There was no Tango or Mambo. No Samba or Rumba. Rather, Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne danced the Talladega Two Step all the way to Red Bull Racing Team’s best combined finish in the organization’s five-year history.
Vickers finished fifth and Kahne sixth in Sunday’s Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Before the combined total of 11, the team had two 13’s to show for itself — the most recent coming last April when Kahne finished third and Vickers 10th at Richmond.
Restrictor-plate racing at NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track has evolved into mini two-car packs — a 180 from the one mega pack that made Talladega famous and infamous at the same time. These days, a single dancing partner is the fastest way around the 2.66-mile layout.
Naturally, the two Red Bull Toyotas were partners from the very start. Kahne started 26th, Vickers 30th, and the two pulled and pushed each other into the top five within 10 laps. They were inseparable and at one point — with 59 laps to go — became too close.
Kahne made a move for the lead to the outside of the Robby Gordon-Trevor Bayne tandem. Vickers followed, but his No. 83 tagged the team car, sending Kahne’s No. 4 spinning down the frontstretch. “Sorry about that, Kasey,” Vickers radioed to Kahne. “You pulled out so quick, I just turned you around.”
No harm. Kahne didn’t hit anything and kept the car straight. Both cars pitted and reconnected soon after under green. They restarted in the back, but were back in the top five within 17 laps. Their final pit stop, under the race’s seventh caution, put them back in 30th and 32nd and within eight laps were the third tandem in line.
After a five-car accident in turn two, the ninth and final yellow flag waved with seven laps to go set up a green-white-checkered finish. Vickers and Kahne restarted third and fourth, but had nothing for the lead tandem of race winner Clint Bowyer and teammate Jeff Burton. And a second tandem — Dave Blaney and Brad Keselowski — stole third and fourth.
“This racing is nerve-wracking. Takes about two hours to go to sleep after this. Your mind is going 100 miles per hour."
“This racing is nerve-wracking. Takes about two hours to go to sleep after this. Your mind is going 100 miles per hour,” said Vickers, a former Talladega winner who earned his third top five of the season and fourth at the track.
“The Red Bull team did a great job working together. Either Kasey was the leader or I was in the lead. We had to go to the back like four or five times and always made it back to the front. We just didn’t have enough at the end. Guys got on our door and the 33 (Bowyer) and 31 (Burton) got away. They were strong all day. So we knew they were going to be tough at the end.”
For Kahne, it was his 13th top 10 of the season and fifth consecutive finish of sixth or better. Never in his eight-year Sprint Cup career (284 races) has Kahne put together so many solid showings in a row.
“We worked well all day with Brian. Great communication between both Red Bull teams,” Kahne said. “Once we got together we could work our way up front. This team continues to work hard, and we have been so close the last few weekends. Just needed a little more for one of us to win, but this momentum is good for us and for the entire Red Bull organization.”
The Red Bull Toyotas combined to lead five times for seven laps, a mere footnote as there were 72 lead changes among 26 drivers.
Kahne improved to 14th in the driver standings. He’s 19 points behind Bowyer in 13th — the highest position a non-Chaser can achieve. Vickers remained 25th in points with four races remaining.
Follow Red Bull Racing Team on Twitter: @RedBullNASCAR.