Emil “Buzzie” Reutimann
One of the most popular of all the Northeastern Dirt-Track Modified Stock Car racers, Emil “Buzzie” Reutimann (DOB: May 7, 1941) of Zephyrhills, Florida, enjoyed a lengthy and quite-successful career on the region’s short tracks and his résumé includes several major victories and track championships.
He is also remembered for the “GO FIRST CLASS” motto on all of his “Double-O” racers and being the last to field a winning 1937 Chevrolet Coupe in Dirt-Track Modified competition when everyone else in the mid-1970s was turning to AMC Gremlin- and Ford Pinto-bodied race cars.
A second-generation racer, the bespectacled Reutimann – who got his nickname when nurses in the hospital heard the newborn making “buzzing noises” – first began racing at age 16 in a black 1939 Ford coupe that he found behind his father’s Chevrolet dealership and updated with a Sears-Roebuck rebuilt engine.
After learning his craft, young Reutimann inherited his father’s No. 00 1935 three-window Chevrolet Coupe – in which a full-race Chevy inline-6 truck engine was installed – and that served him well in Sportsman and Modified races from the late 1950s into the early 1960s.
However, when “Buzzie” learned from Tampa resident and fellow EMPA Hall of Fame member Will Cagle of the big purses being offered in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he brought the first of his signature red, white and blue No. 00 1937 Chevrolet Coupes to the Northeast and started a career that made a major impact on Northeastern Dirt-Track Modified Stock Car Racing.
The “seasonal resident” of Asbury, New Jersey – who would return to Florida in the winter to race Asphalt Late Model Stock Cars – won the 1966 championship at the old half-mile East Windsor (NJ) Speedway.
He also won 33 races in his Dover Brake-/Kendall GT-1 Racing Oil-sponsored entry at the old half-mile-dirt Nazareth (PA) Raceway and its 1972 & 1973 track titles. And he had 33 victories at the 5/8-mile-dirt Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York, to go along with the “hard clay’s” 1972 & 1974 championships.
Major extra-distance victories include: the 1970 Daniel Boone 200 at the old Reading (PA) Fairgrounds: a 150-lapper at the old 1-1/8-mile-dirt Nazareth (PA) National Speedway in 1971; the 1972 Eastern States 200 at OCFS; the first two Schaefer 100s (1972 and 1973) on the old 1-mile dirt track at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse; and, the 1975 National Dirt Track Championship 200 at the old 5/8-mile-dirt Flemington (NJ) Fair Speedway.
But Reutimann did not limit himself to dirt-track racing as he also ran a No. 00 Chevrolet Camaro in several asphalt events. But his most famous paved-track effort was in 1973 at the old 1/5-mile Islip Speedway out on Long Island when he defeated many of the best asphalt racers in the All-Star Racing League 100 with his trusty Dirt-Track Modified 1937 Chevy coupe.
Like many of the professional racers of his era, the personable owner-driver built all of his own cars. However, when his Modified chassis changed from the reworked 1954 Chevrolet frames that he used to production-built items, he “Reutimannized” those purpose-built offerings to meet his own specifications.
Reutimann is also credited as the first to install a power-steering system in a Dirt-Track Modified. And when he eventually stopped building Modifieds with classic 1937 Chevrolet Coupes bodies, his traditional red, white and blue No. 00 rides used Chevrolet Vega or Gremlin-styled bodies.
In 1985, Reutimann suffered serious head and neck injuries in a grinding Turn-4 crash at Syracuse, but he recovered and returned to race 11 more years.
Acknowledged to be one of the sport’s top stars for over 30 years, “Buzz Bomb” retired from Northeast Dirt-Track Modified racing after the 1996 season and went back to live full-time in Florida where he continues to race.
And as recently as August 2022 he visited Victory Lane at the half-mile-dirt Volusia Speedway Park with his DIRTcar UMP Modified; the modern version of his traditional No. 00 entry that still carries Dover Brake sponsorship.