Daytona: Brian Vickers race report

Vickers kicks off the 2010 Nationwide Series season with a top-five finish at Daytona International Speedway Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 15, 2010) -- On Saturday afternoon, Brian Vickers climbed into the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota ready...

Vickers kicks off the 2010 Nationwide Series season with a top-five finish at Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 15, 2010) -- On Saturday afternoon, Brian Vickers climbed into the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota ready to kick off the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season at Daytona International Speedway. Showcasing his superspeedway talent in his solidly handling Camry, Vickers remained in the top-10 for the majority of the 120-lap race. Running as high as second, Vickers fought relentlessly as the cars shuffled positions in the final laps, bringing home a fifth-place finish in the Drive4COPD 300.

During the season-opener's two practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Vickers was pleased with the handling of his Toyota Camry and happy to be back with the Dollar General team. The team returned on Friday for the afternoon qualifying session. Heavy rains washed out the day's events and the field for Saturday's race was set by the 2009 Nationwide Series Owner's points. This placed the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota in the seventh position to start the following day's event.

Vickers climbed behind the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota knowing he had a car capable of running near the front and he remained in the top-10 as the lead cars lined up in the draft. On lap 2, the first caution of the day came out when the No. 41 and No. 4 were involved in an accident on the frontstretch.

On lap 5, cars lined up for the double-file restart with Vickers running in the top-10. The caution flag was displayed again on lap 8 when a multi-car accident occurred in turn two. The No. 32 car remained on the track during the yellow flag laps, and restarted in the ninth position when green-flag racing resumed on lap 11.

The next green flag run was long enough for Vickers to assess the car's handling. On lap 27, he told Crew Chief Trent Owens, that the car was starting to move around on the track a little.

"We are just a little too free all the way through, but overall the car feels great," Vickers reported.

On lap 43, the leaders began to come to pit road for green-flag stops and Vickers moved into the fourth position. Owens called his driver to pit road on lap 44. Making no adjustments, the Dollar General team quickly changed four tires and packed the No. 32 Camry full of fuel. Teammate Kasey Kahne, brought the No. 38 Toyota to pit road on the same lap. Returning to the track together, Vickers came on the radio and asked his spotter to relay a message to Kahne.

"Tell Kasey that I'm going to back up to him on the straightaways," said Vickers. "We can bump draft together and catch these guys."

With NASCAR's new rules allowing bump drafting, this became a valuable strategy to veteran drivers like Vickers and Kahne. After a few laps he reported again, "that worked great. We'll do that on the backstretch to start and then try it on the frontstretch, too."

By the time the yellow flag was displayed again on lap 51 for the spinning the No. 01 in turn three, the duo had advanced back into the top-15. As Vickers was bringing the Dollar General Toyota to pit road for a routine stop on lap 53, the car in front of him slammed on the brakes as it approached the commitment cone. With no room to avoid contact, the No. 32 slammed into the rear of the No. 5 car resulting in damage to the grill. Vickers continued to his pit stall, where the Dollar General team assessed the damage and topped the car off with fuel. It was agreed upon that the damage was minimal and the radiator unharmed from the contact. The extra time on pit road was costly, and Vickers restarted the race from the 21st position on lap 56.

It did not take long to prove that the frontend damage did not hinder the Dollar General Toyota. By lap 63, Vickers moved into the 12th spot. He reported that the temperature gauges were good, proving that the damage was only cosmetic.

"On older tires we have a really good car," Vickers commented over the radio. "It seems that on the new ones is when we need a little help."

On lap 67, a big wreck on the front stretch brought out the day's fourth yellow flag. Prior to the caution, Vickers had moved back into the top-10. On lap 75, he brought the No. 32 to pit road for service. The Dollar General crew quickly changed four tires, packed the car with fuel and made no adjustments to the well-handling Camry. The "eighth man" was allowed by NASCAR to go over the wall and remove a windshield tear-off. Vickers restarted from the ninth spot when green-flag racing resumed on lap 78.

Demonstrating his drafting skills, Vickers moved into the fourth position by the time the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 84, this time for debris on the backstretch. The race quickly returned to green-flag conditions on lap 88 with the No. 32 in the outside line. The inside line of cars quickly moved ahead, however, the outside group came charging back during the next lap.

With the No. 18 bump-drafting the No. 32, Vickers was in the fifth position when the excitement began. On lap 91, the cars just in front of the Dollar General Toyota made contact and began to wreck. Vickers quickly moved low on the track, narrowly missing the tumbling No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt.

Vickers exclaimed, "Wow! That's the first time I've ever seen a drive shaft go past me at 190 mph!" The team breathed a sigh of relief and continued to watch the replay, amazed at the fact that the No. 32 had emerged from the wreck completely unscathed. NASCAR officials displayed the red flag as safety crews worked to remove the debris from the damaged cars.

Vickers restarted in the fifth spot and had moved up to the second position again in only two laps when the caution flag was displayed for debris on the track. With 20 laps remaining in the race, Vickers restarted from the second spot, leading the outside line of cars down the front stretch. Again, the inside group proved to have the faster line and surged ahead when green-flag racing resumed. Cars on the high side dove to the inside as soon as they could find a hole. The No. 32 and No. 38 cars worked together again to maintain their positions.

In the closing laps, Vickers remained quiet on the radio as Lambert directed him through the 190 mph chess match that is called Daytona. Racing three-wide at times, Vickers slipped to seventh but then powered forward to take the checkered flag in the fifth position.

"We had a great handling car today," said Vickers. "Trent (Owens) and the Dollar General guys did a fantastic job, as always. I had a lot of fun working with Kasey in the No. 38. That was a perfect example of what teammates can do to help each other on a superspeedway. I want to thank Dollar General for being back with Braun Racing and the No. 32 for another season. I think we are going to have a great year!"

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Auto Club Speedway next weekend for the Stater Bros. 300. Saturday's race will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN2 starting at 5:00 p.m. EST. The green flag is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. EST.

-source: braun

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kasey Kahne , Trent Owens , Brian Vickers