BROOKLYN, Mich. - Nobody could touch Brian Vickers on Friday in NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Michigan International Speedway. “It was there from the first lap, the first turn,” Vickers said after his lap of 188.536 mph put the Red Bull Racing driver on the pole for Sunday’s 3M Performance 400.
“We tried some things during practice that didn’t work at all,” he added. “So we went back to where we were and I think that’s one of the best qualifying cars I’ve ever had. It was a heck of a lap.
“Sometimes you just hit it. You don’t know why.”
It was the fifth career pole for Vickers, but the first for his team and his first since November 2006 at Texas, when he was still driving for Hendrick Motorsports.
Last season, the first for both Red Bull and Toyota in Cup, was mostly a struggle for Vickers, who finished 38th in the standings. But the 24-year-old, who raced to fourth here in June — one of three top-fives this season — has made big strides this year and is a solid 17th in the standings.
“I’m very proud of everybody at Red Bull Racing and Toyota,” he said. “We’ve come a long way since last year.
Two-time reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was second at 187.028. But his lap was more than three-tenths of a second slower than Vickers on the 2-mile oval.
“We picked up speed from practice, but I just knew in the car it wasn’t the fastest lap,” Johnson said. “And I think, for that (Red Bull) team and Brian, this has been a track that fits their style. He’ll be even more of a threat come race time.”
“That’s a great team,” Vickers said of Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Chevrolet. “It’s the team to beat in our sport for the last several years.”
And the fast lap by Vickers wasn’t a fluke. He was also fastest in the 90-minute practice earlier Friday.
“To lay that lap down in practice and back it up in qualifying, that’s a really good feeling,” the youngster said. “Really unbelievable. I wish we could take that and apply it to every week. But it’s not that easy.”