Fontana: Brian Vickers race report

Vickers brings home a top-10 finish in the Dollar General Toyota at Auto Club Speedway Fontana, Calif. (February 22, 2010) -- Brian Vickers and the Dollar General team traveled to the west coast this weekend for the Stater Bros. 300. Starting...

Vickers brings home a top-10 finish in the Dollar General Toyota at Auto Club Speedway

Fontana, Calif. (February 22, 2010) -- Brian Vickers and the Dollar General team traveled to the west coast this weekend for the Stater Bros. 300. Starting the afternoon in the seventh spot, Vickers drove a solid race, never falling out of the top-10. He concluded the 303-mile event, extended due to the green-white-checkered finish, in the eighth position.

During the first of Friday's two practice sessions, it was evident that the No. 32 Camry was strong right off of the truck as Vickers drove it to the top of the speed chart. In the second practice, a tight condition developed that left he and Crew Chief Trent Owens scratching their heads. Following a number of adjustments during and after final practice, the team was confident that they had a solid car for Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying. Despite the forecast of rain, the California sun conquered the clouds the following morning and teams lined up for the time trials. Vickers logged a 40.501 second lap, putting him in the seventh position to start the 150-lap event.

When the green flag dropped on Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway, Vickers immediately went to work to move his car through the field. Vickers was able to keep the car tight on the yellow line and by the third lap had moved into the top-five. Vickers reported that the car's handling was a little too loose at the start of the run, especially from the center of the corner and off. Battling the loose condition in the opening laps, Vickers slipped back to the seventh position. On lap 15, he came on the radio and told the team that he had brushed the wall.

"I got the right rear quarter panel," Vickers said. He then asked spotter Chris Lambert, "can you check the fender?"

As the No. 32 car passed the spotter's stand the following lap, Lambert reported that there was no damage and the car looked good.

As green-flag racing continued, he told Owens that the car's handling was starting to come to him. Owens informed Vickers that he was currently turning the fastest laps on the track. Arching the car gracefully through the corners of the Fontana, Calif. speedway, he moved back into the pack of top-five cars by lap 24.

When debris in turn three brought out the first caution on lap 33, Vickers was running in the fourth position.

"The car felt really good towards the middle of the run," said Vickers. "It was just too loose at the beginning and it started to tighten up toward the end while I was trying to chase those guys down."

He brought the No. 32 to pit road for service on lap 34. The Dollar General crew quickly changed four tires, packed the Camry with fuel and made an air pressure adjustment to help with the loose condition. The team's rapid service gained Vickers a position and he restarted from the third spot when the race resumed on lap 37.

The front-running cars were shuffled in the first five laps, putting on an exciting show. Vickers was engaged in side-by-side battles, eventually relinquishing his position and sliding back to the fifth spot. With all four Braun Racing Toyotas running solidly in the top-10, Vickers settled into position and was able to give his feedback on the adjustments from the previous pit stop.

"It's still just a little too loose at the start," he said. "The adjustments definitely helped, though. It started out better than the first run and has stayed with me longer."

"10-4," Owens replied. "We'll give you more of that the next time you're here [pit road]."

By lap 75, Vickers had moved up to the third position. He told Owens that the car felt really good at that point in the green-flag run.

Owens replied with his plan for the next pit stop. "We're going to air-up your right sides some more and try to get it to come in faster for you."

On lap 79, the leaders began to come to pit road for green-flag stops. Vickers followed suit and came to pit road for fresh tires and the additional adjustments. The Dollar General team quickly changed the four tires, added fuel and made the air pressure adjustments. As the field cycled through the green-flag stops, Vickers had returned to the third position when the caution came out on lap 87 for debris on the race track.

Owens called Vickers to pit road under the yellow flag, instructing the crew to be prepared to change tires but to wait for his final call. As the car made its way down the long pit road, Owens ordered the crew to add fuel only and not to change the tires. Knowing it was a gamble, some cars took tires and some remained on the track and chose not to pit under the caution. This set the stage for an exciting restart as green-flag racing resumed on lap 91 with Vickers in the eighth spot.

With cars running three and nearly four-wide in some parts, Vickers quickly moved up to the sixth position but then began to fall backwards in the field. He fought hard and remained in the top-10, reporting that a tight condition had developed.

"It's really tight," he stated. "It's especially bad in traffic right now."

On lap 119 the caution flag was displayed when an accident occurred on the backstretch, allowing Vickers the opportunity to bring the No. 32 to pit road for adjustments. The Dollar General crew charged off of pit wall and quickly changed four tires, packed the car with fuel and made an air pressure adjustment. Executing a flawless stop, the team cheered as the Camry exited pit road, gaining three positions as a result of their fast work! Vickers restarted the race in the fifth spot on lap 124.

With 25 laps remaining in the race, Vickers drove hard to remain in the top-five. On lap 145, the a spinning car in turn four brought out the final caution flag of the day and set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish. With one set of tires remaining in the pit stall, Vickers and Owens debated on the pros and cons of coming to pit road. In the October 2009 race, the same scenario occurred and the pair opted to pit for fresh tires. Cars behind the No. 32 did not follow that time and Vickers fought relentlessly through traffic to finish second. Confident that they had a strong car to compete against those on the track, they opted to remain out this time. Only two competitors remained behind the No. 32 as they passed the entrance to pit road.

When the race resumed for the final two laps, Vickers was in the fifth position. In an exciting conclusion to the extended race, Vickers battled with the charging cars on fresh tires and held on for an eighth place finish.

"The Dollar General team worked really hard today," said Vickers. "We had outstanding pit stops and they never stopped working to adjust on the car's handling. This is such a great group and I am looking forward to being back in the car next weekend at Las Vegas. We had a great opportunity to win there last year [finished third] and I think this year, we'll definitely be one of the cars to beat."

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next weekend for the Sam's Town 300.

-source: braun racing

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Drivers Trent Owens , Brian Vickers