AUTO RACING

Area driver makes a move up


Published: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 12:25 a.m.

Gainesville race car driver Mike Faulk is taking a step up to a NASCAR series that he hopes will eventually lead to the top of NASCAR racing.

Faulk, who was Rookie of the Year in the Florida Pro Series last season, will be the driver of the 00 Mike Wakely/Pennzoil Chevrolet in the NASCAR Autozone Elite Southeast Division, one of four NASCAR touring divisions throughout the country that was once known as the All-Pro Series.

The Wakely ride formerly belonged to Florida NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver David Reutimann, and Faulk will have as his crew chief veteran racer and mechanic Buzzie Reutimann, David Reutimann's father.

Faulk's father, Lee Faulk, a veteran of Busch and Cup competition as driver of the Slender U entry and now a race car builder in High Springs, will also be available for continuing advice.

"David played a major part in me getting this ride," Faulk said. "He made the actual call to Mr. Wakely recommending me for the job. There were many applicants for the position.

"I'm excited about this opportunity because it gives me a chance to gain experience on tracks such as Kentucky Motor Speedway and Nashville Motor Speedway, as well as it lets me show my talent at the short tracks such as Hickory, N.C., and Houston, Texas."

Although Wakely is in Savannah, Ga., the race team is headquartered at Buzzie Reutimann's shop in Zephyrhills.

The team currently has two cars race-ready - a Howe short track chassis car and a Hamke superspeedway chassis - and a third in the works for the 12-race series throughout the Southeast.

"I also feel very fortunate to have a crew chief with the experience of Buzzie Reutimann," Faulk said. "With Buzzie's knowledge and the experience of my dad and David Reutimann on my side, I can't see where the deal can go wrong.

"The experience my dad has makes it a lot easier for my learning curve. He has made me work for everything I've obtained, and I think that may not be typical anymore with younger drivers," Faulk said.

Faulk and Wakely have reached a two-year agreement.

"Our goal the first year is to win at least one race, finish in the top three in final points and win the NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors. Our second goal, of course, is to win the championship."

Not only does the team have those Florida roots, Faulk isn't deserting the state in which he did so well in the Florida Pro Series last year, winning two races and claiming that rookie title.

"You will also see me racing around Florida on my off weeks at whatever big show may be happening that weekend," said Faulk, who is in his junior year at Florida and will balance his class load with his race schedule.

"Our first race isn't until April 17, but we are on schedule for preseason testing by the end of February or early March," Faulk said. "As you know, NASCAR is sponsor-friendly and a target-rich environment so, as always, we accept inquiring sponsors with open arms."

Faulk said that discussions are underway with several associate sponsors for the team.

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