With cars spinning all over the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Team Red Bull driver Scott Speed zigged, while teammate Brian Vickers zagged.
And although they took different routes to get through the late-race carnage unscathed, both ended the Kobalt Tools 500 with top-ten finishes.
Speed continued his strong start to 2010 by finishing in 10th, giving him three top-20 finishes in four starts and putting him into 12th overall in points, tied with four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon.
“This is awesome,” Speed said. “I'm so happy with all of the progress we've all made and I know how much still I have to learn, so I'm really optimistic for the future.”
"To be dog fighting up there... that is huge for us. This top-10 means a lot. – Scott Speed
For Vickers, a much-needed seventh place ended the frustration of the past four races where he simply couldn’t get to grips with his Red Bull Toyota. It was his first top-10 finish since last September’s Chevy Rock and Roll 400 in Richmond, Virginia, the result that saw him qualify for the 2009 Chase for the Cup.
“That was pretty wild,” Vickers said after the finish. “We were okay today, we weren't great. We started out really good and then as everybody else got better we just couldn't seem to make any gains. At one point we actually probably made it a little bit worse but then by the end of the race I think we figured out how to make the car a little better.”
The late-race mêlée happened during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Jamie McMurray slid into Clint Bowyer at Turn 3 and started a chain reaction that involved seven cars. Vickers tiptoed through the blue smoke and twisted cars along the outside wall. Speed dove to the apron and just missed getting caught up in the wreck as the cars slid to the bottom of the track.
When the crash occurred, Vickers and Speed were running in the mid-teens. When the dust cleared, both moved up to top-10 positions and stayed there until the checkered flag.
It was a welcome change of luck for Vickers after a slow start to the season. “From what I've seen so far this year, a lot of the teams made a lot of gains over the winter and we're still running the same thing we finished the year with. We found some gains this week that made us a lot better than last week, but we still need a little bit more.
“We have to try to find a little more potential in our cars. We just don't have the grip and the speed that we really need to run with some of these guys right now, but we'll find it.”
Two cars in the top-20 in points is a great shot in the arm for the team. Speed was especially pleased. “To be dog fighting up there and to be able to scrounge and make really aggressive moves on my part and to be able to see the thing go forward, that is huge for us. This top-10 means a lot.”
The drivers' finishes in Atlanta mark the third-best combined finish in Red Bull Racing Team history. As a testament to the team's strong start in 2010, two of the top five combined team finishes have come from this season:
13: Talladega Superspeedway, April 26, 2009 - Vickers 8th, Speed 5th
14: Pocono Raceway, June 8, 2008 - Vickers 2nd, A.J. Allmendinger 12th
17: Atlanta Motor Speedway, March 7, 2010 - Vickers 7th, Speed 10th
19: Chicagoland Speedway, July 12, 2008 - Vickers 6th, Allmendinger 13th
23: California Speedway, February 21, 2010 - Vickers 12th, Speed 11th