Brian Vickers didn't think he would find himself in this position at just 20 years of age — battling for the Busch series championship and starting his Winston Cup career.
"It can be very hectic and wide open, just not enough time for anything," said Vickers after qualifying second Friday for the Winston Cup Race at Phoenix International Raceway. "Sometimes you wake up in the morning like, 'man, this a dream come true' and you have to pinch yourself."
Vickers hopes to take another step closer to making one dream come true in today's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at PIR. He is currently fifth in the Busch standings, just 49 points behind close friend David Green. Vickers also drove in last week's Winston Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his first in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 car. He will keep that ride for the remaining four races of the season.
Vickers replaced Green in Hendrick's Busch car at the end of last season. Green revived his career, driving the Hendrick's car for the remainder of last season after Rickey Hendrick retired.
"Green helped me a lot last year before he was out of a ride," Vickers said. "It wasn't exactly the way either one of us wanted it to happen for both of us to get a ride but it worked out."
Vickers fell from first to fifth in the Busch points standing on Oct. 25 in Atlanta. In the race's second lap, Vickers made contact with another car and damaged his fender and then later spun en route to a 31st-place finish.
"Our goals all year have been go out there and complete every lap, stay on the lead lap and stay out of trouble — which we didn't accomplish last week — and have a good solid finish," Vickers said.
Only one other Busch points race has been tighter this late in the season. Larry Pearson led Brett Bodine by six points with three events to go in 1986 before capturing the first of two championships.
Vickers just hopes the dream continues.
"I never thought it would be this early (but) it makes it that much better."
NOT MY FAULT
Ryan Newman hasn't forgotten about last Monday's crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a collision he believes was caused by Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Newman was racing for sixth place with four laps remaining and passed Earnhardt when the incident occurred.
"I know I was clear when I moved out in front of him and I know my car was straight when I was in front of him," Newman said. "Then the next thing I know is he hit me and I believe he hit me again and spun me around the other way as he was trying to duck back underneath me, that is all I remember though."
"The point being is I was on the straight-away when I got hit."
Jimmie Johnson's sponsor, Lowe's home improvement store, will donate $100,000 and add another $48 dollars for every lap he leads in Sunday's Winston Cup race to the American Red Cross disaster relief program.
"A lot of people in the area where I grew up are going to need assistance and help," said Johnson, who's hometown is El Cajon, Calif.
Johnson's car will have sticker on it that reads "Racing for Relief" and if he wins the race Lowe's will donate another $25,000.
Lowe's will also serve as a public donation point for the American Red Cross disaster relief program.
PIR track president Bryan Sperber said all reserved seats for Sunday's Winston Cup race have been purchased but general admission hillside seats still remain.
For today's Busch race, there are reserved and general admission seats available Sperber said.
With parking at a premium, PIR has parking available at Cricket Pavilion with a shuttle service to the track.
"We have been doing that for a number of years; that's been a really successful program," Sperber said. "It gets more and more popular."