And the hits just kept on coming. And coming. And coming.
By the time Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 was complete, 18 caution flags had waved that consumed more than a fifth of the 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway, putting the pace car third on the laps led list with 108. Brian Vickers, according to NASCAR’s cumulative report, was involved in five of them — three before lap 100.
Vickers drove into the top 10 courtesy of longer runs in the race’s middle stages and was running ninth with 50 laps to go. But the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, already beaten and battered, took its worst shot when Matt Kenseth punted Vickers’ car into the turn-three wall with 42 laps to go. That irked an already frustrated driver, and Vickers, who had gone from a possible top 10 to multiple laps down, countered on Kenseth not long after in the same spot.
The end result? A 30th-place finish and a scrap heap of a race car that didn’t see the checkered flag for only the second time this season.
“Right there at the end, we just took ourselves out of it. We were in the game and now we’re out of the game — after all that."
“These are the races where we all get to capitalize on it and do all the other things right, keep working hard and get yourself back in the game,” said Ryan Pemberton, Vickers’ crew chief. “Right there at the end, we just took ourselves out of it. We were in the game and now we’re out of the game — after all that. Four or five hours into the race and we finally get into good position, like, ‘OK, here’s the chance to capitalize on something.’ And we didn’t even have the chance to swing the bat.”
The race easily could have seen a 19th caution flag, but NASCAR officials opted not to wave the yellow when Bobby Labonte’s No. 47 spun on frontstretch and collected Kasey Kahne’s No. 4 Red Bull Toyota. There had been five caution periods up to that point, but not this time.
“I think NASCAR was ticked off … there was five cautions in, like, five laps,” Kahne said. “So they were like, ‘The heck with it, we’re not throwing a caution for this one.’ Even though we hit pretty hard. That was the hardest wreck I’ve ever been in where there wasn’t a caution. It was a hard wreck.”
Kahne pitted under green for repairs two laps later and fell five laps down. Despite driving what Kahne labeled as a “great car” and taking several wave-arounds, it hardly helped. He finished five laps off the pace in 25th — his first finish outside the top 15 in the past seven races.
“You knew it was going to happen. We got caught up in one on the frontstretch, which just crushed us,” Kahne said. “We actually had a really good Red Bull Toyota. Not saying we would’ve finished up front because the next 400 laps we could’ve hit a wall way harder than we did with everybody being so rowdy. It was interesting.”
Kahne slipped a spot in the standings to 15th. He’s one point behind Greg Biffle in 14th and 25 behind 13th-place Clint Bowyer with three races remaining. Vickers still sits 25th.
Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.