Sixth place goes down in the record books as just that: sixth. It's not a shiny number. It's a solid number. And for a team that's been blanked by a 1-mile slick and slippery race track for the past four years, sixth is quite an accomplishment.
"To come out of here with a top 10, I'm pretty happy," Kasey Kahne said.
Kahne and the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota finished — you guessed it — sixth in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The result tied Kahne’s second-best finish at Phoenix, but it was Red Bull Racing Team’s best performance by a mile. Kahne started third, ran up front all day and felt good leaving a race track that has kicked the tails off the Red Bulls over the years.
“We started getting the car better the longer the race went on, but it was a lot of adjustments and a great job by the pit guys,” Kahne said. “Kenny Francis (crew chief) did a great job with the adjustments to get the car better. We were going the right direction, it just took us 258 laps to get there. These Red Bull cars are quick.”
Kahne’s teammate, Brian Vickers, was not so fortunate on a brisk day in the desert. His No. 83 Red Bull Toyota took a fatal kiss from the No. 17 on lap 67. That smooch came off turn two, Vickers went spinning down the backstretch and collected 13 other cars in what was labeled as “the Big One” on a small track.
“Everyone is racing hard. Everybody wants to win and do well. Track position is really important out there right now,” Vickers said. “I felt like that was pretty unnecessary this early in the race. I would have felt that was unnecessary at the end of the race. That’s fine, we’ll come back from this. I hate it for the Red Bull crew, we had a really good car. I was really happy with it. We were running up front most of the race.”
Indeed, Vickers and Kahne were running fifth and sixth — side-by-side — when the No. 83 went spinning. But instead of a quality day, Vickers endured another dismal one.
“In general,” Vickers said, “I think everyone is racing hard because track position is important. All the cars are so even and it’s so hard to pass right now. You can get beside someone and it’s very difficult to complete the pass. Guys are really racing hard for that position — for every single spot. But in general, I didn’t have anybody that I felt raced me unnecessarily hard or unnecessarily rough until we got wrecked.”
After two races, Vickers ranks 33rd in points — a puffy 53 points off the leader. Kahne sits 15th (23 back) as the series stays west with a race in Las Vegas.
Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.