SPEED & ...
SPEED & SWEDE SURVIVE SONOMA
If they didn't know his name then, they know it now.
Mattias Ekstrom, the 31-year-old Red Bull driver from Sweden, finished 21st in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut Sunday at Infineon Raceway. But the result doesn't tell the whole story of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.
"I cannot say from my heart that I am happy with 21st," he said.
Nor should he be.
He started 38th and pitted early under the first caution. And as the front half of the field pitted under green soon after, Ekstrom cycled to the front and into the lead for seven laps. Ekstrom gave way to fresh tires, pitted from the third position and rejoined traffic in 21st. That was the No. 83 team's strategy pit and charge back to the front, pit and charge back to the front.
The day had all the makings of a top-10 finish. That was until lap 92 when the No. 12 of Brad Keselowski hooked the No. 83, sending Ekstrom spinning off course in turn eight. After a stop to repair cosmetic damage, Ekstrom dropped from 11th to 34th. A late caution with eight laps remaining allowed him to pick off more than 10 cars to finish 21st.
"Everything matched my expectations," Ekstrom said. "Everyone raced hard and raced hard from the beginning of the race. It is unfortunate we couldn't get a better result. The car felt awesome all race, especially in long runs. Everyone at Red Bull and Red Bull Racing Team has been so great to me for giving me this opportunity. It felt great to lead my first laps in NASCAR."
No. 82 driver Scott Speed was on a completely different strategy from his teammate.
He, too, pitted under the first caution and cycled to the front on the ensuing green-flag run. The team kept pitting to correct the handling on the front end. Speed, who at one point ran as high as third, discovered early that his No. 82 Red Bull Toyota was "too loose at high speed, too tight at low speed" and that the car was "plowing" in turn 11. But he hung on to it, and kept the No. 82 within striking distance of the top 15 all afternoon.
Two late caution flags spoiled the team's fuel strategy. He was running 15th on the second-to-last restart with 17 laps to go, but the yellow waved again with eight laps remaining. Speed wanted tires, and crew chief Ryan Pemberton granted him his wish. Speed restarted 28th for the five-lap shootout, and picked up 10 positions in less than 10 miles to finish 18th.
It was the California native's best road-course finish in three starts. Last season, he finished 37th at Infineon and 22nd at Watkins Glen. Speed remained 26th in the driver standings, while the No. 83 picked a position in car owner points to 24th.
This week, Speed will move on to New Hampshire. For Ekstrom, it's back to Europe and his regular job as driver of Audi Sport's No. 5 A4 DTM in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series. He'll next race July 4 at Germany's Norisring.
Lenox Industrial Tools 301, Sunday, June 27, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
-source: red bull racing team