Impressive Debut For Red Bull
February 27, 2007 | 12:01 A.M. EST
In four attempts to make a race – three in 2006 and this year’s season-opening Daytona 500 – the organization failed to qualify for each of the events (albeit once was because qualifying was cancelled due to rain). However, this past weekend at California they broke through when Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, secured the 15th starting spot for the Auto Club 500.
Once Team Red Bull made the race, the sky appeared to be the limit for the newcomers.
Vickers showed his Toyota Camry had pace throughout the weekend, setting the 15th fastest time during Saturday’s Happy Hour practice session. Then on Sunday, he backed up the performance with a 10th-place finish.
"Everybody did such a good job – Team Red Bull and Toyota – everybody involved, this is really our first intermediate track for us and for Toyota. To come out of it with a top 10 – I don’t think it could have been any better," Vickers said.
However, at moments throughout the 250-lap race at the 2-mile speedway, Vickers looked to have his sights set on a much higher result in his 2007 debut in a points paying race. Nonetheless, he was satisfied with the first top-10 finish for a Toyota team in NEXTEL Cup competition.
"We potentially had (a top-three car), but we didn’t have one there at the end. If we would have hit our adjustments just right, maybe. For us to be able to run today we would have had to have a different setup and I don’t know if that is something we could make on pit road. To get from a top 10 to a winning car. I think a top five would have been reasonable if we would have hit everything right," said the 23-year-old.
"I think this finish says a lot about the whole group, not just Team Red Bull, not just the No. 83, about Toyota, about Red Bull. To be a new team in such a competitive series and come in our first race and get a top 10 – I’m so proud of everyone. I think everyone is stoked about the situation. We got a top 10, now we want a top-5. We have to maintain our goals. I don’t think we can leap frog everything right yet. I think our goal is to go to the next race and focus on making the race. Hopefully we can come out of it just like we did today. Until we get in the top 35 (in points), that has to be our goal – we can’t forget that."
As Vickers alluded to, this weekend’s results are not the ultimate solution for the team. Teammate AJ Allmendinger has yet to qualify for an event, and there are still at least three more races until NASCAR begins using the current owner points to lock in the top-35 teams into the field automatically.
But at least for one day, the team got to celebrate their success.
"Building this team from nothing into what we saw in California is great," said crew chief Doug Richert. "To come out of the box and get a top 10 – it’s very encouraging and I think we can continue to get results like that. I think we’re perfectly capable of getting top 10’s once we make races, but we still have to keep our main focus on making races. We have to get in the race, run as many laps as we can, and get consistent finishes."