NASCAR » 15 July 2013
Brian Vickers claims New Hampshire win for Michael Waltrip Racing
Brian Vickers made a popular return to victory lane on Sunday almost four years since his last Cup victory, after a risky tyre- and fuel-strategy for Tony Stewart unravelled at the last minute.
It's been a long time since Brian Vickers last stood in victory lane after a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and a lot has happened to him in the intervening years. But on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway none of that mattered: Vickers was back on top after clinching victory in the #55 Aarons Michael Waltrip Racing car and becoming the 11th different winner in the last 11 races at Loudon.
Vickers hardly featured in the first two-thirds of the race, hurt by a pit lane penalty that dropped him off the lead lap and stuck deep in the midfield searching for a way to get back into the race that looked unlikely to materialise until some solid driving and some canny strategy calls from his crew chief Rodney Childers put them near the front at just the right moment to press the advantage.
At the start of the race, polesitter Brad Keselowski led for the opening nine laps before two quick early cautions involving Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose allowed the Busch brothers to move to the fore and lock out the early stage of the race. Logano's incident came on lap 4 when a tyre failed and put him into the wall in turn 1 with heavy left side damage, while Ambrose came off worse from a spat with Kevin Harvick who turned the #9 into the path of Caser Mears who was the unlucky bystander most hurt by the incident.
"We had a tyre failure - that's two weeks in a row," said Logano. "It is the same thing that happened to the #1 car [Jamie McMurray] in practice. The left rear tyre blew out. It is something they need to look into because that is two cars this week and I am surprised it happened.
"It isn't like we touched anyone and rubbed it to make it go down, it just blew out, he added. "That is two weeks in a row we are going to have probably 43rd place finishes. I am just mad right now." The Penske crew got the car repaired and back out on track, but the best Logano could do was to claw his way to 40th at the finish, 91 laps down.
Kyle Busch continued to lead through to lap 62 but when the sun started to break through the overcast conditions at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway the handling of the #18 seemed to go away and left Kyle falling back off the pace, opening the door for older brother Kurt to take up the running which he did almost uninterrupted for the next 60 laps. A round of pit stops under a caution on lap 124 saw the Furniture Row Racing team put four tyres in the #78 meaning that Kurt dropped back to seventh behind those on a two-tyre only stop and that allowed Matt Kenseth to lead the next stint, but what goes around comes around and payback put Kurt back in the lead on lap 158 when it was his turn to go two tyres only and Kenseth to take four, dropping him to 14th.
One driver bucking the trend was Tony Stewart, who was following an aggressive two-tyre strategy all the way along and making it work for him, meaning that he took the restart on lap 161 after a debris caution in second place in the middle of a Busch brother sandwich at the front. Kurt had no trouble keeping the #14 under control however and led for the next stint until a debris caution on lap 202 for a grand total of 102 laps in the lead of the 302-lap race.
Another four-tyre call dropped Kurt to 11th place this time, while Stewart persisted in his two-tyre strategy and kept the lead ahead of Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne for the restart, but soon the yellows were out again this time after Danica Patrick spun out in turn 2 on lap 218 while trying to get around AJ Allmendinger. Now inside the fuel window to make it to the finish, many of the leaders used the opportunity to pit again with the notable exception of Stewart who was using every aggressive strategy in the playbook to secure the win in this race and stayed out to lead at the restart.
Again, it was a short-lived green flag stint, and this time it was a crushing blow for longtime leader Kurt Busch: battling to stay ahead of Matt Kenseth, the #78 got loose through turn 2 and made contact with the #39 of Ryan Newman which sent both cars spinning into the wall and Kenseth lucky not to get caught up in the wreck as well. Once again, Kurt was denied the chance of a race win despite having one of the strongest cars out on the track - a sadly recurring story for the former Cup champion in 2013.
Tagged as: Brian Vickers , Kyle Busch , Marcos Ambrose , Danica Patrick , New Hampshire , Tony Stewart , Joey Logano , Ryan Newman , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , cup , Brad Keselowski , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
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