Brian Vickers Talks Short-Track Racing

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IMarch 25, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 22: Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, prepares to climb into his car prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 22, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway are both half-mile tracks, but they are anything but similar.

Bristol has the high banked corners that allow drivers to more easily roll through at higher speeds, while Martinsville's paper-clip shape with flat corners requires more braking.

On Tuesday, Brian Vickers (driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota), talked a little about the differences in the two tracks.

When asked about the differences between the two short tracks on NASCAR's top-circuit, Vickers said: "Where do I start?"

"The only thing that's similar about the two facilities is that they are both obviously a half-mile, but beyond that, there's nothing similar," Vickers added. "Maybe they have concrete in the turns, but I don't know if I would even go there. One is obviously very high banking, and another one is very flat."

While the tracks may appear very different, they also offer a different style of racing, both of which—Vickers said—were exciting.

"I think they both offer a great race, a great variety to the schedule," he said. "I like both tracks. But the way you approach both of them, the way you drive them, and the way you set the cars up for them, there's actually no similarities at all."

So while the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits back-to-back short-tracks, Vickers said the two weekends are prepared for completely different.

"Although we do say there's two short-tracks back-to-back, or two half-miles, they are really not," he said. "They are absolutely completely different. You know, I enjoy both of them."

When it comes to qualifying at a short-track, drivers and teams often approach it with an all-or-nothing approach—being as track position is so important.

"The short-tracks are difficult to qualify on already, plus with the competitiveness of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, it's changed a little bit here," Vickers said. "But with the NEXTEL Cup Series, the competition is so strong. You're talking about you're fighting for a hundredths of a second; a tenth can separate 15, 20 spots at times. And when you're on a half-mile track like Martinsville or Bristol, the margin for error is very small, and if you make a mistake, it's very difficult to recover from that."

On both tracks, laps are run in around 15 seconds, and the leaders begin lapping cars within 15-20 laps.

With the number of cars that tend to get laps down early, it can be hard to be in position to be awarded the Lucky Dog and get laps back.

On the larger tracks, Vickers said it was more possible to make up for a bad lap and/or avoid wrecks, however at short-tracks, the cars are bunched up so tight, it's nearly impossible.

"Mile-and-a-half, two-mile race track, you can miss an entry or accident somewhere else and make it up somewhere else and still have a decent lap," Vickers said. "These tracks, there's no way to make that time up."

Vickers enters this weekend 14th in Spring Cup points, after a 29th place showing at Bristol this past weekend.

Looking ahead to Martinsville, Vickers said his team has not historically run well at the short-tracks.

"Obviously, it's been a down year for us so far," he said. "We've had some really good races and we've had some that we wish we could re do. But all in all, we've had three top-10s and a top-five, and we are looking forward to going to Martinsville."

Vickers felt that being 14th in points in only Team Red Bull's third year is impressive.

"I don't think we have a lot to complain about, but obviously we always want to do better."

"The short-tracks have not historically been our best tracks, but we have worked really hard the whole year to improve on the short-tracks, and I think we have come a long ways," he said. "The last time we were at Martinsville, we had a great race. We finished, I think 11th, but we ran top-five, top-three, led some, a good portion of the day."

Vickers said that near the end of the race, the team was conserving fuel, costing them some spots.

"All in all, I thought it was a good race for us."

In eight career starts at the paper-clip, Vickers has one top-10 (Spring 2006 in the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy) and an average finish of 21.3.

Vickers and the No. 83 team missed both Martinsville races in their inaugural season (2007) and finished 23rd in this race last year and 11th in the fall race.