Replacement Driver: Brian Vickers
Martinsville has always been a favorite track of mine to watch. I think I just enjoy watching the close quarters short track, rubbin’ is racin’ kind of racing because it transfers very well to a television product more so than the longer 1.5 mile midsize tracks (in most cases). Of course that’s not to say that I don’t watch the 1.5 milers, or the super speedways. If there is a Sprint Cup race it’s on I tend to be watching it (obviously or how would I write about it). Of course one of the bad thing about short tracks is that it’s quite easy to get a lap down yet not quite so easy to get that lap back- just ask Dale Jr who spent a majority of the race a lap down after trouble early in the race- but I digress because this is not a Jr. blog now is it?
What a great race Brian Vickers and Team 14 had at Martinsville in the Janssen Arnie’s Army Chevy this weekend. All practices were awesome and Brian was able to qualify the 14 car 3rd! It was an awesome effort all around.
Most people might see the qualifying effort and the result and be disappointed but I am totally NOT disappointed. The track never really rubbered in because of the cooler than anticipated track temperatures. This made the race very much a one groove race- where the inside lane was definitely the lane of preference for a majority of the drivers. That lane seemed to have the most grip so drivers fought to get down there and really only widened their line to pass other drivers by beating them into the corners. As a matter of fact there was a great example of teammates using the knowledge of this inside groove preference to their advantage. Did you catch the restart where Kyle Busch – the race leader at the time took the outside lane? What? Why did he do that if you wanted to be on the inside lane? Well I wondered the exact same thing myself until I noticed that his teammate Matt Kenseth was in second. This allowed Kyle to block a very threatening (at the time) Harvick from jumping into the line head of Kenseth after the restart and putting pressure on Busch. Then after Busch had successfully thwarted Harvick’s advance, he slipped ahead of Kenseth quite seamlessly. That is how and why you can call NASCAR a team sport. There was nothing wrong with what they did- they used their position and status as teammates to their advantage and Harvick’s disadvantage. But again I digress.
Brian Vickers ran an awesome race. He managed to stay within the top 10 of the race for a majority of the race. He only dropped out of the top 10 after one of the adjustments on the car (a tire pressure adjustment) went a bit too far and after the tire wore a bit the car felt like it had a tire going down. He even radioed in and told the crew to be ready he thought he had a tire going down. Luckily he didn’t because he started complaining about the tire after he retained some damage. Brian fell down to 15th at this time, but maintained that position despite the worry of the tire. Brian and crew chief Mike talked about it and decided between them that the different feeling was due to the slight air pressure change and a possible set of bad tires. Brian worked to maintain on the track until the team could set him back right during the next pit stop. By twenty laps after the restart Brian was solidly back in the top ten in 9th position. He got stuck in the outside lane after another restart and drifted back down to 11th but again Brian Vickers fought his way back into the top ten.
There was another caution and subsequent restart with 12 laps to go. They tried to call an audible to have him pit last minute but it was too late as Brian had already passed the entrance to pit road. He was one of the cars on old tires that stayed out. This moved him up to seventh for the restart. After the restart he worked his way up to 4th nearly immediately but then again drifted back as those older tires got the better of him. Brian ended up finishing the race 7th. Not bad at all considering how it seemed that ever time he pitted he would lose two to four positions as the team worked to make his car better, and if he wasn’t restarting on the inside lane he would lose a couple more during the restart and then he would have to gain those all back- it was very see-sawish but Brian, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and team 14 stayed positive and worked hard as a team! Way to go.
I was also pleased that it seemed that radio communication didn’t seem to be as much of an issue this week as it has in previous weeks!
Brian Vickers was the highest finishing Stewart-Haas driver with his 7th place finish (another reason to call their day a good day). Teammate Kurt Busch finished 13th, Danica Patrick finished 10th, and Kevin Harvick finished 17th.
Race winner was Kyle Busch.
Next week we are going night racing in Texas with Brian Vickers behind the wheel for the 14 TaxAct Chevy.
Gratuitous Tony Stewart Picture:
Tony worked at Martinsville during the race with Danica (he also popped onto BV’s radio a couple times on the channel to the spotter and the CC):
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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