Las Vegas: Brian Vickers race report

VICKERS OVERCOMES PIT PENALTY TO FINISH THIRD IN SAM'S TOWN 300 LAS VEGAS, Nev. (February 28, 2009) -- Brian Vickers drove the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota to a third-place finish in the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) after ...


LAS VEGAS, Nev. (February 28, 2009) -- Brian Vickers drove the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota to a third-place finish in the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) after overcoming a penalty for a missed lug nut in one of the final pit stops of the day.

"It was a pretty wild race," said Vickers. "I think I spent more time avoiding crashes myself than anything else. These cars are fun to drive, but you have to drive them so hard. They are practically running wide open around here. I'm really proud of the Dollar General guys. We had a great car. Unfortunately we had a mistake on pit road that put us back in the field. We had a really, really good car the last two runs. We were just fighting back for track position"

Vickers took the green flag in the 10th position and immediately looked like he was the lead instructor in a defensive driving course. The first caution of the day came on lap 7 with the No. 32 darting between the wall and the wrecking cars underneath him on the track. Vickers reported that the car was "good but a little tight in the middle" and that "there's no damage from that one."

On lap 22, Vickers narrowly avoided yet another catastrophe as the No. 18 snapped loose and collected the No. 99. The bright yellow object darting below them was the Dollar General Toyota. NASCAR brought out the red flag as safety crews worked to clean up the debris.

Vickers again reported that the Camry was "a little free in and tight in the center and off", referring to the handling in each of the speedway's turns. The Dollar General team would continue to work to fix the tight condition throughout the event.

During the red flag, Crew Chief, Trent Owens, called out the changes he wanted made during their next trip down pit road. When the red flag was lifted and the cars began to circle the track under the yellow caution flag, it was Vickers who made the decision to remain on track and not come to the pit. The Dollar General Toyota remained in the second position.

"I was watching behind me Trent, and no one was coming," Vickers radioed.

"10-4," replied Owens. "I can't see anything from here so good call!" The Dollar General crew was working in pit stall No. 9, where Owens could not see the entrance of pit road.

The race restarted on lap 25 and the caution came out yet again on lap 27. Vickers came to pit road on lap 30 for the adjustments that the team had previously planned. The crew quickly put on two new, right-side tires with air pressure adjustments, moved the track bar up one round and added fuel. When the race restarted on lap 32, Vickers was in the 17th position and in only four laps climbed back into the top-10.

While running third, yet another caution occurred at lap 67. Vickers and Owens discussed the car's handling and what adjustments would be best. The car was now neutral on entry but still tight in the center. Vickers also requested that the team take a look at the right front tire to make sure that it was not rubbing the fender since the car was tight in handling.

On lap 71, Vickers brought the No. 32 to the pit stall where the Dollar General crew quickly put on four tires with air pressure adjustments, fuel and made a track bar adjustment. With a stellar stop, the crew returned Vickers to the track in the same position that he came in, third.

When the field returned to green flag racing, Vickers reported "The car is still really tight in the center. That wasn't enough." The second red flag of the day occurred following the caution on lap 90.

As Vickers and Owens again discussed what they could do to the car to free it up, Vickers jokingly said, "With all these red flags, I need a Red Bull to wake up."

Owens laughed and replied "I can give you that, too!"

Because of the "quickie" yellow flag following the red flag, the No. 32 team waited until the next caution to return to pit road for more adjustments. On lap 101, Vickers came back to his pit stall for two tires and a right rear rubber. The race restarted on lap 103 and climbed into the top-five on lap 114.

"The last change was good; it's staying with me," Vickers radioed to the team a few laps later. The team had finally hit on something with the car's handling. As the field cycled through green flag stops, the first of the day, Vickers took the lead position. On lap 164, the No. 32 came in for four tires with air pressure adjustments and fuel. Unfortunately, a missed lug nut on the left front required Vickers to come back down pit road to serve a penalty and get the missing lug nut.

Running in the 11th position and one lap down to the leaders, Vickers was the recipient of the Lucky Dog when the caution came out again on lap 170. The No. 32 Dollar General Toyota came down pit road for the last stop of the event. The crew examined the valence and fenders to confirm that there was no damage from when the No. 32 dove down on the apron to miss the action that brought out the caution. With a ½ rubber removed from the left rear and fresh tires, the No. 32 returned to the track for the remainder of the race.

Vickers restarted the race in the 10th position and set his sights on the win. Two additional cautions plagued the final laps. The last caution came at lap 196, which relegated the race to a green white checkered finish. Vickers took the final restart in the fifth position and drove to a third-place finish in the final two laps of the extended Sam's Town 300. The race was plagued by 12 cautions for 60 laps, a new record at LVMS.

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series has a two week hiatus before heading to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Scotts Turf Builder 300.

-credit: br

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Drivers Trent Owens , Brian Vickers