NASCAR: Vickers says Busch out of strikes
BRISTOL, Tenn. ó Brian Vickers expected to discuss his recent Sprint Cup victory, a contract extension with Red Bull Racing and his chances at making the Chase for the championship when he arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Instead, all of Vickers’ positive news was interrupted by his week-old feud with Kyle Busch.
Vickers grew testy during a 25-minute question-and-answer session with reporters Friday, when he was forced to defend his passion for winning after once again criticizing Busch for being “so mad about something so small.
“I hate that he lives in such an angry place,” Vickers said of his former teammate. “It must be miserable to live like that. That’s just not the way I want to live my life.”
The only problem with his assessment is that what Busch is “so mad” about ó the conclusion of last weekend’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Raceway ó isn’t at all “small.”
To Busch, winning races is everything and the temperamental driver has an admittedly difficult time accepting defeat. So when Vickers became so preoccupied with Busch in the closing moments of last Saturday’s race, he never saw Brad Keselowski charging toward them in a last-lap pass that gave Keselowski the surprise victory.
Busch was furious about the way Vickers raced the final lap, and the two exchanged heated words on pit road after the event. They then sat side-by-side in a comically awkward news conference in which they discussed their frustrations with one another as if the other wasn’t in the same room.
Vickers went on to win the Sprint Cup Series race the next day in the first victory for Red Bull Racing, and it moved him just 12 points out of the final Chase qualifying spot with three races remaining to set the field. He also completed the paperwork on a drawn out contract extension on Tuesday.
But the issue with Busch, who spent two-plus years with Vickers at Hendrick Motorsports before both moved on to new teams, has overshadowed all of Vickers’ achievements.
So he bristled Friday when asked to elaborate on “something so small” when most drivers view winning as the most important goal.
“The way he got out of the car and how angry he was, I just feel bad for him,” Vickers said. “I’m mad that I didn’t win the race, too. I don’t know what you expect out of someone who wants to win the race. I love what I do and I’m very upset if I don’t win, but if that’s what it takes to win, then maybe I don’t want to, because I don’t want to live my life that miserable. I just don’t. It’s just not who I am.
“I just don’t want to be that upset because I didn’t win.”
Vickers also seemed to send a warning to Busch that he’d stored last week’s race in his memory bank, and “I don’t know if you want to call it strike one or strike two, but either way, he’s out of strikes.”
Elaboration on that didn’t go very far.
“What do you think it means?” Vickers snapped. “I’m going to race him the way he races me. In my book, he’s out of rope. I’m just done. I’m just to my limit.”
It should make things interesting Saturday night at Bristol, where both drivers will be vying for a victory to boost their chances at making the Chase. They qualified right next to each other Friday ó Vickers was 14th and Busch was 15th ó but will start one row apart.
There could be some pre-race fireworks, though. Unless BMS officials change their introduction procedures, the drivers will have to share the same pickup truck for their parade lap around the track.
Busch on Friday declined several opportunities to speak to the media.
For Busch, who earned one of his three victories this season on the .533-mile bullring in March, another win would certainly help lift him from the 15th position in the standings. He’s got two wins and six top-10 finishes in nine career starts at Bristol, and Saturday could give him the momentum he needs to charge back into the Chase.
For Vickers, Bristol is the worst of the three tracks remaining before the Chase field is set on Sept. 12. In 10 career starts at Bristol, Vickers’ best finish was 12th in 2005.
But former teammate and close friend Jimmie Johnson said there should be no confusion over Vickers’ drive and desire. After all, Vickers did wreck Johnson at Talladega in 2006 to pick up his first Cup victory. He also said Vickers is in the right in the feud with Busch.
“He’s gone to Red Bull and has matured as a driver and has been part of building a great race team and now they’ve won a race,” Johnson said. “So, I think he has a huge commitment and a ton of focus and a great desire to win. I think he was right with that thing with Kyle, after the race, I mean they’re both trying to win the race.
“Kyle was mad that he finished second or third or whatever. It just didn’t make sense to me why Kyle was so frustrated as well.”