Michigan: Brian Vickers race report

Starting from Pole Position, Vickers Dominates CARFAX 250 and Claims Runner-Up Finish in Last-Lap Battle for Lead Brooklyn, Mich. (August 17, 2009) -- Brian Vickers and the Dollar General team were confident as they entered this weekend's events...

Starting from Pole Position, Vickers Dominates CARFAX 250 and Claims Runner-Up Finish in Last-Lap Battle for Lead

Brooklyn, Mich. (August 17, 2009) -- Brian Vickers and the Dollar General team were confident as they entered this weekend's events at Michigan International Speedway. Dominating the practice charts on Friday, the No. 32 team felt they had a car that could claim the pole position for Saturday's CARFAX 250. With a 38.958-second lap, Vickers did just that, earning the No. 32 Dollar General team and Braun Racing its first pole position of the 2009 season. Leading a majority of the 125 laps, Vickers swapped the lead with the No. 18 several times throughout the race. Leading the final laps, the team was poised for victory; however, a hard fought, last-lap battle with the No. 18 and No. 88 resulted in a runner-up finish.

Vickers certainly loves the Irish Hills of Michigan. The team spent Friday's practice session working on race trim and quickly shot to the top of the charts. Confident with the set-up and handling of the No. 32 Camry, Vickers and crew chief, Trent Owens, agreed to forgo running the final practice session. Instead, the team prepared the car for Saturday morning's time trials. Qualifying seventh, Vickers laid down a lap that put the No. 32 Toyota to the top of the board, where it remained for the rest of the qualifying session. Vickers and the Dollar General team claimed the Coors Light pole award.

On Saturday, as Vickers circled the two-mile track in the opening pace laps, he thanked his team. "Great job all week guys," said Vickers. "Great job! Let's focus on getting good stops and we'll stay up front and get this thing to victory lane."

Vickers chose the inside line to start the race. As the green flag flew, the No. 18 and No. 32 quickly pulled away from the rest of the field, leaving no doubt that the two Toyotas would be the cars to beat. The first caution came early on lap four. As the cars circled under the caution flag, front-runner Vickers and spotter, Chris Lambert discussed which line was best from which to start. They agreed the outside line lent a slight advantage and would be the best choice. Vickers restarted the race on lap 10 in the first position.

On lap 14, Vickers came on the radio and reported that he thought he had a tire rub. As he eased the car around the track, Lambert watched closely from the spotter's stand, reporting that if he did, there was minimal to no indication from what he could see. Vickers also reported on the Camry's handling. "The car is really good through the corner, just a little loose all the way through," said Vickers.

During this time, the No. 18 and No. 6 cars had passed the No. 32. Confident with Lambert's report that the tire did not appear to be at risk, Vickers moved back into the lead. Vickers jumped out to a solid lead as the No. 18 continued to chase the Dollar General Toyota. He reported on lap 27 that the Camry was now loose all the way through. Lambert replied, "Stay nice and smooth. Great rhythm!"

As their pit-window approached, Vickers reported on the car's handling. "I think we might be building air pressure in the left front tire because the car is starting to get tight now," said Vickers. "It's really tight in the center but was just a little too loose until now."

The leaders began to make green-flag pit stops on lap 42. As the No. 32 came to pit road on lap 44, the second caution of the day came out as the No. 40 car lost its engine, laying fluid on the track. The Dollar General team jumped over the wall and executed a flawless stop, changing four tires, packing the car with fuel and making an air pressure adjustment. Despite the caution flag, the No. 32 remained the leader as the pit stops cycled through.

The race resumed on lap 49 with Vickers choosing to start from the outside line. The No. 18 continued to chase the Dollar General Toyota. On lap 55, the No. 18 challenged and took the lead. "The car is still too loose at the start of the run," Vickers informed his crew. He then asked Lambert where the No. 18 was beating him. Lambert reported through turns three and four, and that the No. 18 and No. 88 were running on the bottom line. Vickers adjusted his running line and Owens reported that the lap was three-tenths faster. On lap 65, Vickers reclaimed the lead.

Following the pass, Vickers came over the radio again. "It is starting to come back to me, but it is still a little too loose all the way through," said Vickers. "Chris, tell Kyle [Busch] if he catches us I'll let him pass. I ran up on him pretty fast and he let us go. I'll return the favor." On lap 73, Busch moved the No. 18 past Vickers.

Only three laps later, the No. 32 moved back into the lead. "It seems like whoever is in second is faster," said Vickers over the radio. Teams began to prepare for green-flag pit stops. On lap 93, both the No. 32 and No. 18 came to pit road for service. The Dollar General crew went to work to quickly change four tires, add fuel and make air pressure and track bar adjustments. As the No. 32 sped away, the crew high-fived each other as they won the battle off of pit road and kept Vickers in the lead.

On lap 97, the No. 18 took advantage of a loose-handling Vickers and took the lead once again. He reported that the car was still way too loose. "I can't carry the speed we need to compete with him [Busch]," said Vickers.

A well-timed caution brought the Dollar General team the opportunity they needed to pit for a final adjustment. On lap 107, the No. 32 came to pit road for a final stop. The crew put on four fresh tires and made an air pressure adjustment, taking no fuel in order to keep the weight of the car on the nose. As the cars lined up for the restart, the No. 12 was in the lead as they had chosen to remain on track and not visit pit road. The No. 88 was in the second position, taking only two tires during their pit stop and the No. 18 was in third, narrowly beating the No. 32 off of pit road. As the race restarted on lap 114, Vickers was in the fourth position.

As soon as the race resumed, Vickers was three-wide with the No. 12 and No. 18, jumping into the lead within the first lap. On lap 115, the spinning No. 14 brought out the caution flag for a final time. Vickers circled the track in the first position. With seven laps remaining, the race restarted.

Vickers remained in the lead until the final lap. The No. 18 passed him, and he battled back. As Vickers snapped a little loose and lost some ground, the race was tight between the No. 18 and No. 32 on the low line of the track. In the final turn, the No. 88, who was running close behind in third, swept past the No. 18 and Vickers for the win. Vickers finished a close second.

"I am really proud of the entire Dollar General team," said Vickers. "They brought me a great car this weekend and had flawless pit stops today. I really thought this was going to be our win. I felt like we were better on the long runs, but just way too loose on the short runs. The No. 18 had us beat there. The No. 88 definitely shocked me when he got around us both. I was just way too loose on the bottom in that last run and was battling the No. 18 hard for the win. I'm certain we'll get to victory lane soon."

David Reutimann returns to the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota next weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend for the Food City 250.

-credit: br

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Drivers Trent Owens , David Reutimann , Brian Vickers