Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Red Bull Rundown: Kahne, Vickers Know Importance of Winning Races to Earn Chase Spots

Kasey Kahne pulls into the garage at Pocono during Friday's
practice. Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs
Although Red Bull Racing drivers Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers had mediocre performances in this Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono, both drivers are aware of what it’s going to take to be able to snag a spot in the Chase and that’s winning races.

Prior to Sunday’s race, Kahne (driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota) sat 18th in the point standings and Vickers (driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) in 26th. Despite their impressive records at Pocono however, Kahne and Vickers started the race from the 17th and 23rd positions respectively.

This marks Kahne’s third consecutive 17th place start and Vickers’ worst start in the past three races.

This was a bit surprising since Kahne holds the record qualifying lap at Pocono with a lap of 172.533 mph. Up until this Sunday’s race, he has never started outside of the top 10 at the track. During his 2004 debut, he started from the pole.

Teammate Vickers has also seen success at Pocono as the track is one of his strongest on the circuit and ranks second among his top-average finish tracks.

On Sunday, however, the track with the longest straightaway in NASCAR challenged the Red Bull Racing team perhaps more than they are used to.

In true Pocono fashion, the race was dominated by a series of long green-flag runs and debris cautions.

Despite issues with his front-end tires not turning properly, Kahne managed to remain in the top 10 for much of the day and even found himself in as high up as fifth after a pit stop on lap 112.

“The pit crew was great today,” said Kahne. “We gained some spots in the pits and the strategy worked for us some of the times. The handling was slightly off but we managed and will continue to gain in the points.”

Vickers received two penalties (one on lap 95 and the other on lap 98) for speeding while exiting pit road. He was the recipient of two wave-arounds, which helped him to remain either close to or on the lead lap.

On the challenges faced at Pocono, Vickers said, “The biggest problem is waiting on the front tires in turn three and drive off in turn one."

Kahne and Vickers both finished ahead of where they started, with Kahne finishing in 12th and Vickers in 22nd.

Neither driver gained much momentum in the point standings with Vickers remaining 26th in the standings and Kahne picking up one spot to 17th.

“We know we’ve got to win a race to help our chances (of making the Chase) and we feel we’ve got some good tracks coming up in the next few weeks beginning with Pocono,” Kahne said prior to Sunday’s race.

Next on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, the drivers head to Michigan for the Heluva! Good Sour Cream Dips 400.

Kahne’s record at Michigan includes two wins and two poles (he nabbed his last pole at Michigan in August 2010).

Vickers has an equally impressive record at Michigan, with two consecutive poles in 2009, one of which also ended with a win. He also claimed a pole there during the 2008 season. In his 12 starts at Michigan, nine have been within the top 10.

“We need to keep climbing,” Vickers said. “We got in a hole at the beginning of the year and we got into some wrecks early in the season. So, we need to get out of this hole.”

“I still think we can get there,” said Vickers. “A win or two would put us in the Chase for the wild card and hopefully we can climb our way back up the hard way. But either way, I still think we have a shot at it.”

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