Sunday, April 19, 2009

BV Busted!

NASCAR nailed Brian Vickers with a too-fast-entering-the-pits penalty on lap 244 of Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway. Vickers was just a tick above the 45-mph speed limit, and after a pass-through the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota dropped from 10th to a lap down in 31st.

Vickers rallied to finish 19th and shouldered all the blame for ruining what most likely would have been a top-10 night.

“The car is the best it has been all night. Sorry guys, I take full responsibility for the penalty,” a dejected Vickers radioed to his team.

Eight events into the season, Vickers sits 18th in the standings — 98 points from the top 12 entering Sunday’s restrictor-plate race at Talladega. Vickers earned his first Sprint Cup victory at Talladega in October 2006.

Teammate Scott Speed started 18th and finished 34th in his second start at Phoenix. Speed’s No. 82 moved to 37th in the car owner standings (102 points from the top 35).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blue-Collar Crewman

He’s gone from major college football to NASCAR, from the Southwest to the Southeast. But one thing has remained constant throughout Brett Nenaber’s life-changing journey — work ethic.

“That’s kind of how I’ve always gotten by,” Nenaber said. “I’ve never been the biggest, the strongest or the fastest. I’ve always outworked the next guy.”

Nenaber, Red Bull Racing Team’s 24-year-old catch can man on the No. 83, packed his tenacity and brought it with him when he relocated to North Carolina from his hometown of Tempe, Ariz. There, he walked on and played five seasons for the Arizona State Sun Devils — primarily on special teams, which requires a unique breed of player.

Special teamers must be fearless and relentless, two character traits Nenaber proudly possesses. In 2006, his junior year, Nenaber was named the team’s Hard Hat Player, an award that recognized his effort during the winter strength and conditioning program. As a senior, No. 39 played in 11 games and made eight tackles (four solo).

Nenaber recognized that playing professional football wasn’t in his future, and through some contacts within the Arizona State athletic department he was “recruited” by Red Bull Racing Team. The team was immediately sold on his work ethic, and he started in February 2008 on the developmental side before moving over the wall full time.

“He’s always looking for something more to do,” said Ben Cook, Red Bull Racing Team’s strength and conditioning coach. “He’s not trying to impress you. He does it because he loves it. That’s who he is.

“Once we have the attitude, the type of kid who embraces the team concept, it’s easy after that. You can teach them the skill.”

Nenaber compared his role as a NASCAR crewman to his days playing football.

“On special teams, you only get a few plays a game,” Nenaber said. “In between, there’s a lot down time. Your offense has the ball and you’re sitting there waiting for them to score so you can go back out on the field. You can sit there, be relaxed and stay focused, but when it’s your time to play you have to be able to flip that switch.

“It’s very similar for a pit stop. There’s a lot of down time sitting at the track, waiting and waiting for that caution to come out. When it does, you have to be ready to go.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Hurricane Reggie Hits Texas

Good thing Reggie Bush is skilled at eluding tacklers in the NFL, because wherever he went at Texas Motor Speedway people followed.

Bush, the New Orleans Saints running back and recently named Red Bull athlete, was a guest of Red Bull Racing Team on Sunday and commanded as much attention as any of the top Sprint Cup drivers.

A small mob scene surrounded Bush for most of the morning. He signed countless footballs with silver Sharpies, obliged each time a microphone was around and smiled for every cell phone photo.

“What’s great about being with Red Bull is that you get to do so many unique and different things,” he said, “Like coming to a NASCAR race, which I’ve never had the chance to do.”

The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner got the total NASCAR experience, beginning with a ride from the airport to his hotel in the Red Bull show car. The street-legal car was cooler than his Ferrari, he said, and Bush seriously wants to add one to his already impressive collection.

Bush visited with guests at the Red Bull Energy Station and then took in the pre-race festivities from the frontstretch, where No. 83 driver Brian Vickers showed him the ins and outs of a race car. Bush then watched the Samsung 500 from atop the pit box.

But Bush’s time for fun is just about over. He and the Saints must prepare for this month's NFL draft and next month's OTAs, or organized team activities.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Swing(s) and a Miss

Spring rubbers, air pressure and track bar adjustments, wedge in, wedge out, four tires, two tires — name it and Red Bull Racing tried it to dial in the No. 83 on Sunday at Texas.

Still, Brian Vickers finished 16th in the Samsung 500, just about where he ran all day even though a late two-tire gamble gained him 12 spots to third on the restart. But two tires on a loose Red Bull Toyota were no match for four.

“We tried everything, but we just couldn’t seem to get the car to come alive. We just battled it all day long," Vickers said. “The track tightened up a lot since practice yesterday. The car was loose in traffic, and that is where we were stuck most of the day. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and the guys worked hard on pit road to try to make the car better, but we just fought it.”

Vickers moved up one position in points to 19th, and despite consecutive hard-luck finishes last month at Bristol and Martinsville is less than 100 points from the top 12.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

He Salutes You

A strong supporter of the U.S. Armed Services, Brian Vickers got the chance to meet the fighting men and women he admires when a few dozen soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, visited the Red Bull Energy Station on Saturday.

“I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to meet the men and women that serve this country,” Vickers said, “defending the rights and protecting the freedoms that allow us to come out and race every Sunday.”

Fort Hood, about a three-hour drive south of Texas Motor Speedway in Killeen, has more than 52,000 soldiers currently assigned and is one most diverse military posts anywhere in the world. It’s the country’s only two-division post, as the 1st Cavalry Division and 4th Infantry Division are based at Fort Hood, as well as the 13th Sustainment Command. One out of every 10 Army soldiers on active duty is assigned there.