Emil “Buzzie” Reutimann
One of the most popular of all the dirt-track Modified stock-car racers, Emil “Buzzie” Reutimann of Zephyrhills, Florida, enjoyed a lengthy career on the Northeast’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 Chevy coupe in dirt-track Modified competition when everyone else in the mid-1970s was turning to Gremlin- and Pinto-bodied race cars.
A second-generation racer, the bespectacled Reutimann (May 7, 1941) – who got his nickname when nurses in the hospital heard the newborn making “buzzing noises” – first began racing at age 13 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 dirt-track Modified racing.
The “seasonal resident” of Asbury, New Jersey – who would return to Florida in the winter to race Late Models – won the 1966 championship at the old half-mile East Windsor (N.J.) Speedway. He won 33 races at the old half-mile Nazareth (Pa.) Raceway and its 1972 & 1973 track titles, and had 33 victories at the 5/8-mile 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 Nazareth (Pa.) National Speedway in 1971; the 1972 Eastern States 200 at OCFS; the first two Schaefer 100s (1972 & 1973) at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse – the event now known as the Super DIRT Week 200; and, the 1975 National Dirt Track Championship 200 at the old Flemington (N.J.) 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, Reutimann built all of his own cars and when Modified chassis changed from reworked mid-1950s Chevrolet frames to production-built 2 x 4 items, he “Reutimann-ized” 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 Chevy coupes 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.
However, after 31 years as one of the sport’s top stars, “the 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 win in his No. 00 IMCA Modified. When not doing that, “Buzzie” Reutimann is frequently seen on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit where his driver-son David handles the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing entry.