From the beginning of the season, it's been the tale of two bulls at Red Bull Racing.
Brian Vickers and the No. 83 team have been quietly competing for a top-12 spot and a place in the 2009 Chase, while Scott Speed and the No. 82 team have been battling for a spot inside the top-35 each weekend.
Heading into the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard this weekend, but drivers look for a solid finish to move each towards their separate goals.
Vickers currently sits 16th in points with seven races remaining before the Chase begins. Though the 146 points he needs to make up look daunting, a few solid finishes could quickly close the gap.
Vickers has five starts at the infamous 2.5-mile track in Indiana, but has only one top-five finish (a third-place finish in 2005). Vickers finished 42nd at the track in last year's race after suffering from engine problems only 93 laps into the race.
His average finish of 22.4 isn't awful, but he does have two DNF's in his five starts.
Earlier this summer, Vickers was fortunate enough to take part in tire testing, after last year's race failed to see more than 14 green flag laps run at a time.
"Obviously last year was an embarrassment for the sport at Indianapolis," Vickers said. "It was not at all what anybody wanted, and I commend NASCAR and Goodyear. They're going above and beyond to get this problem fixed."
Many drivers have commented this week, saying they are confident Goodyear brought the right tire combination for this weekend's event, to keep another race like 2008 from repeating itself.
"When you make these tires slower and harder, they just slide across the pavement and because of that grooving it just turns into a shredder and they just don't last," Vickers said.
"So we're going to have to have a softer, faster tire that essentially will grip the track instead of sliding across it, I think, to make it last. If they can find a way around it, great, but if not, I think we just accept the inevitable and have a fast tire and good race."
Speed comes to Indy for the first time in a stock car, as he looks to make up lost ground on 35th-place in the owner standings.
He last was behind the wheel of a Formula One car in 2007 at The Brickyard, where he finished a respectable 13th.
Though he's been on the track before, F1 races in the opposite direction than NASCAR on the oval.
"Everything about Indianapolis was completely different," Speed said. "I mean, in Formula 1, we even ran in reverse down the straightaway. Racing on the oval is going to be a completely new situation.
"As far as what's going to be the same for me at Indianapolis, I do know where the good restaurants are, and I've played the Brickyard Crossing golf course, which I'll probably do again. Other than that, not much will be familiar for me."
Speed looked to be on track to make up some points in the battle for a top-35 spot two weeks ago at Chicagoland.
His No. 82 Toyota qualified on the front row, alongside his teammate, and ran solid during the first part of the race.
After sliding back in the pack, Speed looked to be heading towards a top-20 finish before being caught up in an accident. He finished 36th, and fell further behind a guaranteed spot each weekend.
"For the last three weekends, we've been running really well during the race," Speed said. "We've been unlucky though, not to finish any of those races because we've been caught up in wrecks.
But seeing the progress we've made as a team is definitely rewarding and good for team morale. We just need to keep running like this every weekend—and actually finish—and that will be a huge improvement for the whole 82 team.
"For the last three weekends we've been wrecked out of top-20 finishes. It's like, man, what do we need to do to catch a break?"
Speed is one of 11 drivers vying for eight spots in this weekend's event.
This article also appears on Pit Road Report.
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