Talladega: Brian Vickers race report

VICKERS FINISHES 20TH IN CAUTION-FILLED ENDING AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 27, 2009) -- Brian Vickers returned to the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota at Talladega Superspeedway for this weekend's Aaron's 312.


TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 27, 2009) -- Brian Vickers returned to the wheel of the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota at Talladega Superspeedway for this weekend's Aaron's 312. Vickers was poised throughout the majority of the race to earn his first Nationwide Series victory at the 2.66-mile track. After running in the top-five all day, a four-tire pit stop under the caution flag on lap 89 put him 15th on the restart. With four new Goodyear tires, Vickers made a charge back into the top-five. Unfortunately, he was left alone in the outside line and slipped backwards. A series of late race cautions plagued the remainder of the event and in the closing laps, he could get neither the momentum nor the help required to move through the field at a superspeedway. Vickers finished the day in the 20th position.

Vickers laid down a stellar lap that put the No. 32 Dollar General Toyota in the second starting position. With the stands packed and the sun high in the Alabama sky, Vickers took the green flag and immediately lept to the front of the pack, leading the first lap of the day. The No. 11 gained momentum and took the lead on the second lap. Vickers settled into the second position and drafted with his Braun Racing teammate, Jason Leffler, on his rear bumper.

As the race progressed, the inside and outside lines traded the lead on several occasions. The leaders ran in a single file line in front of a two-by-two and sometimes, even three or four-wide pack behind them! The No. 32 Dollar General Camry remained solidly in the top-five. On lap 39, the leaders began to make their first pit stops under the green flag. Vickers, running second, came to pit road for four tires and fuel. The Toyota was handling perfectly so no changes were made. As the field cycled through the green-flag pit stops, the No. 32 found its way back to the front of the pack in a short time. On lap 51, Vickers regained the lead.

The first caution of the day came at lap 53 when contact was made between the cars behind the No. 32. Crew chief, Trent Owens, informed spotter, Chris Lambert, to bring second-place running Vickers down to pit road if the lead car made the move to come in for service. AS Lambert informed him that the leader was coming, Vickers dove to pit road where his team gave him fuel only and returned him to the track to restart the race in the second spot.

Vickers settled in behind the No. 18 and had the No. 20 on his bumper. He radioed his team on lap 64, "I'm good right where I'm at. If you can tell the 18 to keep it on the bottom and the 20 stays with us, we'll be good." It didn't take long before an outside line formed again and moved alongside the group running on the bottom of the track. The inside line was shuffled back and cars starting changing positions. The No. 88 and No. 5 cars moved to the bottom and Vickers was able to hook up with them and run in the third position by lap 80.

On lap 87, NASCAR displayed the yellow caution flag for oil on the track in turn three. Still in the third position, Vickers came to pit road for service. The Dollar General team put on four tires and packed the Camry with fuel to guarantee that fuel mileage would not be an issue for the remaining laps. When the No. 32 returned to the track, it was in the 15th spot. Lambert reported from the roof that many teams had opted to take only two tires. Vickers came on the radio and reassured his team in an ultra-calm voice, "We'll be fine guys. I'll get us back up there." The race restarted with only 25 laps remaining in the event.

By the next caution flag, which came on lap 94 with a spinning car in turn two, Vickers advanced back into the top-10. Cars lined up in single file as the race restarted with only 19 laps to go; Vickers was in the eighth position. Again, Vickers stormed through the field and made it to the third position by lap 99.

With the end of the race was in sight, it was every driver out for himself. On lap 100, Vickers found himself hung to the outside with no help when his drafting partner opted to duck back into the lower line. Helpless, the No. 32 slipped further and further back in the field. When the caution came out on lap 105 for a number of wrecking cars, Vickers was in the 15th position.

The caution flag came again at lap 110. Running 17th, Vickers came on the radio and told his team, "Hey guys. It's not over yet but these cautions are running out the laps that we need." Lambert came on the radio to report that the No. 60 spotter had walked over to tell him that Edwards planned to give the No. 32 a good push and the two could work their way towards the front. "Elbows up," added Lambert. "Let's go to work!"

The No. 60 moved to the top line and connected with the Dollar General Toyota. Running on the top of the track and three-wide until the No. 60 ducked back into the inside line, the caution flag came out for the final time at lap 114. The No. 32 had slipped back to the 21st spot. Under the green-white-checker finish, Vickers was able to gain one position and finish 20th in the Aaron's 312.

"The Dollar General Toyota was really good today," said a very disappointed Vickers. "The team brought a great car here. It was much better than 20th place. We just got hung out and fell so far back we couldn't make it up. Even with fresh tires, you can't make up track position on a restrictor plate track with all those cautions. We just couldn't get back to the front."

Burney Lamar returns to drive the Dollar General Camry in next weekend's Lipton Tea 250 at Richmond International Raceway.

Next Stop: The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for the Lipton Tea 250.

-credit: br

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Drivers Jason Leffler , Trent Owens , Brian Vickers , Burney Lamar