RIVALS BRIAN VICKERS AND KYLE BUSCH TO SQUARE OFF AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY WITH CHASE SPOTS ON THE LINE SATURDAY NIGHT "UNDER THE LIGHTS" RICHMOND (9/10/09) -- The growing rivalry between Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers has caught...
RIVALS BRIAN VICKERS AND KYLE BUSCH TO SQUARE OFF AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY WITH CHASE SPOTS ON THE LINE SATURDAY NIGHT "UNDER THE LIGHTS"
RICHMOND (9/10/09) -- The growing rivalry between Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers has caught the attention of NASCAR fans and media on several occasions this season, and now the two drivers return to where the feud began back in May for the most important race of the season for each driver.
Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway is "One Last Race to Make the Chase," and when the green flag drops "under the lights" both Busch and Vickers will start the race outside of the top 12 in points. Vickers is in 13th position, trailing 12th-place Matt Kenseth by 20 points for the final Chase berth. Busch is 14th and trails Kenseth by 37 points, 17 behind Vickers.
With both drivers knowing they must finish better than the other and beat Kenseth, could the heated moments between Vickers and Busch during the season lead to some additional drama and fireworks during the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 Saturday night?
The rivalry between Vickers and Busch reached its boiling point back in August following the Nationwide Series race at Michigan. Hard racing between the two on the last lap of the race gave Brad Keselowski the chance to fly by on the outside and grab the win. Busch was angry about how Vickers raced him and confronted Vickers on pit road.
During the post-race press conference at Michigan both drivers addressed the incident and acknowledged the growing rivalry started at Richmond during the Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in May.
"Ever since Richmond, I've had a problem with him, racing with him on the race track," Busch said. "It's another escalation of that."
Vickers didn't hold back either.
"The Richmond incident, [Busch] got to me in the first turn and moved me up the race track, and I moved him back up the race track in the next turn."
Vickers continued to fuel the feud at Bristol when asked about sharing the same vehicle with Busch for a tense pre-race parade lap prior to the start of the race.
"I hate that he lives in such an angry place," Vickers said. "It must be miserable to live like that. That's just not the way I want to live my life."
The squabbles between the two will certainly take a backseat to preparation and focus on the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 and making the Chase for each driver, but the fact the rivalry started at Richmond and continues to flare up at times gives "One Last Race to Make the Chase" another intriguing plot line.
A look at each driver's history at America's Premier Short Track would suggest Busch has a clear advantage on Saturday night. Busch won the aforementioned May Cup race and has finished in the top five seven times in nine starts at Richmond. He has an average finishing position of 6.1 and the third-best Driver Rating among active drivers (112.1). Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award for the May race, but finished 15th. In 10 career Cup starts at Richmond, Vickers has posted just one top 10, has an average finishing position of 22.7 and Driver Rating of 57.7.
However, each driver's path to their current position in the standings has been very different on the "Road to Richmond." Vickers is perhaps the hottest driver in the series right now, recording top 10s in six of the last eight races and finishing no worse than 12th in all eight. He won at Michigan on August 16 and was seventh last week at Atlanta, pulling to within 20 points of 12th-place Kenseth and his first Chase berth. After the New Hampshire race on June 28, Vickers was 17th in the standings and 197 points out of 12th.
Busch has won four races in the Sprint Cup Series, but the season has been marked by inconsistent finishes. He has only eight top 10s overall and two DNFs. Compare that to series points leader Tony Stewart's series-high 18 top 10s and the 17 top 10s by current points runner-up Jeff Gordon. Busch won at Bristol on August 22nd, but a 13th-place finish at Atlanta left him 37 points out of the Chase and needing a great finish and help from other contenders misfortune Saturday night.
"Unfortunately, we haven't had some of the best cars this year," Busch said. "I haven't done some of the best driving I've needed to do this year. But we're trying to get back on par with the way we need to do things. If this weekend is a success, we win the race, still don't make the Chase, we did all we could."
Vickers also knows it will take a strong finish and help to be in the Chase following the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.
"Even if we accomplish our goal," Vickers said, "which is to go there, sit on the pole, lead laps, win the race, there's still no guarantee we're going to make the Chase. If Matt finishes second, there's nothing we can do about it."
So both Vickers and Busch will focus on what they can control Saturday and hope for the best. But, on the ¾-mile track and with both drivers needing to get to the front, everyone else watching will hope for some added excitement when the 83 and 18 are close to one another.
Tickets for the Saturday, September 12, Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race start at $40 and are available by calling 866-455-RACE (7223) or visiting www.rir.com.
Tickets are also available for the Friday, September 11, Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, which also include Fas Mart Pole Qualifying and practice for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, as well as WRIC-TV8 Pole Qualifying and practice for the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. To purchase tickets, contact the Richmond International Raceway ticket office at 866-455-RACE (7223) or online at www.rir.com. Friday's reserved tickets are $45 (in advance) and $50 (on race day) and general admission tickets are $35 (in advance) and $40 (on race day). Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult in general admission sections on Friday only.