Michigan International Speedway
Little — Or No — Mercy At Michigan
Had it not been for the long, flat stretch of pavement that connects the two ends of the frontstretch, who knows what the Red Bull Toyotas could’ve accomplished Sunday?
But that stretch of pavement, commonly called pit road, essentially ended any chance of the Red Bull Toyotas contending for a victory in the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
While running fourth, Vickers pitted under green on lap 157. Here’s where it gets messy: Vickers’ No. 83 Red Bull Toyota had crossed the start-finish line before the fourth caution flag waved one lap later. Should he have been allowed to exit pit road, race back around and top off the tank when the leaders all came in?
Either way, NASCAR officials scored the No. 83 one lap down. The team was forced to take the wave-around and restarted 20th on lap 163. Vickers drove to 15th over the next 27 laps, got a timely caution, took right-side tires and resumed his ascent. He climbed to 10th at the checkered flag for his fifth top 10 of the season and eighth in 13 starts at the 2-mile oval.
“That pretty much screwed us the rest of the race,” Vickers said. “We were racing at the back of the field, trying to get track position again when we should’ve been racing the leaders. But the guys were awesome in the pits all day. It was a good points day for us, even though we should have finished higher. It’s good to continue chipping away at the points.”
For Kahne, how his day unfolded was far more simple.
Just past lap 150, Kahne peeled onto pit road while running in the top five. Problem was, the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota was out of gas, which makes it ultra difficult for a car to re-fire. As competitors zoomed past under green, Kahne kept trying to re-fire the car. Once the No. 4 came to life and Kahne returned to the race, he was two laps down and outside the top 30. He eventually finished a lap down in 28th.
Despite the tough day, Kahne later wrote on his Twitter page: “RED BULL 4 was awesome today!” Indeed it was, as Kahne qualified eighth, ran in the top 15 for nearly 70 percent of the race and had the eighth-fastest car under green. And only four drivers passed more top-15 cars under green.
Vickers climbed two spots in the driver standings to 24th — 28 points out of 20th. Kahne slipped to 19th — 13 points ahead of 20th-place Martin Truex Jr. but still 68 points out of 10th.