With his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota team experimenting with the setup of his car, Brian Vickers struggled early last Sunday in the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished 26th and remained 12th in the Sprint Cup standings.
In the ninth installment of his Chase diary, Vickers talks about the Texas race, the difficulty of the track and the news that Danica Patrick was likely to run more than a dozen stock car races for JR Motorsports next season.
“I was pretty bummed to see Jimmie crash, because I’m really pulling for him to win four in a row. But anything can happen.
“We went there wanting to try something different. It was away from what’s been our normal package and what’s been successful for us. So I don’t think anyone was completely surprised. It wasn’t like we went up there with a normal package and we struggled. We went there intentionally wanting to try something different, and it didn’t work. So we had to abort and then race, and we paid the price for it. At the same time, we learned a lot from it, and ultimately, that was the point.
“We really had very little to lose, and we weren’t going to be any worse in the points no matter what happened. It wasn’t successful—we didn’t win the race—but we did learn. Sometimes you learn as much what not to do as what to do.
“(The track) was very tough. I don’t know whether it was because the tires, but I think the track’s getting older, it’s slick, and it’s starting to wear out a lot. It was challenging for everyone, it seemed like. There were a lot of incidents in practice, a lot of things going on throughout the entire race that I think really caught people off guard.
“I think (the prospect of having Danica Patrick come to NASCAR) obviously is good for the sport, for NASCAR. It’s going to bring more media, more attention, more fans—which is good for everybody. I’m a big believer that a rising tide brings all boats up. I think her situation’s exactly that. It’s going to be a rising tide for the sport, and all ships are going to rise with it. Obviously, hers may rise more than others, but her coming to the sport is going to bring a lot of things: more attention, probably more fans, etc.
“Now her success—or lack thereof—is going to be a whole different story. It’s completely up to her. And if she’s successful, it’s going to be a bigger story. If she’s not successful, it’s going to be less of a story, but it’s still going to be a story. It’s not the first time that a woman has been in NASCAR, and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last. Women have been welcome in our sport for many, many years. Whether they’ve been here or not is another question. Why they have or have not been in our sport is a whole different question.
“The fact remains that women have always been welcome. They’ve come and gone. I look at it as unfortunate for our sport that no (women) have been able to produce the amount of success to remain in the sport for a long period of time.
“I think (Patrick) is going to be an eye-opener. I think it’s going to be more difficult than she imagines, and I don’t think that has anything to do with her being a woman. I think that’s solely because she’s an open-wheel driver. She’s an open-wheel racer, and she’s not the first one that’s come to our sport, and she won’t be the last. And every single one of them will tell you that it’s a very difficult transition. Our cars are nothing like theirs. They’re very big, heavy, with a lot of horsepower and no downforce, no driver assist, no traction control—none of the above. Our racing is very competitive. It’s very aggressive and very hard, beating and banging, bumper-to-bumper. We race a lot of different tracks and circumstances.
“That’s going to be very different for her, and it’s going to be a learning process. She’s going to have to be very patient with herself. The one thing she has on her side that a lot of other open-wheel drivers never have had is time. The reason I say that is she has sponsors, and a lot of sponsors are going to come to her because she’s a woman. She’s going to have sponsors, and as long as she has sponsors, she’s going to have owners that want to sign her to rides—good rides. And that’s going to buy her time.
“Even Juan (Pablo Montoya) took four years to get to where he’s at now. Here’s something that people don’t remember about Juan—and I’ll give credit where it’s due. The guy is obviously a wheel man. He’s won the Indy 500, he’s won a (CART) championship, he’s won Formula One races, he’s won Monaco, he’s won in sports cars, he’s won the Daytona 24-hour race. He’s won in a lot of different types of cars. So he’s proven beyond one circumstance that he can be successful. But even with all that, it still took him years before he could compete on a week-to-week basis in NASCAR.”