Will runner-up finish be turning point for season?
DOVER, Del. -- For the past few weeks, Brian Vickers’ No. 20 Dollar General Toyota team has focused on improving everything from the way they start a race weekend, the way they unload from the truck and the way they perform in practice and qualifying.
And on Saturday, the finishes caught up.
Vickers posted a season-best runner-up showing to Joey Logano in the 5-Hour ENERGY 200 at Dover International Speedway, his second top-five effort in the last three races. The finish was good enough to move him up two positions in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings to third. Now, he trails second place Sam Hornish Jr. by 15 points.
While Vickers is a two-time Sprint Cup Series winner and the 2003 Nationwide Series champion, on a Joe Gibbs Racing organization that's currently the reigning Nationwide owners champ, the team assembled for Vickers this year is a spanking new combination, from driver to crew chief to pit crew. So the second-place effort was a big step forward, if not a long time coming.
“Starting with a new team and organization, new crew chief, new everything, it’s taken a little bit longer than we would have liked," Vickers said. “At the end of the race we’ve always been decent, that’s been the case. All in all, what we’ve really been working on is unloading closer and the last five weeks we’ve steadily improved on that. That’s where we’ve made our biggest gains. We just need to keep going in that direction.”
The half-second that Vickers trailed Logano across the finish line was actually about the closest racing up front on the day. At one point -- just past midway -- leader Kyle Busch and second place Kasey Kahne held a nearly 5-second edge on the rest of the field. And Vickers was closing in during the closing laps.
“We just needed a little bit more, one spot more,’’ Vickers said. “These guys deserve a win and we were so close.
“Maybe if we could have got out in the lead there on the restart (with 34 laps remaining) we could have held them off. We were both pretty close to even. He (Logano) was a little better on the short run and but starting on the inside was a little bit of a disadvantage there on the final restart.’’
Vickers’ five top-five finishes -- including three third-place efforts -- is a series best, and the two drivers in front of him in the standings, points leader Regan Smith and Hornish, are the only two full-time Nationwide drivers with victories this season.
“I think pleased, but not satisfied is the probably the best way to describe it,’’ Vickers said of the day. “Really proud of the guys. On one hand very excited, because it was a great points day for the Dollar General team. But on the other hand, we want to win.’’
"We need to chip back away at the points where we’re really racing towards the championship. Man, I want to get these guys a win.’’
Comments are currently unavailable. We’re working on the development of a NASCAR fan forum – please stay tuned.