Red Bull Racing ensured it will have two cars in the 2009 Daytona 500 after a driver swap for the final round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season enabled both the #84 and the #83 to finish inside the top 35 of the owner points standings.
Brian Vickers swapped over from the #83 into the #84 for the weekend in an attempt to haul it into the top 35 and a 32nd place finish at Homestead was good enough to lift it a place from 36th in the standings and ensure a starting slot in the first five races of the 2009 campaign.
Vickers started the final race of the year from 20th and was on target for a strong result until a pit-road speeding penalty on lap 128 put him a lap down. Forty laps later, congestion on pit road damaged the #84 and led to successive stops, but crew chief Jimmy Elledge radioed to Vickers that the closest competitor in the top 35, the #47 of Marcos Ambrose, was in the garage. At that point, Vickers needed to finish no worse than 37th and he duly beat his target to bring the car home and secure a top 35 championship finish.
“After both incidents we still had a good car - really good - but were never able to get out of traffic and ended the race a lap down,” he said. “I'm disappointed because I wanted to end this year with a win. The guys have worked so hard. I'm happy, though, that we accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to get this #84 car into the top 35 in owner points. That will be a huge weight off the team's shoulders going into Daytona next year.”
Former F1 racer Scott Speed climbed into the #83 for the last of his five Sprint Cup starts this season and qualified on the front row of the grid for the first time. He kept pace with the leaders throughout and took the flag in 16th place, one position behind Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
“We had a really good car all night,” he said. “The first half of the race we were a little loose getting into the corners, but as the sun went down and it got cooler out, the car tightened up a bit. This was a good race for us. We finished every lap, stayed out of trouble and came home with a good finish. I felt like I had a really good feel for the car and learned a lot so it was a nice to end the season on a high note.”