After an 18th-place finish at Dover International Speedway, Brian Vickers is tenth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 151 points behind leader Mark Martin.
Nevertheless, Vickers is not ready to hand the title to Martin or Jimmie Johnson, who won last Sunday's race and trails Martin by ten points.
What Vickers finds irksome are suggestions that the point structure of the Chase needs to be changed to prevent a driver from running away with the championship. In the third installment of his Chase diary, Vickers discusses the Dover race, his views on the Chase scoring system and his attitude entering Sunday's Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway.
“It's never easy to pass there (at Dover) … if you got inside of somebody, it was very difficult to complete the pass. We have other tracks like that, where you can get inside someone, but it's very difficult to finish the pass. I could catch cars, but it was just so dang hard to not get loose inside of them.
“If you outperform (Martin and Johnson) for the next eight weeks, without them having any major catastrophes, it's still possible to catch them. I mean, 100 points can change within one race, if they have a problem. But can we catch them if they don't have a problem?
“If you outrun them by two or three spots every week, that's 60 points that are going to be eaten up pretty quick. Granted, they're not the kind of drivers who make mistakes, and arguably, they're two of the best teams on the racetrack right now. They have been all year. That doesn't mean we can't catch them or that we won't try. But that's just the way it is. They're outperforming everybody else, and they should be leading.
“I get really frustrated sometimes with the fans and the media with the respect that they're always trying to tighten up the Chase. They're always trying to make Homestead (the season's final race in November) - like we get to Homestead, and there's this tight battle for the championship. (They say) 'Maybe we should pay more points for winning,' or 'Maybe we should not count the other 31 drivers each race, and we should only give points to those guys in the Chase,' or 'Maybe we should do this or that.'
“That's ridiculous. There's got to be a point where you've got to say, 'This is not wrestling - it's racing.' The best team over the course of 10 races wins the championship. So stop trying to create this spectacular outcome. Our sport is spectacular in its own right.
“Some years you're going to have a guy win the championship before you get to Homestead. Some years you're not. And that's OK. There's nothing wrong with that. If a guy's that good, and he walks away with the championship, good for him.
“You watch other sports — if you watch golf and tennis or the NFL — fans love it when they see Tiger Woods in his glory just dominating a golf event, walking away with the Masters. They take pride in the fact that he's that good, that he can accomplish that. But in our sport, if Jimmie Johnson and (crew chief) Chad Knaus find a good setup, or Mark and (crew chief) Alan Gustafson find a good setup and they drive away with a race, they're condemned for it — and that bothers me. That's not the right attitude. When Mark walks away with a race, or Jimmie walks away with the championship, they should be applauded. That's just something I wanted to get off my chest.
“I feel like the races from here on out are at good tracks for us, but I think we proved to ourselves at Richmond (where Vickers finished seventh to qualify for the Chase) that we can make any track a good track for us. We've just got to run our own race. If we get caught up in racing anyone else, then we're going to lose sight of what we need to do. We need to be the best we can be every week, and I don't get caught up in how many points we've earned this week or any of that stuff. That's the way I've always been, and that's what has worked the best for me.”
As told to Reid Spencer