2009-08-20 / Sports

Vickers Wins Michigan On Fuel Mileage

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Brian Vickers Brian Vickers BROOKLYN, Mich. - Brian Vickers handed Toyota their first win at Michigan. It was Vicker's second career Cup win.

"He (crew chief Ryan Pemberton) made the call, and it was the right one," said Vickers. "He asked me to give him two laps of fuel, and I gave him five.

"Man, if feels good to be in victory lane. We've been in so many down times that it was hard to believe we'd ever make it."

Vickers, whose only other Cup victory came at Talladega in the fall of 2006, moved within 12 points of the Chase For The Sprint Cup.

Vickers, who started on the pole, was running a close second when Jimmie Johnson's car sputtered on lap 198 of the 200-lap race. He took the lead and coasted home ahead of Jeff Gordon.

"I knew I had saved a lot on the last pit stop leaving pit road. I knew I had saved us a lap, maybe two laps on fuel," said Gordon. "Then when the last caution came out, I shut the engine off, and figured I got another lap or two there. I wasn't as good as Jimmie or Brian, but I felt like if I coasted, I could make it."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third.

"It was a good run," he said. "We made some changes today that made the car run a lot better, and I was able to get back up to the front."

Jimmie Johnson dominated the race, but finished 33rd.

"I'm extremely frustrated, but we've only won one race of fuel mileage and that was at Phoenix," said Johnson. "We just don't do too well on fuel mileage. It's not what we're good at and I think it's too risky for us to try it."

Carl Edwards, Sam Hornish Jr., Casey Mears, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, and Denny Hamlin were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Top-15 Chase contenders with three races left before the 10-race Chase begins: 1. Stewart 3500, 2. J. Gordon-3216, 3. Johnson-3197, 4. Edwards-2995, 5. Hamlin-2986, 6. Kurt Busch- 2957, 7. Montoya-2887, 8. Kahne- 2884, 9. Newman-2845, 10. Biffle- 2821, 11. Kenseth-2811, 12. Martin 2791, 13. Vickers-2779, 14. Bowyer-2733, 15. Kyle Busch- 2721 Note: Only 12 drivers will be included in the Chase.

Keselowski wins last lap pass

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Hometown boy Brad Keselowski took advantage of a heated battle between Kyle Busch and polesitter Brian Vickers, and made a last lap pass on both, to win Saturday's Nationwide race.

With Busch and Vickers battling on the bottom of the track, Keselowski used the outside line to pass both drivers on the final lap at Michigan International Speedway, with Vickers finishing second and Busch third.

"I saw 'em bobble in (Turns) 3 and 4 there at the one-to-go, and I had 'em," said Keselowski, who grew up in Rochester Hills, Mich. "I knew it. I knew I could get to the outside and kill the 32 (Vickers). I wasn't sure about the 18 (Busch) - I don't know what happened to him."

Vickers led Busch into Turn 3 on the next-to-last lap and slipped in the corner. Busch drove to the inside, and Vickers side-drafted the No. 18 Toyota and forced him down onto the apron as the cars roared out of Turn 4. With momentum to the outside, Keselowski made it three-wide as the cars took the white flag for the final lap.

Busch took issue with the way Vickers had raced him on the final two laps and confronted him on pit road after the race.

"Oh, man, I am so sorry - I forgot it was the Kyle Busch show," Vickers said. "Hell, I thought we were racing for a win ... I thought it was my job to hold him off. Apparently not. He came over to the car after we came in and knocked the fender in, which was unnecessary, and then started crying like a little baby.

"I asked him if he'd give me a minute to get out, and we could talk about it like men. If he wanted to fight, that was fine with me. When I got out, he ran off. It's a shame that it went down like that. We were racing hard. I thought it was a good race. Congratulations to the 88 (Keselowski). He snuck around both of us."

Top-10 points leaders after 23 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-3816, 2. Edwards 3477, 3. Keselowski-3427, 4. Leffler-3203, 5. Allgaier-2756, 6. S. Wallace-2673, 7. Keller-2612, 8. Bliss-2595, 9. Gaughan-2538, 10. McDowell-2474

Helton said Junior frustrated

Despite what Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport's most popular driver, has to say about the car being used in the Sprint Cup Series, Pres. Mike Helton says he doesn't foresee any noticeable changes.

"I feel like, especially right now, we need to really, really try to turn over every stone, and that includes where we are with the COT and where we feel like its development is and where we feel like its future goes and where we feel like this car goes, how it evolves," said Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr. told the news media on Friday that a late caution is needed to create excitement during a Cup race and that 95 per cent of an event wasn't worth the price of a ticket.

However, he did say that the new double-file restarts have provided a spark that the series desperately needed.

"The media could address it a little stronger, and I think the drivers could be a little more vocal about it, and I think NASCAR could ... probably be a little more urgent in improving our product," Earnhardt Jr. continued. "The ultimate result is create exciting racing that the fans will enjoy, that the drivers enjoy, so everyone is happy. That should be our quest always, even when things are good.

On Saturday, Helton addressed the media at Michigan outside the NASCAR hauler.

"As you talk to the principals in the garage area - the team owners, the crew chiefs, the car chiefs - there seems to be in all these conversations the consensus around: Don't make any changes right now because we don't want to tackle those; we have spent a lot of time now understanding this car, and don't throw a wrench in all of that in starting all over on something.

"There's always going to be debate on what you would do different, just as there was in previous models of cars that we raced. We will always have that. The consensus right now ... from our perspective, is we'll look at things that we can do different, do better with the teams and we're working with the teams.

"In all fairness, we're always going to have somebody who says, 'I wish they would do this differently,' because it fits their moment. Tony Stewart last year wished we had done something different because he had a bad year last year. This year, it's 180 degrees different and it's the same car. We have not changed anything.

"The way I read his (Earnhardt Jr.) statements were more broad. His expression … that we need to be working on things to make the sport better in general, ... I agree with that. As it comes to the car, he and his team in particular, … there's some frustration there that contributes to his comments."

Weekend racing: All three of the NASCAR series will be at the .52-mile Bristol Motor Speedway for three night races..

Wednesday, Aug. 19, Camping World Truck Series O'Reilly 200, race 15 of 25; starting time: 7:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed Channel.

Friday, Aug. 21, Nationwide Series Food City 250, race 24 of 35; starting time: 7:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Saturday, Aug. 22, Sprint Cup Sharpie 500, race 24 of 36; starting time: 6:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN.

Racing trivia question: Which Cup team does Brian Vickers drive for?

Last week's question: Where is Cup driver Matt Kenseth's hometown? Answer. Cambridge, Wisconsin.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net

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