann or Waltrip are locked into the field for the first five races of the season.

They've both had to fight their way into the first two races, and Reutimann was in the uncomfortable spot of having to knock Waltrip out of the field last week in California to make the event. He did it and was headed to a decent finish before the accident knocked him to a 33rd-place finish.

Because he also wrecked out of the Daytona 500, Reutimann is mired back at 41st in the points. He must crack the top 35 to ensure a spot in the field each week and said he knows the pressure is on.

``Qualifying days are miserable, not any fun at all,'' he said. ``It's sink or swim, and once you get in it's a complete relief for all of about five minutes. Then it's time to focus on the race. So I hate that we wrecked in both races, and I hate that we destroyed a good car. We're a new team and we're trying to build, and wrecking cars doesn't help anyone.

``But I'm moving forward and just trying to help this team get stronger anyway I can.''
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