Brian Vickers recorded Toyota's first top-five finish in NASCAR Nextel Cup competition tonight when he crossed the finish line fifth in the No. 83 Red Bull Camry. The fifth-place finish by Vickers is his best result of the season. His previous...
Brian Vickers recorded Toyota's first top-five finish in NASCAR Nextel Cup competition tonight when he crossed the finish line fifth in the No. 83 Red Bull Camry. The fifth-place finish by Vickers is his best result of the season. His previous best finish this season was 10th at California (Feb. 25). Vickers led tonight's race four times for a total of 76 laps. Prior to tonight, Vickers had led a total of eight laps in 2007. Prior to tonight's race, Toyota had led a total of 14 laps this season.
Dave Blaney finished 18th tonight in the No. 22 Caterpillar Camry. Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the 360 OTC Camry, finished 25th. Mayfield led three laps in tonight's race before retiring from the race after 382 laps. AJ Allmendinger battled back from an early incident and returned to the field to finish 31st in the No. 84 Red Bull Camry. Dale Jarrett retired early after transmission problems in the No. 44 UPS Camry and ended up 40th.
Five Toyota Camrys started tonight's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This equals the most Camrys to start a NNCS race this season. The other two events where five Camrys took the green flag were the races at Bristol and Martinsville. This is the first non-COT (Car of Tomorrow) race where five Camrys have made the starting field.
How are you feeling after 600 mile tonight with no power steering? "I'm feeling pretty worn out, but running 600 miles with no power steering is rough. We had a great car all night tonight and that really helped me get through the night. The Team Red Bull guys did a great job in the pits and we definitely had the car to beat. Every time we got into the lead, the only thing that was really hurting us was getting too far out in front -- we really didn't want to see a lot of those cautions. If we could've just had power steering, I really think we could have won this race. We lost a starter during the race too and that really hurt us when we were trying to get out of the pits."
How would you rate tonight as far as your team's performance? "I think we had the best car tonight and we showed that every time we took the lead. I think this is at the top as far as performance for everyone on this team. We struggled through so many tough times tonight with the power steering problem, the starter going out and cutting down the right-front tire. But, nobody on the team gave up all night -- we just kept going after it all night."
What does this say about the Toyota program? "This says a lot about the Toyota program. They gave us some more motor this weekend and I think it showed. I still don't think that we're where we need to be on the bottom end, but we have plenty of power on the top-end. That's why the high groove was working so good for me tonight because I was able to keep it wound up and not let it run down. We lost the power steering and that hurt my ability to run the top groove because I was fighting to turn the car off the corner."
Was there a noticeable difference with the motor tonight? "It was definitely a noticeable difference and we knew that coming here. It showed in qualifying with the number of Toyotas that made the race. It really shows what the engine is capable of when you can get the motor wound up and keep it wound up. We were really able to show that when we ran up top and were able to pull away from the other guys. Running the bottom lane, which seemed to be a little faster at night, hurt us a little bit because we still have to work on getting out of the hole. I'm just so proud of Toyota -- they've come so far and worked so hard and that has made such a huge difference. It made a big difference for me tonight and that showed with our performance."
How wild was this night for you? "It was definitely a bit of a wild night -- I couldn't decide if I wanted it to stay green or if I wanted cautions because I was battling the power steering. It was nice having a break under the cautions, but it was so hard to get going on the restarts. It felt good to just get out there on those long runs and get into a rhythm. But, right now everything hurts, my arms, my elbow -- 600 miles is a long night and it's even longer without any power steering. This is probably the hardest race I've ever run."
JEREMY MAYFIELD, No. 36 360 OTC Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing Finished: 25th
Does it boost your confidence to run good here in Charlotte? "Tonight was very good for us. Although we didn't get the finish we wanted or the finish we had the car for, it was big for us to come here and run at the front -- it was great to lead some laps and mix it up again. We had a strong test here a few weeks ago, and everybody on the team has been getting to know each other better, so I knew a day like this was coming. We've been working too hard to not see any gains, and tonight, we saw some big gains."
Could you feel the difference with the updated Toyota engine? "It made all the difference in the world. We still need just a little bit more, but I could definitely tell the difference. It was unfortunate we couldn't finish this one, but I think we'll keep getting better and start getting some good finishes."
AJ ALLMENDINGER, No. 84 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Team Red Bull Finished: 31st
What happened in the first incident with Jimmie Johnson? "With Jimmie (Johnson), it was one of those things where I just got loose and got up into him. You never want to get into the leaders. But, when you see the lead lap right there in front of you and there are two cars fighting -- it can get a little crazy. We just need to start these races better because we're terrible when we start. We start bad and drop to the back. That's partly me trying to learn what I need to feel in the car at the start. I just got under Jimmie and he wouldn't give me much room -- which was his choice. I got the air taken off of me and got up into him. I hated to get up into him and I was glad I didn't wreck him. I asked my spotter to apologize to his spotter."
What happened in the second incident? "The second incident was just unavoidable. I saw Tony (Raines) spin and I just saw everything in front of me. I knew where they were heading when they started spinning. I missed him and unfortunately Jeff (Gordon) was in the grass trying to avoid him and came back up -- we hit pretty good. It was a hard hit, but luckily it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It didn't bend as much on the car as I thought it would."
DALE JARRETT, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finished: 40th
What happened that took you out of the race? "We had a transmission problem that blew the motor up. I knew it from the beginning and tried to be really careful. I don't know what's wrong with the gate that's supposed to keep it from going from third to second gear. I needed to be careful on the restarts, and it started jumping out of gear when I was riding around under the pace laps. I wasn't as careful as I needed to be on that last restart and over-revved the engine. I hate it for our team because we were going to have a real good night and that's what we need."
-credit: toyota motorsports