He may have slipped a couple of spots in the standings after the first two Chase for the Cup races but don’t expect Brian Vickers to be too worried about it... yet.
And, as the championship fight moves to tracks where Vickers usually performs better than most, this weekend’s stop in Kansas may be the perfect place for the No. 83 Toyota driver to start making a move.
With the next three Chase races on intermediate tracks where Vickers has excelled this season, the time is now for the Red Bull man to put the pedal to the metal. Considering that he’s been in the top-16 at all intermediate tracks this season, except for the one that got away at Darlington in May, where a flat tire made things difficult and then a wreck ended his run, the Chase schedule now presents Vickers with a golden opportunity to get back into the title mix.
To do it, he’ll need to have a better race at Kansas than he did last year, when Vickers started ninth and finished 15th at the 1.5-mile, D-shaped oval.
While the slow start in the 10-race Chase wasn’t the best way to begin his first career appearance in the playoff battle for the Sprint Cup, Vickers looks forward to things going more his way in this weekend’s Price Chopper 400. “We were pleased, but not satisfied with our run at New Hampshire. And we didn’t have the car we wanted at Dover,” Vickers said.
“But we knew if we could get through those first two Chase races without any major problems — getting involved in someone else’s wreck, a mechanical failure, a cut tyre — that we’d be OK entering tracks that we’ve historically performed well at.”
So far, the early Chase numbers aren’t the greatest for the No. 83 Red Bull driver, with Vickers’ 11th in New Hampshire and 18th in Dover giving him a modest average finish of 14.5. Then again, the bright side is that the Chase races expected to be the toughest ones for the Red Bull team are already out of the way.
Vickers stormed into the Chase on a high after an incredible 10-race run that erased a 197 point deficit to the 12th and final spot. But the momentum didn’t continue as the playoff began and a sluggish start has Vickers down two spots in the standings from his qualifying position after 26 races. He’s now 151 points behind championship leader Mark Martin in 10th place. Vickers began the Chase in eighth spot, 30 points behind Martin who was seeded first due to his four wins on the season.
No. 83 crew chief Ryan Pemberton isn’t about to panic either, saying that it’s too early to start changing things two races into the Chase.
“Everything you are trying to do is trying to create the best average finish you can,” said Pemberton. “Kansas is a mile-and-a-half track and it has some similarities to some other tracks, so we’ll take some things that we liked at different race tracks like Chicago — we ran really well there — and Michigan, and then we’ll take those type tracks and look at the data and what the track does. Going to Kansas, our baseline will be one of those generic set-ups. It will be similar to one of those two tracks and then we will be ready to adjust different things.”
After the stop in Kansas on Sunday, the Chase heads to the two-mile, D-shaped oval at Fontana, California, on October 11 and then to Charlotte’s 1.5-mile Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Including Kansas, Vickers career results at the next three tracks on the schedule are encouraging, with an average finish of 13.6 in 10 starts.
'Kansas is a track where you can run anywhere, which makes for great racing' - Brian Vickers
Vickers will also take time out of his schedule to spend some time avoiding a jail term to benefit the Brienne Davis Scholarship Fund at The NASCAR Foundation. The Second Official Jail & Bail charity event goes Oct. 14 at Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson, North Carolina.
A NASCAR official, Davis died in a car accident near Charlotte last April. She was 28. The scholarship in her name helps a qualified female student to attend the NASCAR Technical Automotive Program at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC.
Fans can help Vickers raise bail money by visiting his NASCAR Foundation “Jail and Bail” page.
But for now, Vickers will focus on his next race and worry about making bail after the chequered flag flies on Sunday. “I’m excited to be back at Kansas Speedway. It’s a track where you can run anywhere, which makes for great racing,” he said. “With the multiple grooves, you can search to find the best place for your car on the track. The three-wide racing is exciting for the fans and for the drivers.”