Brian Vickers hoped his luck would change as the Sprint Cup entered the second quarter of the season, especially after a trio of tough races ruined a good start to 2010.
Although he delivered his best result in the past four races with a 20th in Saturday night’s Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway, Vickers needs to find another gear as he looks to zero in on a Chase for the Cup berth.
“Our goal is to get back in the Chase and we are going to have to do everything we can to get the momentum going back in the right direction," Vickers said. "That’s never easy, but it’s something that I know we can do."
“Fortunately, most, if not all, of what has happened to take us out of the Chase has been out of our control to a large extent.”
He inched closer to the goal of a top-12 points position on the three-quarter mile D-shaped oval in Richmond. Despite finishing one lap down on the leaders, Vickers moved up one place in the standings to 24th overall and is now 194 points out of the top 12.
"Our goal is to get back in the Chase." –Brian Vickers
The No. 82 Red Bull Toyota driver was in a Chase position going into Race 7 in Phoenix, but a crash caused by a shredded left rear tire ruined his day in the desert and relegated him to a 37th place finish. The next stop in Texas went no better, with a pair of right rear tire failures giving him headaches. He finished 38th in Texas. Those two races dropped him from 12th in the standings to 19th.
Talladega only added to his misery. After he ran near the front for most of the race a week ago, misfortune turned the race on the 2.5-mile superspeedway into his most disappointing finish so far this year.
Vickers led four times in Talladega and felt that a win was within his grasp until he was one of nine cars caught in a late race pile-up. He limped home in 29th place and dropped to 25th overall in the standings.
“Unfortunately it didn’t end up working out for us, but that’s part of Talladega,” he said.
“There’s a lot that happens there that is out of your control and there’s not a lot you are ever going to be able to do about it, so you can get frustrated all you want but it’s not going to change anything. You have to learn from everything you do there and try to avoid situations as much as possible, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.”
Vickers' misfortune in Alabama allowed teammate Scott Speed to leapfrog him in the points standings, moving the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota driver ahead of his more experienced partner for the third time this year. However, it was a short-lived advantage this time for the sophomore Sprint Cup racer.
Vickers’ top-20 result combined with Speed’s four-position drop in the standings after finishing 35th – seven laps down – in Richmond, moved Scott 12 points behind his teammate in 25th place.
While a return to the top-20 was a welcome change for Vickers, he also knows he needs to deliver better results in the next six races before the stop in Loudon, New Hampshire, where Race to the Chase officially begins.
Last year, Vickers was 17th in the standings and 197 points out of a top-12 spot when the series arrived in Loudon. There began an incredible streak of top finishes that put him into a Chase spot.
Vickers simply doesn’t want to be in that same position in 2010 however, especially after the run into the Chase last season drained the team before it began and he struggled throughout the 10-race showdown for the championship.
“We can’t wait — we have to push,” Vickers said. “We have got to continue to do everything that we can and push as much as possible."
For more on the NASCAR team go to Red Bull Racing USA