Middletown, N.Y. (October 22, 1972) - Buzzie Reutimann finally did it. Reutimann, who had been trying for years, won the Eastern States 200 modified stock car race Sunday evening at Middletown's Orange County Fair Speedway.
Reutimann, a competitor in the classic several seasons, and runner-up several times, including last year-jumped into the lead on the fifth lap, and held it all the way to the end of the grueling race.
Afterward, while signing autographs for a mob of well-wishers who wouldn't let him leave the track, he said, “It’s wonderful to finally do it. But I had to really work for it.”
Buzzie, whose brother Wayne captured fourth place in car #3, then explained that he just jumped out there and kept going without even taking time to check his instruments.
“Will Cagle was right on top of me all the time, and he's really good. I didn't dare look down to check anything for fear he'd roll right past me.”
“Also, I had to keep my eyes on the track ahead to keep from crashing at the pace I was going,” Buzzie said. “That way, I figured out what each car ahead of me would do, who would challenge, and who’d swing out wide, so I knew when to lap the car and when to hang back a little.”
“But always there was the strain of having Cagle right there like a shadow,” Buzzie added. “It was a long, tough ride.”
Cagle, another Floridian, but now using Albany as his home base, was runner-up Sunday night after keeping his #24 so close to Buzzie’s #00 most of the way that the two cars seemed to be hooked together. Top driver at the Middletown oval a few years ago, Cagle was a four-time winner of the Eastern States 200 and was defending champion.
Before the final race, Cagle paced around his car like a mother hen, checking everything his pit crew did to #24. Then, after assuring mechanics the car was carrying enough gas so it would have eight gallons left after the race and would allow him to stay on the track from start to finish of the race, Cagle showed he was doing everything he could to make absolutely sure his car was ready for a tough title defense. He grabbed a wrench, got down under the car, and personally adjusted the brakes.
Cagle got into the final by winning his heat. His finish earned him the fourth spot in the lineup for the 200-lap feature. Buzzie made the final by driving #00 to a second-place finish in his qualifying heat. His car started the feature race in the sixth position, just behind Cagle’s car on the outside of the track.
The pole position for the feature race’s start went to Gerald Chamberlain, with Middletown’s Frankie Schneider beside him. Schneider finished sixth in the feature.
Bob Malzahn of Matamoras, Penn., started the feature in the ninth position and finished in third place.
Seventh place starter Bob Bottcher of Lehighton, Penn., took fifth place in the feature with his #666, while Bob Rossell in car #56 finished seventh. Dave Lapp in #22 was eighth, Ben Stevens in #3X was ninth; and Jim Winks in #15 rounded out the top 10 finishers. Warwick’s Rich Eurich took 14th place in the feature with car #10.
Winner Buzzie Reutimann told spectators after his triumph that he hadn't been sure he was going to finish the race. “Along about the 150th lap,” he said, "the car’s power steering started to go out. The car got harder to handle each lap, and I thought a tire was going. It took all the energy I had to keep the car going right."