Who better to describe the No. 83’s back-to-front-to-18th-place day than the men who lived it? Brian Vickers qualified the No. 83 in 13th, but fell to the rear of the field because of an engine change after Saturday’s final practice. He moved from 43rd to 20th by lap 50.
Lap 61, spotter Chris Lambert: “Looks like it’s going to be about track position and who can live through this thing.” Vickers up to 15th.
Lap 100: Vickers in 10th. Shortly after, he moves to eighth and has the fastest car on the track. He leads laps 113-117.
Lap 124, Vickers: “Loose all the way through. I like it.”
Lap 125, Lambert: “You’re the fastest thing out there.” Vickers in the top 10, fighting for track position.
Lap 143, interim crew chief Randy Cox: “Two tires should tighten you up for 5, 10 laps. The only thing that’s been wearing is the right front and right rear. If this doesn’t work, we have 190 laps to recover from it.” The No. 83 takes two tires and restarts second a few laps later.
Lap 162, Vickers: “I think I have a tire going down. I think I have a slow leaker in the right rear.”
Lap 169: The No. 83 makes an unscheduled pit stop for right-side tires, dropping from seventh to a lap down in 25th. (Upon further review, the tire appeared to be OK.)
Lap 241, Vickers: “All we need is track position. I couldn’t tell if that tire was going down, but man, I couldn’t drive it.” Vickers in 18th.
Lap 241, Cox: “I ain’t gonna second guess you. You’re the one who has to drive it.”
Lap 268, Vickers: “That’s what I’m talking about. Great stop. Under pressure, too.” Speedy stop moves the No. 83 to the first car a lap down in 16th, but the race stays green to the end and Vickers never gets a shot at the free pass.
Lap 324, Cox: “Just start pedaling it a little bit. We’re going to go for it.” Fuel mileage becomes a serious issue.
Lap 333: Nearing the top five in a rash of fuel stops, the No. 83’s gas tank comes up short with one lap to go. Vickers pits for a splash and loses only two spots in the running order to 18th. The gamble nearly pays off, and Vickers still gains a position in points (17th).
Teammate Scott Speed and crew chief Jimmy Elledge had a few sound bites of their own. Speed’s No. 84 started 33rd and finished 33rd and held its 35th-place position in the car owner standings. He fought a loose condition all day and nearly lost the handle a few times in turns three and four.
Somewhere around halfway, Speed: “I don’t just forget how to drive in a race. I feel like an idiot out here.”
Post-race, Elledge: “Welcome to Cup racing. School is still in session.”