It’s a shame that the first race to decide NASCAR’s championship had to come down to fuel mileage. No skin off the Red Bulls’ backs, however, as Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers finished 12th and 13th in Monday’s raindelayed Geico 400.
They each fought their own fight — Vickers hanging onto the lead lap and Kahne fighting to regain one.
Kahne spent most of the race trying to gain the free pass. He was busted for “too fast exiting” the pits approaching lap 75 and fell a lap down. It wasn’t until the final caution that the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota returned to the lead lap. From there, it was all about stretching fuel mileage over the last run to the checkered flag.
As ailing cars dove to the apron on the last lap, Kahne and Vickers — feathering the throttle — had enough to get there.
“I had a really, really good car,” Kahne said. “The team did a great job and the engine was awesome — everything was as good as it’s been all season long except I screwed up and hit the wall. When I did that, I messed the back of the car up pretty bad so we had to work on it the whole race trying to get our lap back. By the end we were actually really fast again, but the car was still screwed up from where it should have been. We had a winning team today and I just made a mistake and we didn’t get to run in the top five and shoot for that. But, we definitely had the best car we’ve had in a long time.”
Vickers, at statistically his best track, started eighth but later reported the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota was “Unstable. Car’s moving around a lot. Just lost a lot of its ability.” The No. 83 team went to work, and Vickers held onto the lead lap as the front-runners maintained a furious pace. But like his teammate and the rest of the field, Vickers restarted with 50 laps to go. He was asked to “roll, roll, roll …” through the corners in an attempt to conserve fuel.
He made it to the finish — unlike many others.
“I was disappointed. I felt like we had a better car than that Saturday,” Vickers said, who paced final practice. “We just never could get the most out of it today. The balance was right, we just didn’t have a lot of speed. We’d get a little tight and then a little loose and a little tight and kind of go back and forth on that. I felt very competitive in the corners with most of the guys I was racing with, we just couldn’t go any faster.”
Red Bull Racing PR