Categories
Development Journalists

Pit Road Miscues Change Texas Race for Teams

Drivers trying to recover from pit road mishaps was just one of the stories at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night. Some drivers were able to recover while others struggled to just hang on for the night.

Carl Edwards had one of the dominant cars of the night, leading 124 laps in the Duck Commander 500. On lap 223, Edwards headed to pit road after reporting a loose wheel. Edwards was slow getting on pit road and lost two laps during the unscheduled stop.

With 46 laps to go, Edwards finally got back on the lead lap thanks to the free pass. The driver of the No. 19 Stanley Tools Toyota fought hard to finish in the seventh position.

Kevin Harvick had issues getting his car to handle properly during the race.

The driver of the No.4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet also received penalties for an uncontrolled tire and speeding on pit road during a late-race stop.

“Everything from top to bottom was not good. We just battled the car all weekend and never really got it right.” Harvick said.

Despite an ill-handling car, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion was able to recover from his penalty with a 10th-place finish.

“We will chalk that one up to experience, and we’ll move on to something else and keep trying to get better. That’s really what it is all about, was trying to get better,” explained Harvick.

Brian Vickers, in what could’ve been his final appearance in the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, had a rough night trying to recover from a bad green flag pit stop. Vickers spun entering pit road on lap 114 after running in the top 10 early in the race.

“The No. 15 of Clint Bowyer just stopped. I had them [the brakes] locked up, but I had nowhere to go. He went to half pit road speed, and I just got into the back of him and locked it up. I just didn’t see that coming,” said Vickers of the incident.

“That put us behind the rest of the night. We were just trying to recover from that.”

Vickers’ night ended early after he was involved in the 13-car crash.

Matt Kenseth needed a rebound at Texas Motor Speedway. He ran in the top five for most of the night and led 20 laps.

As was the case at Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta, a potential top five was spoiled by a miscue on pit road.

A loose wheel on Kenseth’s Dollar General Toyota dropped him to the tail of the lead lap. Moments after the ensuing restart, Kenseth was swept up in a 13-car pileup with 40 laps to go, effectively ending his bid for a top five.

The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team finished in the 11th position.

Former Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski’s night was also ruined by a loose wheel.

“It wasn’t as good of a night as we wanted, but we tried some out of the box things to prepare for this race in the Chase,” Keselowski said. “It just didn’t pay off.”

The No. 2 Miller Lite Ford struggled throughout the night and came home with an 18th-place finish.

 

Emily Spink is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist.

EMAIL EMILY AT emily.spink@popularspeed.com

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
News

Indy 500 Still a Possibility for Vickers

Brian Vickers has dreams of running both the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans. And this year’s 100th running of the 500 could still happen for the 32-year-old driver.

“I would love to have something to announce. Unfortunately, there is nothing to announce at this point,” Vickers said. “It is still on the table.  It’s not done, but it’s not off the table yet either. We will continue exploring that and if it happens great, if not, move on to the next opportunity and maybe next year.”

This season, Vickers has been running the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, subbing for Tony Stewart. Vickers is back in the car this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway following his season-best finish of seventh at Martinsville.

Vickers was brought up in conversations surrounding Indy following comments by Sam Schmidt to RACER. Schmidt added, though, that Vickers is the least likely of the available candidates.

“I’d think Brian is the least likely only because he hasn’t done it before and we’re unsure if he’ll still be driving for Tony [Stewart], so with that unknown, it’s hard to figure out the costs and the logistics,” Schmidt said. “Granted, he’s very experienced and very mature, so I’m sure he’d get the job done, but I’m not sure we need any distractions with a rookie.

“He’s an option, though, and we aren’t ruling him out. I know how badly he wants to be in the race.

Schmidt reiterated that finances will play a part in who fills the seat.

“We’re still trying to find money for all of them, they’re all trying to find money, but it’s not completely there,” said Schmidt.

Stewart-Haas hasn’t announced whether Vickers will be back in the No. 14 after this weekend in Texas, or if Ty Dillon will return to the seat.

For more IndyCar Series coverage, check out Popular Open Wheel.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Strong, But Bittersweet Run for Vickers

Following health issues, Brian Vickers is getting the chance he wanted to jump behind the wheel of a top-tier ride and run well.

He made the most of his opportunity in the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, crossing the finish line in the seventh spot. In the races he’s run in the No. 14 for Tony Stewart, this marks his first top-10.

“I was pleased, but not satisfied,” Vickers said. “We had such a good car. We were so fast. I don’t know if the track changed or we had different tire codes today. It just wasn’t quite as good as practice all weekend.

“But I’m really proud of the effort by the guys. We had a great car. It was a top 10.”

Vickers showed speed throughout the weekend, qualifying in the third spot and running in the top five throughout the first half of the event. Later, the handling went away on his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, and Vickers fell back a couple of spots, but was able to work his way back to seventh in the final stages.

Of the races Vickers has run thus far, this weekend was one of the best opportunities to showcase his talents, as the half-mile paperclip is one of his favorite tracks. He’s run well at Martinsville in the past, scoring an eighth-place finish a couple of years ago.

Beyond this weekend, Vickers doesn’t know the next time he’ll be behind the wheel of a racecar. He has expressed interest in running the Indianapolis 500 this year, and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports said he was on their short list, but nothing else has been reported. The sponsor line-up has determined Vickers’ races in the No. 14 Chevrolet thus far, but with Stewart healing, there are fewer opportunities remaining.

The frustration in not doing as well as he hoped may result from his time in Stewart’s seat running out, or due to the track’s place in Vickers’ heart. In 2004, while Vickers was still driving for Hendrick Motorsports, his best friend Ricky Hendrick was killed in a plane crash on his way to Martinsville.

“This is a bittersweet, special track for me,” Vickers said. “I lost my best friend here. I really wanted to win for him.

“But it was still a good day. We’ll take a seventh and move on. The team is getting stronger every week, really. I’m proud of those guys, and it’s going to be a strong team.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

WEAVER: Opportunity for Vickers, Unlimited Entry Injustice

It’s actually somewhat fitting that Brian Vickers has been tabbed to replace the injured Tony Stewart for Daytona Speedweeks.

After all, there are few drivers in the recent history of NASCAR that can sympathize with what the three-time Sprint Cup champion is enduring more than Vickers — a former XFINITY Series champion who has missed large parts of four seasons due to health concerns himself.

During an introductory press conference on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Vickers expressed gratitude for his selection to drive the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing entry but also established that he wishes it were under different circumstances.

Stewart is out of the car due to injuries he sustained while on an all-terrain vehicle on the West Coast, while Vickers has been out of the sport for recurring blood clots.

So even though Vickers would have preferred a more practical return to the sport he loves, he also recognizes just how significant of an opportunity the next two weeks are for him to prove himself healthy and capable to lead a team to Victory Lane.

Stewart Haas Racing has not publicly committed to Vickers for the duration of Stewart’s stint on the disabled list, but it’s expected that Ty Dillon will also see time in the car when he’s not tied down to his part-time Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing commitments.

But if Vickers can show well for himself during the Sprint Unlimited and Daytona 500 over the next two weeks, it’s not out of the question that he could earn additional starts in the No. 14 while Stewart works on returning for the remainder of his final season.

Stewart Haas officials Brett Frood and Greg Zipadelli repeatedly referred to Vickers as the best available  candidate to fill the void on Friday morning, and that’s certainly the case if he’s healthy. Vickers has three career Sprint Cup victories and made the Chase for the Championship in 2009 with a Red Bull Racing Team that wasn’t quite playoff capable yet.

Vickers wouldn’t disclose how long he’s been off his blood-thinning medication and it’s unclear if he will ever be healthy enough to return full-time to the Sprint Cup Series, but with that said, the 32-year-old is still in the prime of his competitive career and has a massive opportunity to change the narrative of his injury-riddled career and do it with one of the best teams in the garage.

WEAVER: New Restart Rules Work For Now

NASCAR Makes Odd Exception to Enter Vickers into Sprint Unlimited

The Vickers press conference also included the reasons that Stewart Haas chose to enter their temporary driver into Saturday’s exhibition as opposed to just focusing on the Great American Race.

In short, Stewart Haas wanted a chance to win a race while also providing Vickers the opportunity to establish chemistry with crew chief Michael Bugarewicz. But there’s one problem … Vickers shouldn’t even be in the Sprint Unlimited to begin with.

According to NASCAR, the Unlimited is open to all 2015 pole award winners, former event winners and dormer Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full-time in 2015 — so Danica Patrick.

Additionally, all 16 drivers from the 2015 Chase for the Championship are eligible, as are drivers who can fill the open slots based on their 2015 driver points.

Vickers is not any of the above.

For their part, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell says Vickers will be allowed only because the 14 car was already prepared for Stewart.

“When we looked at it, it’s due to some unforeseen circumstances,” O’Donnell said. “A lot of prep work went into that car. There are a lot of implications for the 14 not being in that race. In this instance, we made the decision to allow the 14 to participate.”

In other words, Vickers can compete because NASCAR said so … which is fine, although it isn’t exactly fair for Hendrick Motorsports or Chase Elliott, whose 24 car made every race last season with Jeff Gordon, but is eligible for the event despite sailing into the cozy confines of retirement and the broadcast booth.

It’s just an exhibition race, but instead of trying to ensure that the Danica Patricks and Dale Jr’s of the world make the show, just call it an invitational and invite the most valuable teams and drivers based on NASCAR’s discretion.

Transparency.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Did NASCAR Set Precedence in Declaring Smoke Chase Eligible?

By Matt Weaver (HAMPTON, Ga.) — NASCAR may have set a complicated precedence on Friday afternoon when the Sanctioning Body declared Tony Stewart eligible for the Chase should he win one of the two remaining regular season events at Atlanta or Richmond.

During the off-season, NASCAR declared that a driver would have to attempt to qualify for every race and remain inside the top-30 to be Chase eligible. If a driver were to win a race or qualify for playoff participation based on championship points but did not attempt to make every race, that driver would need a mandated exemption from the league.

On Friday, NASCAR President Mike Helton granted Tony Stewart that exemption despite the fact that he did not suffer from a physical injury or have to miss a race due to an incident that happened within the confines of league participation.

By granting an exception to Tony Stewart, there is a question that the league has set a precedence that will allow any Chase-eligible driver to miss events due to circumstances that happened outside of the scope of NASCAR and what a driver chooses to do in their own free time.

On Friday, Helton essentially made the case that sometimes things happen to NASCAR drivers outside of the sport.

“I think our scope of responsibility is to our membership (and) our events,” Helton said. “Sometimes incidents occur outside of the sanctioned event — a NASCAR sanctioned event — that we have to consider in the participation of members.”

Polled drivers had a variety of opinions when asked about the topic on Friday afternoon with Greg Biffle explaining that he doesn’t “really have a comment on NASCAR’s decision.”

Brian Vickers has missed a considerable amount of time over the past several seasons due to blood clots. He believes that NASCAR’s decision is a sign that he would still be Chase eligible should he have to miss time as a result of additional illnesses.

“I’m happy to know that if I was out of the car for some reason that I’d get a chance to get back in the Chase,” Vickers said. “Last year, a similar thing happened — we won a race and then I was out for medical reasons so knowing that I’d still be able to be in the Chase is great.”

Vickers added that there are some circumstances that have not been addressed but he made it clear that he believes NASCAR set precedence with Stewart.

“One day I’d like to have kids,” Vickers added. “Does that mean I get to be at the hospital with my wife if she’s having our first child even if it means missing a race but I can still make the Chase? I think if that’s the precedent that they’re going to set.”

Ultimately, Jeff Gordon feels that Tony Stewart will have earned a Chase berth if he goes out and wins a race but explained that NASCAR has to be careful to protect the integrity of the Chase when granting exceptions.

“I think the whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is so that somebody doesn’t just go take a vacation after winning a few races,” Gordon said. “That is the way I look at it. It’s not for unforeseen circumstances or medical or anything like that to prevent you from going out and competing in the Chase.

“They want the teams and the drivers that have earned their way in it and deserve to be in it. I believe if (Stewart) wins a race then I believe he should be in it.”

Does the precedence ensure that Kyle Busch or Ricky Stenhouse — drivers who often participate in non-NASCAR events — could miss several starts and still make the Chase? That’s the question moving forward.