Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The U.S. vs. the World

He played the game overseas and experienced the culture, so Brian Dheel knows why Americans fail to embrace soccer like the rest of the world.

“It’s just a really big deal outside of this country,” he said. “Towns and cities shut down for big games. That’s all they do. That’s all they know.”

Dheel, the 31-year-old rear-tire carrier for Red Bull Racing Team’s No. 84 car, lived and trained with club teams in England and Holland in 1995-96 and played at the semi-pro level in the United States. He once coached high-school soccer in his native northeastern Ohio.

As the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing approach, all eyes are on the American men’s team, which has never medaled in the summer games. The women’s team, however, has won gold twice.

So why are American men so hapless in the world’s most popular sport? Dheel’s offering is that the U.S. doesn’t treat soccer like its international rivals.

“It’s completely different than almost everything over here,” Dheel said. “Over there, they come up with songs about their players. They come up with songs about the other team’s players. Over here, it’s more rah-rah when something good happens … blow a few horns. Over there, it’s almost like a festival during the game.”

America likes points, something soccer rarely delivers.

“I think you can have a scoreless game and one-nill games that are some of the greatest games you’ll ever see, lots of great defensive plays,” Dheel said. “America is more into the flash. I really don’t know if it’s ever going to be the No. 1 sport in America.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tires and a Top 10

Buried beneath worn out rubber, tire runners soaked in sweat and a downright debacle of an Allstate 400 was the best finish of AJ Allmendinger’s Sprint Cup career.

The No. 84 driver ended up 10th in Sunday’s so-called race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last of the 22 Sprint Cup tracks that AJ had yet to conquer in qualifying. Somehow, he survived a chaotic, caution-filled event when Goodyear’s Eagle tire failed to last longer than a measly 10-lap run on Indy’s abrasive, grooved surface.

“It was like the first five or six laps were OK and then there was a one-lap drop off that just killed you,” AJ said. “The last two laps of each run were not fun. You were just hanging on, and I was praying that the right rear was not going to blow out.”

Six of the 11 yellow flags were competition cautions that NASCAR waved to force teams to pit and change tires. The longest green-flag run was 12 laps, and strategy went out the window. But AJ’s crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, strategized just enough to keep his driver near the front.

“You knew everybody was going to have to at least pit, whether they were going to take two or four was the question,” AJ said. “We kind of got in the rhythm where we would do two stops in a row with two tires and then we would do four and then do another two stops with just two.”

The first top-10 finish of AJ’s Sprint Cup career kept his Red Bull Toyota 37th in the car owner standings — 63 points out of the top 35. He led four laps, too.

Teammate Brian Vickers wasn’t so lucky.

The No. 83 team opted to back it down, fade to the back and be gentle on the tires. But the engine in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota — not tires — doomed Brian. He dropped a cylinder, retreated to the garage and returned to the track in 34th with 74 laps to go. The engine eventually expired 20 laps later, and Brian left Indy with a 42nd-place finish.

He slipped to 15th in the race to the Chase and is 132 points out of the top 12.

Listen to Brian and AJ talk about it in our audio section at

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Johnny B Good; Scott, Too

Scott Speed scored his third ARCA RE/MAX Series victory of the season Saturday night at Berlin Raceway. Sure, he credited Eddie Sharp Racing and the nimble No. 2 Red Bull Toyota, but Scott also gave props to “Johnny B.”

“My man Johnny B gave me the low down on this place last week,” Scott said. “By the end of the race it definitely made sense.”

Johnny B would be Johnny Benson, Scott’s veteran truck teammate at Bill Davis Racing who just happens to own Berlin — a tiny and challenging short track tucked away in Benson’s native state of Michigan.

Scott snatched the lead from seven-time ARCA champion Frank Kimmel on the 153rd of 200 laps and never relinquished it — holding off a hard-charging Justin Allgaier — to earn his second consecutive victory. He shaved 10 points off Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s championship lead and trails by 55 entering Saturday’s race at Pocono.

“This track is like nothing I’ve ever raced on,” Scott said. “It’s actually a lot of fun and quite challenging to drive. Really feel good for the guys on this team who worked so hard to give me the perfect race car. They certainly met the challenge.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weak Rubber at Indy

The Allstate 400 won’t come close to the infamous U.S. Grand Sham of 2005, but word around the Red Bull Racing Team garage stalls is that Sunday’s race at Indianapolis is going to be “ugly.” (More explicit words were used, but we’ll just leave it at that).

Goodyear’s right-side Eagle tire is wearing down — dangerously fast. The Red Bull Toyotas were able to turn only five or six laps before white cords imbedded in the rubber started to show. That’s not good when you’ve already plowed through eight sets of tires in practice and qualifying and have only 10 remaining for the race. And it’s especially not good when you’re pushing 200 mph with a concrete wall up ahead.

For fear of tire failures, only the six Bridgestone-shod cars competed in the 2005 Formula One U.S. Grand Prix, commonly known as the “tire debacle.”

“We can only go about 12 or 13 laps before they’ll blow,” anticipated Phil Jimenez, the No. 84’s race engineer. “There’s going to be a caution about every 12 laps. It’s not going to be pretty.”

Tire wear will be a serious issue until cars turn a significant number of laps and lay down rubber on the abrasive, grooved surface, and NASCAR is expected to throw a competition yellow around lap 15. Until then, and as AJ Allmendinger said, “We just hope to keep it out of the wall.”

The combination of left- and right-side codes was selected after an April tire test with No. 83 driver Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Speed Update: Scott Speed, after being 10th in practice, qualified sixth for tonight's ARCA race at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway (8:30 p.m. ET).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Spy Games at Indy

Random observations from the Brickyard …

10:14 a.m.: Quickly realizing everything’s like a mile away when you have to walk. Golf carts, while sometimes annoyingly over abundant, are essential at this behemoth of a race track.
10:31 a.m.: The sluggish economy clearly hasn’t hindered early morning beer sales.
11:07 a.m.: AJ Allmendinger is caught in a desperate search for any news on his man crush, Brett Favre.
11:32 a.m.: Red Bull driver Cole Whitt has reason to stick his chest out a bit while strolling through the infield. He finished 11th in Thursday night’s USAC midget race at O’Reilly Raceway Park and sits third in points.
11:35 a.m.: No sighting of the Jonas Brothers (above), who were in town Wednesday for a show.
12:36 p.m.: Brian Vickers explains to the media why the No. 83 can make the Chase. “If I had to take a stab at it, I would say that if you post all top 10s between now and Richmond, you’re almost going to guarantee yourself a place in the Chase."
1:16 p.m.: God bless air conditioning.
1:33 p.m.: Photographers and television crews suit up and scramble out of the Pagoda.
2 p.m.: Finally, some on-track action.
3 p.m.: Brian ends up 10th in opening practice. AJ is 22nd.
3:47 p.m.: ESPN's coverage has nothing on Fox.
4:30 p.m.: Brian ends up 17th in second practice. AJ is 20th.
4:43 p.m.: Counting down the minutes to Industry Night at Energy Station.

More to come …

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back to the Short Track

With ARCA victory No. 2 in the bag, Scott Speed and Eddie Sharp Racing return to short track action Saturday at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway.

Scott, in the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota, won Friday night’s race at Kentucky when he led 39 laps and held off Sean Caisse on a last-lap restart to win by .561 of a second. It was his sixth top-five and ninth top-10 finish in 11 starts, and he trails championship leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 65 points.

“We had passed each other a couple of times on restarts,” Scott said of his duel with Caisse. “On the last one, it was pretty aggressive. I was on the gas well before he was. He left a hole on the outside, and we got it done.”

Scott had little time to celebrate, however. After Friday’s race, he bolted for Tampa, Fla., to judge the Red Bull Flugtag event.

By the way, in the four ARCA short track races this season, Scott’s average start is 4.8 and his average finish is 6.3.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indianapolis Trivia

Here’s a little Indianapolis trivia to get you ready for Sunday’s Allstate 400 (answers below).

1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway rests at what intersection?
2. Counting infield seating, the capacity of Indianapolis eclipses what mark?
3. This German driver owns the most victories at Indianapolis with five.
4. Only one driver has competed in NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One at Indianapolis. Who is he?
5. What driver set the Allstate 400 qualifying record in 2004 with a lap of 186.293 mph?
6. The Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort features how many holes inside the race track?
7. What is the slang term used to describe the straightaways between the first and second, and third and fourth turns?
8. How many bricks were used in the Brickyard’s first repaving project in the early 1900s?
9. During Allstate 400 weekend, this nearby speedway hosts support races to complement the “big track.”
10. How many laps has Brian Vickers led in his four races at Indianapolis?

1. West 16th Street and Georgetown Road. 2. 400,000. 3. Michael Schumacher. 4. Juan Pablo Montoya. 5. Casey Mears. 6. Four. 7. Short chutes. 8. 3.2 million. 9. O’Reilly Raceway Park. 10. 16.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scott Scores No. 2 in Kentucky

Red Bull’s Scott Speed made up for the one that got away Friday night, earning his second ARCA RE/MAX Series win of the season and first at Kentucky Speedway.

He lost the series’ May 10 race at Kentucky when transmission gremlins doomed his final restart. That day, he led a race-high 55 laps before finishing fourth. This night, he led 39 laps and held off Sean Caisse on a last-lap restart to win by .561 of a second.

The decisive pass came when Scott maneuvered his No. 2 Eddie Sharp Racing Red Bull Toyota to the outside of Caisse for the lead on the 93rd of the scheduled 100 laps. All he had to do was stay there.

“It was the second time we won this race on the proper lap and almost lost it,” Scott said. “It was cool to win a race like that. Me and the 01 (Caisse) had a great battle the last 30 laps or so. We went back and forth on each other a lot on the restarts. It was two good drivers racing really hard and really clean.”

Scott last pitted on lap 18, stretched one tank of gas over the final 86 laps and survived seven caution periods to score his sixth top-five and ninth top-10 finish in 11 starts. He trails championship leader Ricky Stenhouse Jr. by 65 points entering Saturday’s short-track race at Berlin.

“I don’t think we had the best car, but we definitely had a great car,” Scott said.

Friday, July 18, 2008

From Zandvoort to Sparta

Scott Speed helped introduce NASCAR to the Netherlands last weekend. He did a demo run Sunday in the Red Bull show car on the sandy, seaside circuit near Zandvoort, where the sports car culture embraced American stock car racing.

“Some crazy Dutch fans gave me some blue nail polish as a present. It was amazing how informed they were,” he said, referring to his first Craftsman Truck victory at Dover. “NASCAR is well received by this country. Maybe even more than the other countries in Europe.”

Back in the States, Scott returns to the No. 2 Red Bull Toyota and the ARCA RE/MAX Series for tonight’s race at Kentucky. He’ll practice (11:30 a.m. ET), qualify (4:30 p.m.) and race (8 p.m.) all in one day.

He hasn’t raced since the June 29 event at Cayuga, but the Kentucky 150 begins a stretch of five races in five weeks. He led 55 laps in the first Kentucky race before finishing second to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — the driver who leads Scott by 130 points in the championship standings.

“It starts all over again, weekend after weekend racing,” Scott said. “We’ve already raced there once. I would hope that our car is the same, the competition is the same and we get a good result.”

After Friday’s race, Scott bolts for Tampa, Fla., to judge a Red Bull Flugtag event, which celebrates the creativity of human-powered flight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Little Lug Nut That Could

Lug nuts are the outcasts of equipment. They’re left behind for brooms to claim or discarded in buckets with all the others. They have little job security, too.

Lose a lug nut, however, especially when track position’s at stake, and pit road can come crumbling down in tenths of seconds.

During pit stops, one of five lug nuts can sometimes lose its way and fall off — to the rear, right, left, under the car or through the wheel. No sense trying to find it in this mess. That’s why there’s always a spare close by.

“We hope for the best, but are always prepared for the worst,” said Brian Dheel, the No. 84’s rear tire carrier.

Spare lug nuts are in all sorts of places on tire carriers and changers. On the helmet, just next to the jaw (above). Maybe on the top of the glove or belt. These unsightly, nicked-up chunks of metal look out of place, but they’ve earned the real estate.

When things go bad, the little guy comes through in the clutch.

“The worst thing that can happen is it falls off and you can’t find it. I’ve found that’s the quickest way for me to recover if a lug nut falls off,” said Aaron Schields, the No. 83’s front tire carrier. “You always have to be prepared for what you can’t control. I’ve been fortunate and haven’t had very many fall off.

“It’s all preparation, man.”

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chicago Pays Serious Points

One streak stayed intact and another started, as Red Bull Racing Team tossed the tired (but certainly fitting) phrase “good points day” from truck to truck Saturday night.

Never has Brian Vickers finished outside the top 15 in four visits to Chicagoland Speedway. He ended up sixth in the 400, and AJ wasn’t far behind in 13th in his first race there. The No. 84 Red Bull Toyota gained 78 points on the top 35 in new crew chief Jimmy Elledge’s first race since joining the organization Wednesday.

“Just a good day all around — a good day for myself and Jimmy to get acquainted and learn each other and the whole team,” AJ said.

Rain wiped out qualifying, so AJ started 39th. He shaved off 10 spots in 10 laps, and through a series of stops, adjustments to loosen up the car and a brush with the wall, AJ held top-10 status with 100 laps to go.

“Starting that far back we knew we were going to have to work a little strategy,” AJ said. “The car was pretty good — it was a little bit tight all night. Jimmy kept making good adjustments on it, small adjustments, that kept making it a little bit better. But, we were like an eighth- to 12th-place car. I think if we just could have gotten that tightness out of it we could have been right around top five.”

Brian moved up to 14th in the driver standings, gaining 17 points on the Chase’s 12th and final berth. It was the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota’s fifth top 10 of the year, and Brian hasn’t finished worse that 16th in the past seven races.

Pit strategy again propelled him into the top five, as the team opted not to pit during an early caution. Brian stayed there — or close to it — for the rest of the race until the team took four tires and fuel on its final pit stop on lap 227.

“We are all done. It’s in your hands now,” spotter Chris Lambert said. Brian responded a few laps later. “This is the best the car has felt all night,” he said. “All we need is track position right now and we would be going for the win”

He never had it and settled for sixth with seven races remaining before the Chase begins Sept. 14 at New Hampshire.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Red Bulls by the Numbers

Saturday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway is the official start to the second half of the season. Here are some of Red Bull Racing Team’s numbers that compare season No. 1 to season to No. 2, through 18 races.

2008, Brian Vickers, No. 83:
Starts: 18 of a possible 18 races
Points position: 15th (2,033, 112 points from the top 12)
Top fives: Three
Top 10s: Four
Laps led: 128
Laps completed: 5,174 of 5,425 (95.4 percent)
Average start: 27.3
Average finish: 17.7
Money won: $1,859,120

2007, Brian Vickers, No. 83:
Starts: 10 of a possible 18 races
Points position: 39th (1,141 points from the top 12)
Top fives: One
Top 10s: Two
Laps led: 84
Laps completed: 2,641 of 3,046 (86.7 percent)
Average start: 23.3
Average finish: 25.3
Money won: $1,031,435

2008, AJ Allmendinger, No. 84:
Starts: *10 of a possible 18 races
Points position: 40th (1,418 from the top 12)
Top fives: None
Top 10s: None
Laps led: Three
Laps competed: 2,388 of 2,726 (87.6 percent)
Average start: 18.9
Average finish: 30.6
Money won: $763,500
* — Mike Skinner drove the No. 84 in five races.

2007, AJ Allmendinger, No. 84
Starts: Eight of a possible 18 races
Points position: 45th (464, 1,576 points from the top 12)
Top fives: None
Top 10s: None
Laps led: None
Laps completed: 2,641 of 2,877 (91.7 percent)
Average start: 32.4
Average finish: 35.0
Money won: $620,294

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Elledge Hired as No. 84 Crew Chief

Red Bull Racing Team formally announces Jimmy Elledge as crew chief of the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota piloted by AJ Allmendinger, effective this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Elledge’s most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief duties were with former open-wheel star Juan Pablo Montoya, so he’s quite familiar with translating open-wheel lingo. He’ll know that when AJ screams “oversteer” he actually means “loose” or when AJ says “stint” he really means “run.”

“Jimmy is a successful and very well-known crew chief in the NASCAR garage,” said Jay Frye, the team’s vice president and general manager. “He’ll be able to provide the experience and leadership for AJ and the No. 84 team to be competitive on a weekly basis.”

Elledge’s resume includes stints with drivers Casey Mears, Reed Sorenson, Kenny Wallace, Bobby Hamilton and Dale Jarrett. Elledge, in his first race as crew chief with Montoya, was named WYPALL Wipers “Crew Chief of the Race” in April at Talladega Superspeedway. He has one Cup win, leading Hamilton to victory lane at Talladega in 2001.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Keeping His Chin Up

The Dinger had nothing to smile about after his No. 84 spent most of Sunday's race in the garage and not on the track, but when he finally got back out, he made sure his Bull Crew was smiling...

AJ: "Do you guys think we'll be able to get the Lucky Dog?"
Crew: "You're going to need it about 62 times."

AJ: "Do you think NASCAR would be mad if I just turned off and ran the bus stop?" (The bus stop is part of the road course at Daytona!)

AJ: On each restart "This is it guys. I'm really going to put the hammer down now. Tell the guys ahead of me that I'm coming for them!"

AJ: "I see the crowd standing up. Let me guess. Junior took the lead, right?"

AJ: "Do you guys have something to eat there in the pit? After working so hard on my car, you've gotta be hungry."
Crew: "Yes, they have sandwiches."
AJ: "Phew. I was worried. I don't want my guys going hungry!"

Sunday, July 06, 2008

BV Keeps His Nose Clean

The World Center of Speed suddenly turned into the World Center of Salvage late Saturday night.

Amazingly, Brian Vickers’ No. 83 Red Bull Toyota survived several close shaves to finish 11th at Daytona International Speedway — a gigantic oval that morphed into a bullring to provide a wild finish on Fourth of July weekend. There were 11 caution flags on the night, and five of those waved in the final 29 laps to force overtime. Brian was right there to see most of them.

“The car’s in one piece. It’s better than a lot of people can say,” he said. “It was definitely a wreckfest.”

With 24 laps to go, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman tangled right in front of Brian. He escaped unscathed and did the same four laps later when Casey Mears and Jeff Burton lost it up ahead. Brian took evasive action down pit road, and NASCAR put him 25th in line on the restart.

Another caution flag waved with 11 laps remaining. Crew chief Kevin Hamlin brought Brian in for four tires and adjustments to loosen up the car. He restarted 28th and steered clear of two more melees, with the final one unfolding just off his rear bumper that ended the race under yellow.

The finish was good enough to maintain Brian’s 16th-place position in the driver standings. He’s 112 points out of the top 12.

“That is by far the wildest race I have been a part of in years,” Brian said. “I’ve never been beaten and banged so much in my life.”

After qualifying 13th, AJ Allmendinger had a night he’d rather forget. The No. 84’s right-front tire failed 20 laps into AJ’s first Daytona race, and the car tagged the wall. After getting the hook, AJ spent what seemed like a decade in the garage. He returned to the track 60 laps later and finished 42nd.

The No. 84 snuck up to 37th in the owner standings and is 200 points from the top 35.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Talk of Testing

Red Bull Racing Team has upcoming tests scheduled at Road Atlanta, the short track in Winchester, Ind., and Nashville. These tracks may never again be on the R&D radar if NASCAR follows through on its discussion about no limits on testing in 2009.

NASCAR limits the series to seven tests each year, but teams slip past that number by testing at tracks that don’t host Sprint Cup events — places that are out of officials’ control such as Milwaukee, Kentucky and Virginia International Raceway. Outside testing usually brings mixed results, but turning laps at tracks used in competition (and on Goodyear rubber) would provide data that actually means something.

“In the end, maybe we wouldn’t do as much testing,” said Kevin Hamlin (above), Brian Vickers’ crew chief on the No. 83. “We’d be going to tracks we’re racing at now instead of going to places that we don’t race and try to figure out things that don’t mean anything. We’ve been going to all these places to do this testing anyway, now you might settle down and do possibly less. You’re not going to go to all the tracks — some are cookie-cutters — so if you got it figured out at one track you can make it work for the others.”

Last week at New Hampshire, NASCAR series director John Darby and Co. met with Sprint Cup crew chiefs about the idea of unlimited testing. They’ll revisit the issue in another week or so.

“It’s open conversation more than open testing,” said Rick Viers, AJ Allmendinger’s crew chief on the No. 84. “John Darby wanted us to go back and talk to our owners and general managers and let them know what the conversation was about. We’ll be coming back with our thoughts and comments. If you can test at the real race tracks on the real tires … hopefully this will help us.”

As for tonight’s race at Daytona, AJ starts 13th. Brian, who finished 37th in Friday’s Nationwide race after transmission and rear end issues, rolls off 28th at the green flag (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Bull Crews Go Camping

After treating all of Red Bull Racing Team to lunch Tuesday, members of the No. 83 and 84 pit crews, along with AJ Allmendinger, caught I-85 north to Randleman, N.C. The destination? The NASCARnival at Victory Junction Gang Camp.

They took a tour of the sprawling facility that, through fun activities and experiences, empowers the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses. There were boats, rock climbing walls, tree houses, mazes, horses, goats, donkeys, an indoor baseball field, hot air balloons and AJ’s favorite … an 8-foot basketball hoop.

AJ and the Bull Crews sat down for dinner with campers and got a late-evening workout in with a chicken dance. (Sweaty is an understatement.) AJ then cranked up the engine in the demo car, and the crews performed pit stops and taught campers how to tear through lug nuts. And all were more than happy to offer an autograph or two. Visit

By no means was the Bull Crews’ work finished. The charity portion of the hefty purse the No. 83 team earned in May for winning the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge came out to $23,793.25. On Friday, crew members presented a check, through the NASCAR Foundation, in that amount to the Speediatrics unit of Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Visit

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Daring the Dunk Tank

Two givens came out of Tuesday’s team lunch: Red Bull Racing Team ain’t all that deep when it comes to pitching, and the staff’s ace is clearly Jordan Casarella.

As balls bounced, broke fences and nearly a few bones, Jordan came through when management manned up and graced the dunk tank at the 5 Off 5 On training school in Mooresville (the No. 83 and 84 pit crews were kind enough to treat the team to lunch on their turf).

The finish fab worker’s right arm was like a rocket. His co-workers kept misfiring — often badly — but Jordan stepped up and soaked the likes of competition director Elton Sawyer (above), No. 84 crew chief Rick Viers (left) and race engineer Phil Jimenez.

It was later revealed that Jordan is no stranger to the fastball. He was a high school pitcher in his hometown of Southington, Conn. He earned a free 30-minute massage for his efforts.

“I’m gonna need that,” he said.

The Bull Crews also gave tips on changing lug nuts, and their obstacle course put “Battle of the Network Stars” to shame.

But it was quickly back to work, because Daytona week begins with rare Thursday practice sessions (4 and 6:35 p.m. ET).