Replacement Driver: Brian Vickers
First I want to start off by stating that I think that this downforce package that the cars are running this season has really upped the racing quality. The races seem to be more action filled meaning that cars seem to be able to get close to each and swap positions and leads back and forth a lot. They seem to be able to recover from penalties like starting at the end of the longest line because previously starting at the back would always mean your day was over. Now it doesn’t necessarily mean that if you have the machine and the driver to back it up. And I like that A whole LOT especially since I have watched races at Auto Club both on TV and in person- and the quality of the actual racing has really improved in my opinion.
Brian Vicker’s run in the 14 car last Sunday was a testament to that improved racing. He started 24th in the Janssen Arnie’s Army Chevy at Auto Club on Sunday. At the start of the race- Vicker’s complained that the car was too tight yet was able to work his way inside the top 20 by lap nine despite the handling issue. He ended up smacking the outside wall a tad with the right side of the car and soon after developed a tire rub. Unfortunately that tire rub damaged the tire and by lap 24 Brian had to bring the car into the 14 pit crew because the tire was coming apart. It was at this point the Brian ended up losing not one but two laps getting the tire changed and fenders pulled out on the right side so that they didn’t touch the tire. When he rejoined the race he was two laps down, a fact that Brian questioned because when he came out of the pits the first caution of the day flew and Brian thought that he had gotten one of the laps back by passing the leader before the caution came out. Unfortunately NASCAR ruled that that wasn’t the case. The team immediately got one of their laps back by taking the wave around.
They got the second lap back by racing for and gaining the lucky dog position so that when Kyle Larson spun and hit the wall he was able to get the 14 car back on the lead lap. It was around this point in the race that it seemed that tires would be the key to this race. Some drivers were having problems with them going down or cording really bad through out a run. However after most of Brian’s pit stops (all but one that I heard) he was told that his tire wear looked really good and the one where the tire wear looked questionable they thought it had to do with the pressures they were running on the other side of the car putting more pressure on those tires.
One thing I will say about team 14 this season so far- is they seem plagued by radio issues. I don’t know what is up with that- but it seems like Bob can’t hear Mike, or driver can’t hear someone. This race was no exception and at one point Mike’s radio went out and he could only talk on the driver spotter channel- which sometimes caused issues where Bob and Mike would try to talk at the same time and Brian couldn’t hear either one of them. I hope that this gets fixed quick.
So anyway, by lap 100 (halfway point) Brian was running 17th, working through lapped traffic and keeping up with the pace of the race. He worked his way up slowly through the field during the latter half of the race and took advantage of passing on restarts and had worked his way up to 10th place with about 40 laps left in the race he then drifted back a little to 13th and then 15th, but had then worked his way back up to 11th. With two laps to go caution came out and overtime was initiated. With all the hard racing in overtime, the 14 car ended up 13th at the end of a hard raced day.
The race winner was hometown boy Jimmie Johnson, sporting a Superman paint scheme while Dale Jr had been sporting a Batman paint scheme. The pair had been dueling out the #HeroFaceoff in social media all week long but ultimately Superman won this round.
Stewart-Haas teammate Kevin Harvick finished after leading the most laps of the day at 142, Kurt Busch finished 3oth and Danica came in 38th after contact with Kahne sent her into the wall (something we will talk about in Loose Lugnuts- I am hoping to get a penalty report first).
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart:
While I would much rather him be in the car this last season it was good that he was at the track and on the radio helping where he could:
If you want to take part in Project: Smoke In My Eyes there is still time. Check out the link for more information.
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