NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Carfax 400
Topics: Carfax 400
August 16, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined in the infield media center by today's race winner, Brian Vickers. Brian, tell us about your run.
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, it's been a good weekend for us. I got to start by thanking obviously Red Bull and Toyota for the patience, perseverance, all the hard work from everybody at the team. It's been a long time coming. It's been a long three years. A lot of struggles, a lot of pains. No one gave up. That's the reason we're here in Victory Lane.
Today's race was a good race for us. Obviously starting from the pole is always a good thing. The first pit box definitely helped. We were good at the beginning. As the sun came out, the track got really hot, we got really loose, fell to the back a little bit. Really felt the car had to move around, find some lines. Ryan made some great adjustments towards the end. The car came back to us. The last call, to take two, for track position, gamble on fuel.
I got to say at the moment it wasn't what I expected him to do just because knowing where we're at in the Chase, that is the situation. But it was the right call. The minute he made it, I had complete faith in it. He hasn't run me out of fuel yet. Usually when he tells me we're going to be two laps short, I get him two, we're good. If he tells me four, I get him four, we're good. I had complete confidence in that.
That takes time to build. We've gone through this fuel thing I don't know how many times for me to prove to him what I can save, for him to prove to me how good he is at his math. We hit our mark every time.
I got to tell you, when you're coming to two to go, I'm still sweating bullets no matter how much confidence you got. I know he is. But I know I was. When Jimmie ran out there, I knew at that point we had enough lead on Jeff that all I had to do was get to the finish. But it was definitely a sickening feeling in the bottom of my stomach we could run out at any minute. I felt confident about how much I saved, but, you know, it's hard not to worry about it.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by today's winning crew chief, Ryan Pemberton. Ryan, your thoughts on the race from the top of the box.
RYAN PEMBERTON: Well, it was a good race. Not necessarily one of our better races. It was a good car. He did a great job. We had great starting position. But it was a great race for us. We put together a race. Everybody got to participate, pit stops. We only put two tires on, got gas. Everybody had their hand in this win. Brian did a great job.
Just to echo what he said, when we came up here last time, I wasn't sure how good he was at saving fuel. Then I found out how good he was. I pretty much put the pressure on him there, that run. He needed to get exactly or better than what he had this race last time, and he did exactly that. It's almost probably to the half gallon. That's pretty cool to be able to get it that close. I won't say it will happen every time, but that was cool to put that pressure on him, that gamble, and it paid off like that.
THE MODERATOR: From ownership, today's winning car, Jay Frye. Jay, your thoughts on the race and where things stand for the Chase here.
JAY FRYE: Well, it was funny, there was a lot of things obviously, like Brian said, the team has come a long way in the last two and a half years. I'm sure in 2007 Brian had some questions about what the future was going to hold. One of the things we did last fall with the change was hiring Ryan, when we got him to come over here. Really at that point there was never any question in my mind about putting two people together that would have great success for a very long time.
I think they're both in similar stages in their careers, where they've done great things, but together I believe they can do some really great things. I think today was a culmination of that. So obviously winning the race, get the most points, won the race, only 12 points out going into next week. We're still obviously eligible for the Chase. Our goal this year is to win a race and make the Chase. We've accomplished one of our goals. We're still eligible for one of our other ones.
We'd like to thank Toyota and TRD. Obviously we've grown with them together. This is as much for them as it is for us. I think it's funny. I really believe this. Today was more of a relief. We've come close. Once you can mark that box off, it's much easier, in my opinion, once the team learns how to win. Today I think we obviously learned how to win. It's an exciting day.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Brian, to be able to be so fast on qualifying day, not put the whole package together on race day, how much good does this do for the morale of the team?
BRIAN VICKERS: That's a great point. It does a lot for the morale. I think everyone has been very proud of the accomplishments we've had over the past several years, leading laps, sitting on poles. But ultimately this is a business of performances and winning races. To finally get the monkey off our back, win a race, I don't know how many laps we've led before we actually won, but it was a lot.
We've put together some good races, but not a great race. We haven't sealed the deal. Today we finally did. It's a big weight off our shoulders. I know it is off of mine. I'm sure it is off of the whole team. Hopefully we can take this momentum and carry it into the Chase, go get in the Chase, go race for a championship. I just can't say how proud I am of everybody.
I said it while I was out there earlier, but I want to take a minute to thank the fans for coming out. It's a rough economy, especially in this neck of the woods, here around Michigan. Just want to thank them for coming out, supporting the races, everything that Sprint does, and CARFAX for sponsoring the race, as well.
Q. Ryan, how many laps did Brian save for you on the final run? Did you have that same sickening feeling knowing your season was hanging in the balance?
RYAN PEMBERTON: Yeah. I'm getting sick again just thinking about it. It felt like that was the -- you put a stake in the ground, and it's either going to be, we're either out of it, completely out of the Chase, or we're gonna win the race. I really thought the 88 was coming. I thought he was going to be the one we were going to have to beat. He was the one that had fuel. I think he had enough fuel to make it.
Brian did exactly what he needed to do. I told him exactly what we needed. I referenced the last race here. So he knew about what program he had to be on to make it happen. He did that. You talk about the sickening feeling, what a relief to get that one over with. It was. If we ran out, that was going to be -- we'd be talking the rest of the season about something else, that's not being in the Chase. Right now we got an opportunity to do it. We got some good tracks coming up. But we got to capitalize on those, as well.
Q. Brian, with the emotion of yesterday, the contract situation hanging in the balance, what kind of a relief was it when you crossed the finish line, what did you feel like? And, Jay, can you address the contract situation, clear that up at all.
BRIAN VICKERS: 'Relief' probably isn't the word to describe it. It really is like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders to finally get this win for Red Bull and Toyota and TRD and myself. The past three years have been a struggle at times. There's been a lot of ups. That's what has made it worthwhile. We've had a lot of great races, six poles this year. But to finally get this win, I can't tell you how much it means to me. I just thank everybody along the way that's helped me, from my family of course, friends, mentors along the way.
As far as the contract situation, I mean, obviously sitting on the pole and winning the race can't hurt (smiling). But hopefully we can get everything squared away.
JAY FRYE: We have every intention of getting this done and getting it done very quickly. Today things are complicated. Sometimes we overcomplicate things. Every intention has always been to redo this. We're working hard to get it done. We certainly don't want him to go anywhere, except right where he's at.
Q. Ryan, after the restart when Brian and Jimmie took off, were side-by-side, was there a point that you said, We're trying to save gas here?
RYAN PEMBERTON: He kept pushing him, he did. We talked about that. I told him not to push him any harder. I was giving him lap times. I think he yelled at me, told me not to give him lap times any more. I knew right then he knew what he was doing, how he was doing it. He was just managing. I'm speaking for you right now. I'm just now getting to know him well enough where I don't have to tell him everything. I know what he knows. I think I do anyway. And that's why I didn't hound him about fuel every lap like I probably would have, or I did the first race. I just give him the few bits of information that he needed. He kept the radio clear. He was putting the pressure on him a little bit. I told him, don't put any more pressure on him. With 10 to go, I told him, don't put any pressure on him, they got a big chance of running out. I felt like he just wanted to keep him right there in case he got within a lap or two he was going to try to pass him. I think he probably had a good enough car to do that straight up, whether everybody had fuel or not.
BRIAN VICKERS: I mean, my intentions there at the end of the race, Ryan did a great job of giving me the information I needed, no more, no less. You know, I didn't even have to hear him or see him. I knew that he was sweating it on top of the box as much as I was in the car.
That comes with time. That comes with building chemistry. That's something that him and I have built over the past year. This is not the first time we've been in this situation. That's probably the reason the situation worked out. He knew what he had to do. I knew what I had to do for him.
When I first started racing Jimmie there at the beginning, it was just to get clean air. I wanted to be the first or second car in clean air. Then I let him go because he wanted to run a little harder than I felt like running at the time. When I got back to him, the reason I wanted to get back to him was two things: was to draft off of him, so I could useless fuel down the straightaways, and also to push him to run harder. I felt like I knew where I needed to be. If I could be there and put more pressure on him, then it could be a better situation.
Q. Brian, in your wildest dreams, could you have hoped to come into a race and got 115 points off of a deficit?
BRIAN VICKERS: No. Well, were we down 127? A lot of points. I understand what you're saying. You know, it's tough. The way the sport is, how competitive it is, how tight the championship is, when you're racing one person for a championship, you can swap a hundred points in no time. They have one bad race, you have a good one, there's a hundred points. But when you're battling three, four, five, six guys, somebody is bound to have a good day. That makes it tough to make up huge numbers. That makes it very difficult to make big strides. Because even if one or two of 'em have a bad day, usually several others are going to have a good day.
Today we got lucky. We did what we had to do. We did what we had to do by sitting on the pole, leading laps, and winning the race. But we also got lucky that 11th, 12th and 13th didn't finish right behind us, because we would have gained four or five points. It would have been a completely different story. It was at culmination of a lot of different events that took place. When you're battling that many guys, it's hard to make up that many points.
Q. Brian, how much more comfortable are you on the post race podium today as opposed to yesterday? How did the emotions of yesterday play into today?
BRIAN VICKERS: You know, there's some people that you meet in life that are just gonna do stupid things. You just learn to accept it. You just don't let it bother you. You know, you have patience. You just live your life and run your race.
I mean, yesterday was ridiculous. It was unnecessary. I had a lot of fun. It was a hard race. I wanted to win bad. Congratulations to the 88. He did his job. We ended up second. I let it go at that.
In a lot of ways I feel sorry for Kyle, that he lives that angry about stuff, something so small. I hope that he can get past it. I don't have any hard feelings. I'm ready to just go race. That's the way approached today.
I told him, I've always told him this, from any incident we've ever had in the past, I'm going to race you the way you race me. I'm going to handle you and treat you the same way you treat me. That applies to any driver out there. It applied today. If Kyle and I started racing each other, he raced me clean and hard, I was going to treat him with the same amount of respect. If he didn't want to do that, I was going to treat him the same way he treated me.
But today was a different race, a new day. I just wanted to focus on my life, my race. I could care less about what happened yesterday. Life is too short to worry about stuff like that.
Q. Brian, when you were in here Friday you talked about not gambling to give up a lot of points, just earn a few. Must have been shocked when he made the call.
RYAN PEMBERTON: He didn't talk to me about that, because I guess we got a lot more to discuss on our relationship here (laughter).
Q. Why not just lay up, go for the top five or top 10?
RYAN PEMBERTON: It was going to be hard to have a top five or top 10 with fuel. There was other guys that were going to make it. We weren't the only ones that tried to do that. I don't even know who actually did make it. The 24 made it, right? Who else made it? The 88?
BRIAN VICKERS: 88 pitted.
RYAN PEMBERTON: 5, they were even shorter. There were a lot of people trying to do the same thing we were doing. Great race teams. Using that experience from the last race, a couple of those races leading up, we used that. That's part of working together longer and understanding the risk/reward.
If this scenario happened the first race, we'd have pitted. We wouldn't have done that. But because now we've learned each other a little bit more, we understand the risk tolerances, maybe what our options are, it opened up the option to take advantage of that.
It's just part of really running together. I know it sounds silly that you have to have that chemistry or whatever, but it really is. You got to have that, the notes and thoughts of what we did before, how it happened, all that stuff. It's really a combination of everybody pulling together to be able to make that call.
Q. Brian, you've won a race before. Does winning a race and getting the first win for an organization help from the ground up, does it feel any different? Does this make the season successful or do you need to make the Chase?
BRIAN VICKERS: I mean, winning a race in this sport with the level of competition is always pretty special. You know, I mean, I can even see it in Jimmie Johnson's eyes after a win or Jeff Gordon's eyes after a win. And they've won so many. I don't think it ever gets old.
But to win a race for an organization, their first win, to win a race at an organization where you're one of the first employees, you were one of the first people there, to see it grow from the bottom up, from the ground, it gives it a little something extra, it definitely does.
To go through the pains that we went through, I mean, it seems like just yesterday we were loading up and going home from races that I never dreamed we would, races I never qualified out of the top five from. We missed them as a team, as a group. That was tough. That was painful. One of the hardest years of my racing career, probably the hardest year of my racing career. To take that same group of individuals and team, TRD, Red Bull, then to put it in Victory Lane, absolutely there's something extra to that. There's something on top of how good it feels to win for sure.
Right now I'd probably say I feel pretty good about the season. If we miss the Chase, I'm going to be pretty upset. Does that answer your question? I don't know if that answers your question or not. Right now I'm pretty happy. I definitely consider this a success. We've sat on six poles, and we won a race. Hopefully we're going to win more. Hopefully we're going to be in the Chase. But if we miss the Chase, obviously I'm going to be very, very disappointed.
But knowing where we came from, what we've accomplished this year, I've had a hard time to say this season was a failure no matter what happens from here forward.
Q. Ryan, when was the last time you won a race? Jay, your owners in Austria come with the mentality of Formula One owners where you sit on a pole, you should be winning races. How did you explain to them there's 43 cars in the field, there's more than just Ferrari and Williams up at the top?
JAY FRYE: All these trips that you take to Austria, that helps. No, obviously they're new to the sport, too, just like the team is. The team is two and a half years old. They've been in the sport for two and a half years. They've done a phenomenal job. In 2007 when they came in as a competitor of this team, you watched everything they did. It was like, Wow, this is the coolest organization, what this company can mold this team into down the road.
So Red Bull has made a phenomenal effort towards this sport. Yes, they do have a different philosophy, a different understanding. They're very passionate about Formula One, what they do. Obviously, they're becoming very passionate about what we do because they're beginning to understand how it works, yes.
There is an educational process that's being going on and ongoing and I'm sure it will continue to go on.
RYAN PEMBERTON: It was Kansas, right? With Joe Nemechek. Sat on the pole and won the race. Similar situation really.
Q. (No microphone.)
JAY FRYE: We haven't made it back to the truck yet. But I'm sure his reaction is going to be good.
BRIAN VICKERS: It's 12:43 there.
RYAN PEMBERTON: Let's wake him up, call him.
Q. Ryan, with what Brian talked about earlier, about how it's tough to make up a lot of points on three or four guys, did you kind of go into this race with the mindset you would need to make a gamble or did were you preparing yourself or was it spur of the moment?
RYAN PEMBERTON: It changes throughout the race depending on where you're running. If you're running 30th, you got to make different things happen. If you're running 15th, you opt for -- if you're running 15th, you opt for tires and fuel, you're probably going to be in the same situation you're in, then you're guaranteed to finish there.
Or the situation we were in, we pitted, got two tires there, fuel, put us on the edge. A lot of calculations. We got a couple extra laps of caution. So, you know, the strategy, you can't set it prior to the race. It's got to flow. You're just trying to maximize the points for the situation you're in.
You can't try to go for the win running 30th and come up with nothing there either. You know what I mean? It's risk and reward. We had an opportunity to score some points, but win the race. That's what I was really thinking. The safe thing would have been maybe get some fuel and finish like the fourth fifth thing right there. I was thinking, This is an opportunity to win the race. We've had other cars, times this year when we've probably performed better on the racetrack and not been able to, you know -- other things happened. We were a better car at Charlotte. Some guy wins a race in the rain. We haven't had that opportunity. We've had better cars and not the finishes we'd like. This is an opportunity to capitalize on both ends.
Q. Brian, being this close now to the Chase with three to go, new position for you, this team, how do you treat this? How do you maintain and not let the excitement build too much?
BRIAN VICKERS: You know, I think the harder we party tonight, the faster we can get. That's kind of my philosophy. That's what I'm thinking (smiling). I'm just going to go really hard tonight. Maybe next week I'll be over it.
RYAN PEMBERTON: Can I write this down (laughter)?
BRIAN VICKERS: I think you're right. We've got to pace ourselves. Most importantly what we need to do is change nothing. We've got to continue to perform the same way we have the past five weeks and the Chase will take care of itself. If we try to perform any less or any more, if we're any less focused or any more focused -- well, more focused is probably not the right way to say it. If we push ourselves too hard, we can make mistakes. We need to stay calm and continue to do the exact same thing we've been doing and the Chase is in sight.
One thing I've learned in this business is there's a lot you can control. Sometimes there's even more you can't. We just need to remain focused on what we can control. We need to do our part. If something happens next week out of our control, we've got to put it out of our mind and go on to Atlanta and continue to do the same thing.
Q. Brian, when you're racing Jimmie Johnson as hard as you were, he falls off with an empty gas tank, is it more relief to know he's not on your quarter panel or is it a reminder of how close you must be to running out of gas?
BRIAN VICKERS: Both. Is that an answer? Can I take A and B?
You know, it was a double-edged sword. I know Jimmie is no slouch at saving fuel. He's one of the best racecar drivers, arguably the best in the series right now, won the past three championships. But at the same time I could tell being behind him I had the advantage to see where he was letting off. I could always let off just a little bit sooner, I could draft off of him.
I knew he was pushing harder than I was, yet I was still being able to maintain, to be able to stay with him, 'cause I was traveling fast through the corners. The car was better, I had a better line. I knew we had more than him. I just didn't know if we had two laps more than him I guess was the question in my mind.
RYAN PEMBERTON: The 5 ran out with like three or four to go.
BRIAN VICKERS: Three or four to go. I also knew I would rather be able to ride to the finish half throttle with someone 20 car lengths back than racing with someone because, you know, if Jimmie wouldn't have run out, there was a chance we would have raced each other on the last two laps and we would have both ran out. It's a double-edged sword. I hated it for Jimmie. I'm never happy to see someone have bad luck. But I was glad that we didn't have to race anyone all the way to the checkered flag. But at the same time you're right, it definitely put the thought in my mind at any moment we could run out.
Honestly, I don't remember looking at the racetrack the last two laps. I drove the last two laps entirely looking at the fuel gauge, fuel pressure gauge (laughter).
RYAN PEMBERTON: The difference was, I mean, Jimmie in the situation he is right now, he needs -- second place doesn't do him any good. He needs to win the race. I kind of felt like he was going to go harder than he needed to go. If he runs second, it doesn't do anything. He needs the championship points to win the race. I was thinking he was going to go harder than he needed to go. That was my only concern, that we were running right with him. I think that others commented on that. Jeff Gordon commented on it, You're running way too hard. He didn't think you could make it because you were following Jimmie.
Q. In that kind of situation, you get sucked into a competitive situation that could ruin both of your days.
BRIAN VICKERS: Yeah, that's always a chance. I'm glad it worked out. It's easy for us to sit up here and say this. Had it not worked out, it would be a different story. I'm glad he had the faith in me not to hound me on the radio. I could focus on the job at hand. I was running very close to the wall. I definitely didn't need somebody in my ear. I got to thank him that he had the confidence in me in that and I had the confidence in him.
You know, he told me what I needed, and I knew what I needed to do to get it. It was really irrelevant what Jimmie was doing. The closer I could be to Jimmie, the better off I was because I could draft off of him. I could run three-quarter throttle, half throttle down the straightaways in his draft.
I wasn't racing as much as maybe it looked like on TV. More than anything, I was trying to use him to help us, but at the same time my focus was entirely from the start of that run till the end of the run, you know, taking his word and confidence in him, we needed X amount of laps, and I knew this is what I needed to do, and it really was irrelevant what Jimmie did. I was doing my thing when he got to us. He passed us, I let him go, continued to do my thing, and I caught him back doing my thing, just continued to do that.
If anything, being right behind him was a benefit for us.
Q. Brian, Jay came in two years ago. Ryan came in the start of this year. How many times did you feel like you were starting over or were in transition and not necessarily making progress?
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, you know, with a new team there's always a lot of growing pains. You're never going to get it right the first go around, not all of it. Hopefully you get most of it right. There's always going to be changes to come. Fortunately for us, they were the right changes.
Jay coming in, you know, I think took the team to a new level. Ryan doing the same. Ryan was in a unique situation where we had an outstanding guy last year that had a lot of talent, that everyone in the organization knew was there, but we wanted to use it in a different way, and he felt it would be best used somewhere else. That's come to be true. Kevin Hamlin is still part of the team and a member of the team. It's amazing to see him and Ryan work together.
I think that that transition, which was Jay's planning, idea and thoughts, was a very smart move in hindsight. I could see it at the time. But Ryan coming in, it wasn't like we were really starting over. We were, but we still kind -- Kevin was still there a part of it. Kevin still contributes, along with a lot of other people. There's a lot of people at Red Bull, like Kyle at the back, that's been there from the beginning. A lot of familiar faces and people that have been there from the beginning like myself, and there's people that have come along throughout the years. So it hasn't felt like we've completely started over at times, but it definitely felt like we've gone through a lot of transitions.
I knew that going into it. It's a brand-new team with a brand-new manufacturer. You're never going to get all of it right the first time. You're going to have to adapt and make changes and we have and it's paid off.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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