Sunday Night Was the Pits
First, the bad news …
Neither of Red Bull Racing Team’s drivers was particularly pleased with their finishing positions Sunday night at Auto Club Speedway.
After the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota charged to the front, Brian Vickers spent most of the first 180 laps in the top five as the backstretch glare went away and day turned to night. But during a pit stop on lap 182, an errant tire and ensuing penalty (listed officially as “outside half of the pit box tire violation — not in contact”) sent Brian to the tail end of the longest line. He restarted 21st and could climb no higher than 12th over the remaining 68 laps.
“The penalty absolutely killed us,” Brian said. “It was at the end of the race. No matter how good of a car you have, when you get in traffic like that it’s just hard. You can only do so much.”
Late-race pit stops also doomed teammate AJ Allmendinger, who qualified his No. 84 Red Bull Toyota on the front row.
He was running as high as fourth with 70 laps to go, but a slow stop on lap 182 and then another 37 laps later left him 19th on the final restart. He made up five spots at the checkered flag and found himself in an entertaining back-and-forth battle with David Ragan for 13th.
“With this competitive field and the way these cars are you can’t get back there,” AJ said. “You’re basically restarting 38th at that point. The lapped cars have just as much right to race as we do. You’re in so much dirty air, and that’s killing the tires and there’s just a lot going on. We stayed clean and did what we had to do.”
And now, the good news …
AJ’s 14th-place finish moved the No. 84 up five positions to 31st in car owner points. It was his fifth top-20 finish in the past seven races. Brian climbed one spot in driver points to 15th.