Red Bull Rundown: Kahne, Vickers Optimistic After Third, 10th Place Finishes at RIR

Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
In what was just the ninth race of the season, Red Bull Racing’s Kasey Kahne brought home a third place finish and Brian Vickers a 10th place, tying for the best combined finish in team history in Saturday night's Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

This sort of run is just what the team needed after what has been a rough start to the 2011 season. In the first eight races, Vickers has had an average finish of 24.625 and in the past three, Kahne has an average finish of 32.333 and lost seven spots in the point standings.

Disappointing seems to be the appropriate word when speaking of Red Bull Racing’s performance in the Sprint Cup Series so far this year. However, when speaking of Saturday’s race, the words “first” and “best” are necessary to describe the team’s run.

Kahne’s finish of third was his best all season and his first top five of the year. Vickers' 10th place finish is only his third top 10 of the season and is his best finish in the past four races.

The teammates wasted no time maneuvering around cars and pushing their Red Bull Toyotas forward.

By lap 45, Kahne passed Clint Bowyer for the lead and remained there for 29 laps. Kahne stayed in the top 15 for almost the entire race (396 out of 400 laps). Of the 43 teams in Saturday night’s race, Kahne’s time spent on pit road was second best.

Vickers made the second-most green flag passes throughout the race. By lap 118 he found himself in the 7th position, up 30 spots from where he started. In the final 40 laps, Vickers picked up seven spots, moving up to 10th from 17th.

Kahne’s No. 4 Red Bull Toyota was fourth fastest in traffic (117.157 mph) and Vickers’ No. 83 was fifth fastest (117.064 mph). Combined, they ran 36 of the fastest laps.

The team’s success, however, did not come without a fight. By mid-race, both Red Bull drivers struggled with track position with Kahne dropping down to 7th and Vickers to 12th after a race-high position of 5th.

Throughout the season, Kahne and Vickers have dealt with getting caught up in wrecks outside of their control. On lap 301, it seemed as though fate would repeat itself as Jeff Gordon’s car went spinning, but Kahne and Vickers were both able to avoid the wreck.

“The (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars were — those two guys were the guys to beat all night,” said Kahne. “But, we were good. That was a great run for the whole Red Bull Toyota team. The guys did a great job on pit road. We had to adjust the car throughout the race because the track seemed to get slipperier, and the car was just slippery — the tires were slippery. It was an interesting race. It was a lot of fun and I’m glad we got a top-five.”

“That was a hard-fought 10th-place finish,” said Vickers, equally happy with his run in Saturday’s race. “The guys did a really good job getting the car right for the race. We started off good — too good. We started with pocket races, then got our ass kicked because we were afraid to make changes. The stops were great all day. Good day for the points, and it felt good running up front again. Next week it’s off to my favorite track — Darlington. We need to keep chipping away at the points like we did today.”

Both Red Bull drivers name Darlington as one of their favorite tracks and are optimistic about next weekend's race.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit, and I think that will get everybody excited and we can go to Darlington, Dover and Charlotte. Some of these good tracks for us and run well,” said Kahne.

After a solid run in the Crown Royal Presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 at Richmond, Kahne remained 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings heading into next weekend’s race at Darlington and Vickers moved up two spots to 26th. In this race last year at the track “Too Tough To Tame,” Vickers finished 10th and Kahne 20th.
Red Bull Rundown: Kahne, Vickers Optimistic After Third, 10th Place Finishes at RIR Red Bull Rundown: Kahne, Vickers Optimistic After Third, 10th Place Finishes at RIR Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, May 02, 2011 Rating: 5