Darlington: Brian Vickers race report

VICKERS AND THE DOLLAR GENERAL TEAM FINISH NINTH AT DARLINGTON DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 10, 2010) -- It is always a homecoming for crew chief, Trent Owens, as he returns each year to Darlington Raceway. On this visit, driver Brian Vickers and the...


DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 10, 2010) -- It is always a homecoming for crew chief, Trent Owens, as he returns each year to Darlington Raceway. On this visit, driver Brian Vickers and the Dollar General team kept their streak of top-10 finishes alive when the NASCAR Nationwide Series traveled to the historic track for the Royal Purple 200. Starting the evening from the 17th position, Vickers drove to a ninth-place finish in the caution-riddled 147-lap event. With his fifth top-10 in his five starts this year, he helped the No. 32 Dollar General team to maintain their rank of fifth in the Nationwide Series Owners championship point standings.

Under sun-filled skies and in the steamy South Carolina heat, teams prepared for their very busy day. A 2.5-hour early morning practice session was followed with late afternoon time trials and a 7:30 p.m. ET start to the 50th Nationwide Series race at the 1.366-mile track. The tone for the race was set early as the No. 62 shot into the outside wall, just in front of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota. With the quick guidance of his spotter, Chris Lambert, Vickers expertly maneuvered past the car and narrowly escaped an early exit from the race.

As the first caution flag of the evening slowed the field, Vickers reported on the car's handling to Owens.

"It is a little loose all the way through the turns," he said. "Not a bad loose, though, it's very drivable."

Green-flag racing resumed on lap 11 with the Dollar General Toyota in the 14th position. As cars began to pick up speed, the field became bunched up in the first turn.

"They're stacking up," reported Lambert. "Go low, go low!" A moment later he praised his driver, "Nice job!"

"Thanks," Vickers replied. "I think I got hit in the right rear a little. Can you check it for me?"

Lambert observed the No. 32's next lap and told Vickers that there was no visible damage on the Camry.

By lap 15, Vickers broke into the top-10, taking over the eighth position on lap 25. On lap 27, NASCAR threw the yellow flag for an accident in turn three. As he circled the track, Vickers gave Owens a detailed rundown of the car's handling.

"We are loose going into turn one," Vickers told Owens. "We're free coming out of [turn] two, free going into turn three and we are tight off of four.

Owens called his driver to pit road on lap 28. The Dollar General crew quickly changed four tires, made a track bar adjustment and packed the car with fuel. Despite some teams electing to take two tires, their quick service returned the No. 32 Toyota to the track in the ninth spot for the restart on lap 32.

Vickers immediately went to work and had advanced the No. 32 into the seventh position when a multi-car accident in turn four slowed the field once again on lap 34. The race resumed on lap 40. As the No. 12 suddenly slowed, Vickers dove to the inside and moved into the top-five. He fought hard to maintain the position, but slid to sixth when the caution was displayed on lap 58 as the No. 6 car made contact with the turn three wall.

"We're still a comfortable loose," he reported. Except in turn four, we "are still a little tight there."

"Ok," Owens replied. "Let's see what the lead cars do here. I want to stay on the same fuel strategy." As the leaders drove to pit road on lap 60, Owens called out, "pit, pit!"

The Dollar General crew quickly changed two tires with air pressure adjustments and added fuel. The two-tire call put the No. 32 Toyota in the second position for the restart on lap 63, lining up side-by-side with Braun Racing teammate, Kasey Kahne, in the No. 38 Great Clips Camry.

It was a battle for each position, and cars that took four fresh tires on the last pit stop eventually prevailed as the Dollar General Toyota slipped to the fifth spot on lap 68. However, Vickers took the fourth position back and remained there until the green-flag run was interrupted by the yellow flag on lap 80.

Owens began to instruct his team on the adjustments he wanted made when the Camry came to pit road. He called his driver to pit road on lap 82. The No. 32 crew quickly changed four tires with air pressure adjustments and packed the Dollar General Toyota with fuel. Despite their fast service, some teams opted to take two tires, fuel only or to stay out, moving Vickers back to the ninth spot for the restart.

Green-flag racing resumed on lap 85 and Vickers was immediately engaged in a side-by-side battle for position. The sixth caution of the night was brought out on lap 91 for an accident in turn three. Due to the short-lived green flag run, Owens told his driver that they would be staying out on the track.

When the race restarted on lap 96, Vickers fought to take the seventh spot away from the No. 33 car. By lap 100, he made the pass and turned his sights to the next two positions, gaining ground with each lap. By lap 105, he took over the sixth position.

"You're clear by three and running two-tenths faster than the No. 99," his spotter encouraged him. "Go get him!"

Vickers had climbed to the fifth spot before a spinning car in turn two brought out the yellow flag on lap 122. He took the opportunity to update his crew chief on the car's handling.

"It is a lot better in turn three now," Vickers told Owens. "It's the best we've been there all night. We are a little tight in the centers of one and two, but it is a lot better getting into the corners."

Owens instructed the Dollar General crew to change only two tires with air pressure adjustments and to only add a little bit of fuel, but not a full can. This would guarantee they would be safe through a series of green-white-checkered finishes, should they occur. Vickers brought the No. 32 car to pit road on lap 124. When he lined up for the restart, he was in the sixth position, behind cars that stayed out or took fuel-only in the pits.

As green-flag race resumed on lap 127, the Dollar General Toyota was in the outside line. A car ahead of him slowed on the restart, allowing for the cars on the inside to power past the Vickers. The caution flag was displayed on lap 129 as the No. 16 spun on the track. From the seventh spot, Vickers reported that the car's handling had tightened drastically.

"We're tight everywhere right now," Vickers said. "The car is great on the longer runs. I was really hoping we'd stay green here. Getting stuck behind that car on the restart sure didn't help our track position."

When the race restarted on lap 133, the No. 32 was in the seventh position. Vickers worked to gain ground, but a subsequent caution flag on lap 136 halted his progress. In the final dash to the checkered flag, Vickers slipped to ninth. It was not the result that the team had hoped for, as the car was much better than the finish depicted. However, Vickers collected his fifth top-10 finish in five starts in the Dollar General Toyota this season. The Dollar General team retained their fifth position in the Nationwide Series Owner's Championship point standings.

"This is the best we have ever unloaded here at Darlington," said Vickers, after the race. "The Dollar General team brought a great car this weekend. The ninth-place finish definitely doesn't do it justice. We really just needed better track position. I completely agreed with the two-tire stop at the end, but in hindsight, we needed to stay out to be up front. The last few restarts killed us, too. We got stuck behind some slow cars that stayed out on old tires. I am looking forward to being back with these guys in a few weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway."

Reed Sorenson returns to drive the Dollar General Camry in next weekend's Heluva Good! 200 at Dover International Speedway.

-source: braun racing

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Drivers Kasey Kahne , Trent Owens , Brian Vickers , Reed Sorenson