LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — David Reutimann’s lofty preseason expectations at making the Chase have been whittled to a bundle of frayed nerves with nine championship-or-bust races to go.

He has no desire to scan the points standings to check how far away he is from landing a spot in the 12-car field.

“There’s no really point,” he said. “I figure when you get close to where you need to be, someone will let me know.”

No one has told Reutimann he’s close enough to drive for the title — yet.

Reutimann has been as steady as any driver over the last nine races, finishing somewhere between fifth and 20th. He’s been consistent enough in the No. 00 to make the Chase reachable, just not strong enough to make a huge leap in points.

At least he hasn’t wrecked his way out of chances.

Reutimann knows he’s running out of time to catapult his way into the top 12 and qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. With nine races left until the field is set, Reutimann is finding himself a long shot.

He’s 150 points behind Carl Edwards for the 12th and final spot. It’s not out of reach, but the 19th-place Reutimann would have to surge past six drivers to run for the championship over the last 10 races.

“We need top-fives everywhere you look in order to gain ground,” Reutimann said. “We definitely have our work cut out for us, but if we run like we’re supposed to run, we can legitimately still do it.”

Reutimann can point to some disastrous bad luck early in the season if he fails to make the Chase. He suffered blown motors at Atlanta, Bristol and Texas — all races where he was running inside the top 10. He finished 28th or worse in four of five miserable races from Atlanta to Texas earlier this season to sink in the standings.

“The stuff we had happen to us at the beginning of the year, it’s hard to make up for that,” he said. “We’ve been as far back as 30th and we’ve been able to kind of claw back to where we are now.”

Reutimann knows how to claw back as well as just about any driver in the Cup series. He made his debut in NASCAR’s top level at 35, competing in one race in 2005. Reutimann didn’t drive in the series again until 2007 and for only 26 races.

One of the nicest guys in the garage, he landed a full-time ride in 2008 and won his first Cup race last year.

Reutimann, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, flirted with making the Chase for the first time last season. He was within six points of Mark Martin for 12th place at one point, before fading to finish 16th overall.

His run heightened expectations at MWR that he could bust through and find his name in the championship hunt with Chase veterans such as Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.

“Our performance has been well above what we did last year,” he said. “We just had some mechanical failures that have relegated us to 40th or worse in some of those races. We had good cars in all those races, and just had some failures. That’s all that put us back. Performance-wise, we’re better. Finishing, not so much.”

He’s heating up at the right time.

In the last nine races, Reutimann has scored 1,147 points — eighth most of any driver — and moved from 30th in points to 19th. The 11-position gain is the largest of any driver over that span. Reutimann and Harvick are the only two drivers to finish on the lead lap of the last nine races.

Up ahead this week is a return trip Daytona, where Reutimann finished fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500.

Reutimann is looking for more than a few wins — he’s still waiting to sign his new contract with MWR. He’s signed a series of one-year deals since joining MWR in 2007, and extended job security was something he wanted during talks on another extension that have lingered for months.

Team owner Michael Waltrip said in May that a new deal was “imminent.”

Both sides are still apart.

“It would help a lot just to be done with it and not have to worry about it anymore,” Reutimann said. “Everybody’s trying to get in the same place. I think we’re pretty close to being on the same sheet. You used to shake a guy’s hand and go drive his race car. That’s not the way it works anymore.”

Reutimann isn’t overly concerned about putting the finishing touches on his deal or reading the updated standings after each race.

He wants to reward MWR for its faith in him by qualifying for the Chase. This deep into the season, there’s really only one way to get there.

“We need to win some races,” he said. “Not just a race, but races.”

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