2007 Team Preview: Red Bull
February 14, 2007 | 9:00 A.M. EST
While nobody at the rookie organization refutes that claim – especially since they enter the season with no guaranteed starting spots through at least the first five races, a novice stock car driver who recently made the switch from the open wheel ranks, and a new manufacturer in Toyota – the Dietrich Mateschitz-owned outfit prefers to focus on the fact that they will be bringing a new approach to the NEXTEL Cup Series than to all of the challenges ahead of them. A method that may take time to succeed, but will make "climbing the mountain" enjoyable for the team, and their drivers; Brian Vickers, formerly of Hendrick Motorsports, and AJ Allmendinger, winner of five Champ Car World Series races for Forsythe Championship Racing in 2006.
Their top secret tactic? Being themselves.
Starting with their initial press conference that unveiled their driver lineup for 2007, Team Red Bull has forgone the typical corporate NASCAR philosophy adopted by the majority of teams and allows everybody to be themselves.
"It’s such a change from any team and sponsor I’ve ever worked with," said Vickers, who will drive the No. 83 Red Bull Camry this season. "When we announced the deal, I was waiting for them to give me a Red Bull shirt or something and I was just in shorts and a red t-shirt that I bought at some store in SoHo (a neighborhood in New York City) and I’m like ‘what do you want me to wear,’ and they said ‘are you comfortable in that?’ ‘Yeah,’ ‘that’s good for us.’"
From that press conference to the various unique opportunities presented to them, which includes blocking traffic in Brooklyn, New York, to do a photo shoot and doing donuts at a AMA Supercross event at Anaheim, California, both drivers have learned about the “Red Bull Way” and that has allowed them to be more at ease about the upcoming season and the challenges they face.
"I don’t have to change myself to be with them, I don’t have to change myself to be who I am and stuff, I can just kind of relax and do what I want and just learn on my own pace," said Allmendinger, who will drive the No. 84 Red Bull Camry. "They are a great team, they are behind me, and they have built a great organization that I think has great building blocks for the future and I am just excited to be a small part of that right now."
However, even the most cavalier attitude cannot change the facts for the organization in 2007, and most immediately, at this week’s opening race – the Daytona 500.
Despite having a NASCAR Busch Series champion in Vickers (2003), a multiple race winning crew chief in Doug Richert (formerly with Greg Biffle at Roush Racing who took on the role of crew chief for the No. 83 Camry) and an experienced leader in Marty Gaunt (who prior to taking on the role of General Manager of the team held a similar position for Red Horse Racing in the Craftsman Truck Series) in their ranks, the team is still new and lacks the experience of top organizations like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Also, as they have experienced first hand, the pace of the new Toyota Camry is behind their rivals at Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet – making qualifying for individual events appear extremely difficult.
Finally, there is that small problem of Allmendinger lacking actual stock car experience – having failed to qualify in his two previous attempts for a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event last season (albeit once was because rain eliminated qualifying).
Nonetheless, they will stick to their approach to the sport in the hopes of decreasing the gaps between themselves and all of their rivals.
"Nobody has come into this sport and won right away," said Allmendinger. "It is probably the tightest competition around the world.
"The whole team, they understand what we are in for, they understand that there is a chance both cars won’t make the 500, both may, one might and one might not – you never know. But they are in it for the long haul, they are not in it just for six months, one year, two years."
As Vickers explained, "We just need to go out there and just do our thing."