Texas NASCAR Notebook

Brian Vickers

This season marks the sixth year that FedEx has teamed up with the March of Dimes for a special paint scheme on the No. 11 Toyota, and this year, almost 30,000 fans voted on the look of the car. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

Thursday Testing Recap and Speeds | 1st Practice Speeds | Final Practice Speeds

FORT WORTH, Texas – A look at some news and notes from Texas Motor Speedway as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets ready to run Saturday night's NRA 500.

Earnhardt Defends Johnson
There was some fan outrage over Jimmie Johnson not allowing Dale Earnhardt Jr. to squeeze by last week at Martinsville after "Junior" spun during the STP Gas Booster 500.  But the Hendrick Motorsports teammates are on the same page, with Earnhardt saying he had no beef with what race leader Johnson did on his way to Victory Lane.

"Jimmie couldn’t slow down," Earnhardt said.  "If you slow down, the guy behind you has the right to take your position.  I lost a spot to Hamlin under caution at Phoenix, so I know about that all too well.  Jimmie, leading the race, couldn’t take the chance."

Earnhardt thought Johnson actually did try to cut him a break, but that the circumstances dictated otherwise.

"He tried to slow down and I think he saw that I had two left-side flat tires and it was pretty pointless for him to wait," Earnhardt said.  "If he stopped at all, the guys behind him would have been able to pass him for that position.  He couldn’t take that risk.  I would have done the same thing Jimmie did.  I’m leading the race.  I’ve got to think about my team, my car and what I’m trying to do.  I don’t think he did it out of spite or anything like that.  He was just driving is race."

The bottom line for Earnhardt, who suffered a track bar issue earlier in the 500-lap grind, was disappointment for running so poorly.

"We shouldn’t have been back there in the first place and been in that position to be run over," said Earnhardt.  "Unfortunately, it was a bad day for us and just seemed to get worse.  But he wasn’t doing anything he wasn’t supposed to be doing.  The guy is leading the race, you know?"

Biffle Looks for Better
Defending race winner Greg Biffle has been fast early on this weekend at Texas, leading the way in Thursday’s open test session.  After his stumble last month at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Roush Fenway Racing driver knows he needs to up the ante on the team's 1.5-mile track program.

"Plain and simple, we screwed up at Vegas and I take most of the blame for that," Biffle said.  "We were way off with the new car.  If you would have told me I'd finish 17th at Las Vegas and ninth at Martinsville (last Sunday), I would have told you that you were smoking something.  I just never thought that would happen to us, but that’s just the way it works."

Biffle rides into Texas sixth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings, looking for a third straight top-10 finish on Saturday night.

"This track feels good," he said.  "Our laps look fairly good so I feel confident we’re going to have a decent weekend with at least a top-10 run, and we’ll hone in on that as the weekend goes.  We have a good chance at winning."

Vickers Racing for a Cause
Brian Vickers will be racing for a cause this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway as he will be carrying the a special March of Dimes paint scheme on his No. 11 Toyota in the NRA 500.

Vickers, who is driving for the injured Denny Hamlin, will represent FedEx in its sixth year that they will have March of Dimes on the car. Nine-year-old Nina Centofanti, the organization’s national ambassador, is at the track this weekend and is sporting a driver’s uniform just like the one Vickers will wear in the race.

“This is a special weekend for me in a lot of ways," Vickers said. “Because of the contributions of so many people and through these marches around the country, we have a special guest here, Nina, here with us. I’m happy to be in the car. It’s a great opportunity for me. I know what Denny is going through. I’ve been in the position where I’ve been out, I’ve been sick and had someone replace, had to drive for me. My thoughts continue to be with him and I hope to do a good job with him this weekend for the entire FedEx team. Right now the focus is on trying to win this race and doing the best job we can for March of Dimes.”

Post Race Martinsville Fireworks Addressed
Last week's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway had its share of on track contact with some coming after the checkered flag had flown.

Kevin Harvick extracted some revenge on Brian Vickers after the two crossed the finish line apparently a result of a hard fought battle on the race track that included Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.

Vickers explained why he thought Harvick decided to turn him around in Turns 1 and 2 despite the race being over.

"There was a few incidents, one of them was with the 88 (Earnhardt Jr.) and the 10 (Patrick) – the 10 moved the 88 coming out of turn two and then Junior seemed a little displeased the way he ran her down the track a little bit, which is understandable," said Vickers. "It’s just racing at Martinsville. We all went in there and everybody slammed on brakes and she got a little loose and the 43 (Aric Almirola) got me and I got her. I spoke to Junior this week and he was fine. He understood it’s Martinsville racing. I think he had a broken track bar and they were just hanging on for dear life, but none of it was obviously intentional.

"For me, I want to go out there and do the best I can to win. I have to race hard. We want to earn respect in the right way, not necessarily in the wrong way. Obviously there at the end of the race the 29 (Harvick) wrecked us after the checkered. I reached out to Harvick, I tried to call him and he didn’t answer. We text back and forth a few times. We were on a different page to start with and I think we ended closer to the same page, but not necessarily where we needed to be. I’d still like to spend a few minutes with him. I think he was for some reason under the impression that I put him three-wide on a restart. The reality was I started on the inside and he started on the outside and he passed someone and put himself three-wide. I had nothing to do with that. He took his frustration out on us. It’s unfortunate. It didn’t cost us anything in the race. It tore our car up, so I hate it for the team because that’s unnecessary, I guess it’s Martinsville racing, right."

Patrick, who came home with an impressive 12th-place finish after falling two laps down earlier in the race, found Harvick after the race to seek some clarification of his actions.

"I said, 'Thanks,' because it looked like he (Harvick) was giving me a hand there with someone that was a little upset," Patrick said of her post-race conversation with the Richard Childress Racing driver. "He was a little upset with him (Vickers), too. There were a lot of people upset with Vickers after Martinsville. I haven’t raced with him very much, so I’m getting on with my day. You saw what happened and (it's) like I was told by a couple people, I just got hit. At least I only lost one spot."

Smith 'Delighted' with HOF Nomination
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President Bruton Smith is one of five new nominees for the fifth class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  The track entrepreneur is honored to be nominated.

"I'm delighted my name has come up.  That's wonderful," Smith said.  "If I'm inducted at a later time, I will do whatever I can to help grow the facility in Charlotte and continue to help grow the sport," Smith said.

Smith’s position did change from recent comments he made for an upcoming NASCAR Illustrated story in which he said making the Hall of Fame was not high on his list of priorities.

"When I made that statement, I didn’t realize it meant so much to so many people,” he said.  "I have about 15,000 employees and I started hearing from them and a lot of friends.  I found out that meant so much to them.  And some of my family, of course all of them, chimed in.  So that helped correct what I had said a month or two months ago."

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