The team was strong throughout the 2018 All Star season, but in late September, as the schedule wound down with just two races remaining, they found themselves locked in a tight battle for the championship with Carson Macedo.

Macedo had earned five All Star wins, and with the 4-Crown at Eldora and a finale at Kokomo left on the schedule, Reutzel led by just 16 points.

At Eldora, Macedo’s night ended in an accident on lap five, while Reutzel charged forward from his fourth row starting position to take over the point on lap 12 and stayed out front for the win.

Following the checkers, Reutzel again shared the credit with crew chief Grant Boyum, adding, “I ran the top early and it was just really treacherous to run consistent laps, and my car was actually better through the middle and stayed stuck, and that’s what won us the race tonight is just having a better race car.”

A clearly emotional Reutzel relayed that “I’ve been losing sleep at night over this points battle, and I just wanna win it so bad, just to say I’m an All Star champion.”

When rain forced a cancellation of the Oct. 6 race at Kokomo, Reutzel was able to state that he was, indeed, an All Star champion.

Following the 2016 Knoxville Nationals, Keneric Racing abruptly released driver Kerry Madsen and closed operations. Their large shop, located just up the road from Knoxville Raceway, was put up for sale.

In 2018, the Baughmans purchased that shop, BRM moved in, and Reutzel and family relocated to Iowa.

“That was the only thing that took us to Knoxville is the Baughmans bought that shop,” Reutzel explained. “And I actually love the place now. It kind of reminds me of my hometown (Clute, Texas) before it, like, got crazy, crazy packed. And, there’s no traffic ever, and they’ve pretty much got it all and, if they don’t, 45 minutes down the road they’ve got it in Des Moines. So, yeah, I love living in Knoxville. Especially during Nationals.

“You get to go home to your own bed.”

Knoxville, Iowa is a bit of a tow to compete at the tracks that make up the All Stars’ schedule; however, the team has a home away from home located in Pennsylvania.

“We’re really fortunate that we have Folkens Brothers Trucking as a sponsor and supporter of our team,” Reutzel said. “They actually have a farm out there and a farm house that no one stays at, so we have that place, and it’s got a full shop that we pull the rig in and everything. So, when we’re out that way we have a place that we live at out there as well.

“We’re pretty lucky. Between Knoxville and Pennsylvania we have places to stay. So, it works out really good, actually.

Aaron Reutzel, with wife Shelbey, daughter Riley and son Carson – DOUG AULD PHOTO

“Honestly, the rig probably stays out in Pennsylvania more than anything. And then, the Baughmans are really good about making sure I get home a lot, so I get to fly home quite a bit.”

As the 2018 season came to a close, the team got to work back in Knoxville preparing for 2019.

Reutzel is a self-described “hands-on guy.” He spent three years working in an engine shop, and can weld, run a lathe, run a mill and, he said, “not totally put an engine together from scratch, but I can pretty much do anything on it.”

He touts that as an advantage that you “don’t see a lot in newer drivers.”

If they were going to improve on their performance for the next season, it was going to start in the shop. And, as he sprayed and polished his helmets, he relayed that he credits much of their success this year to the work done in the off-season.

“You know, last year was a great year, and we had some things that we felt we needed to clean up a little bit with our race team and our program, and me and the guys worked really hard all off-season in the shop. And that probably has a lot to do with it.

“Just learning from mistakes we made last year. And we knew some things that we needed to fix and, like I say, clean up a little bit and make better, and we worked really hard this off-season. We had a long off-season in the shop and, you know, last year was kind of a year too where this team didn’t come together and decide we were gonna do it until December 22nd. So, it was a way short off-season.

“This year we had our shop, and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to build a race car with welders, lathe, mill, shear, benders, all that right there in the shop with me. So, I feel like we did a little bit better on our racing equipment as well, and preparation.”

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