Red Bull Racing Team’s gamble didn’t come at the casino adjacent to Dover International Speedway. The roll of the dice came on pit road.
No. 83 crew chief Ryan Pemberton called for a two-tire stop under the final caution flag in Sunday’s FedEx 400. Would Brian Vickers’ aging left-side rubber hold up for the last 33 laps? Would he be able to hold off the cars that took four fresh ones? Or would the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota get gobbled up?
Yes. Yes. And definitely no.
After overcoming an early brush with the inside wall and flirting with the top 10 for much of race, Pemberton knew track position was the ticket to a strong showing. Vickers entered pit road for that decisive stop in 11th, restarted fourth and held on for a fifth-place finish — his first top five in a season defined by bad luck.
“I have to thank the Red Bull guys — they did a great job with the car,” said Vickers, who earned his best Dover finish since a sixth in June 2005. “It was definitely a team effort this weekend, both of the teams were working really close together. Ryan and the guys made good calls all day in the pits. Good stops all day. All we needed was track position and that’s why you fought so hard for every spot.”
The top-five also had special significance for the 27-year-old Vickers. The 2010 edition of this 400-miler was the first race Vickers missed due to a blood-clot condition. “It’s a special race for me,” Vickers said. “Last year, I didn’t make it here. Last year, I was lying in the hospital with IVs in both arms when this race was going around. It feels pretty good to finish it — and finish it well.”
Vickers’ teammate, Kasey Kahne, was on target for his third consecutive top five. That was until the engine in his No. 4 Red Bull Toyota quit on lap 331. Kahne came to a stop high in turn two and had to get a push off the track so the team could diagnose the problem. He finished 36th, with his official post-race status being listed as “engine.”
“We had a great Red Bull Toyota. The car was fast,” Kahne said. “I was really loose, and we kept working on it. We got up there and then would fall back on the runs. Early on, it was like there was something wrong on restarts. I over revved it one time, trying to get it to go. I think that had something to do with why the engine let go, and it was probably a little bit my fault. But it wasn’t running. Kind of a bad deal.”
Kahne dropped three spots in the driver standings to 18th. He’s 42 points out of 10th. Vickers picked up two positions to 27th, but is still 43 points out of 20th.
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