Season Opener at Daytona International Speedway
Brian Vickers had more than one close call while piloting the ABF Toyota Camry this weekend. During final practice Brian veered left onto the infield to avoid a multi-car collision. At the same time, teammate Jason Leffler made a similar move, which meant that two of Braun Racings three entries for Daytona were spinning in what looked to be a synchronized maneuver at over 180mph! Thankfully, both cars escaped with little or no damage, and the teams decided to park both cars and save them for qualifying.
Friday's qualifying session brought no less excitement, as Brian prepared to go out as the last qualifier to take time for Saturday's season opening race. Both Leffler and Denny Hamlin, piloting the #38 and #32 Braun entries, had posted top–ten speeds, and were guaranteed a starting spot for the Camping World 300. As Brian prepared to drive onto the track, there seemed to be a delay. The car wouldn't start! The fast acting ABF Pit Crew was able to push start the car, and Brian placed his #10 Toyota 11th on the starting grid. Afterward, Brian seemed pleased with the qualifying effort, noting that the team had opted to tune the car for handling during the race rather than for all-out speed for their qualifying attempt.
For Saturday's race, things started to click very well. Brian was able to keep the #10 ABF car near the front for pretty much the entire race and led several laps, aided by flawless pit-stops by the ABF Pit Crew. By lap 55, Vickers, running second, was part of a three car breakaway that had amassed an eight-second lead over Clint Bowyer, who was in fourth. Unfortunately, lap 55 also brought the first caution of the race when David Gilliland's Ford became closely acquainted with the outside wall.
As the race wound down to the final laps, Brian found himself in one of the strongest cars in the field, but without a drafting partner, as neither Hamlin in the #32 nor Leffler in the #38 were able to push far enough to the front to help propel Vickers back into the lead. As the checkers fell, Tony Stewart crossed the line first, followed by teammate Kyle Busch and restrictor-plate ace Dale Earnhart Jr. Brian crossed close behind, posting a well-earned 4th place finish for the ABF Camry. Hamlin finished 8th in the #32, and Leffler brought the #38 home on the lead lap in 19th.
For 2008, Vickers is slated to drive the ABF Camry in eight Nationwide Series races beginning with the 2008 season opener at Daytona. Vickers will pilot the #32 entry at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway Michigan International Speedway, California Speedway, and Kansas Speedway, and the #10 entry at Daytona International Speedway in February, Lowe's Motor Speedway in May, and Bristol Motor Speedway in August. Vickers will once again have the guidance of crew chief Trent Owens leading the team in 2008. For more information, please visit www.TeamABFRacing.com, www.UPACK.com, www.ABF.com, and www.BraunRacing.com.
(Photos courtesy of www.thehotlap.com)