[media-credit name=”Ed Coombs” align=”alignright” width=”236″][/media-credit]Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, is still flying high after skydiving into Daytona International Speedway. He is now hoping that the exhilaration will just continue right into one of his better tracks Pocono Raceway.
“It was incredible,” Vickers said. “To be able to jump into Daytona was amazing.”
“Jumping into any other track would have been incredible but Daytona is the biggest event and the biggest track,” Vickers continued. “I thought it would be pretty appropriate and pretty cool to jump in there first.”
“To be able to see the track from that height was cool and it was beautiful,” Vickers said. “That picture is just burned in my mind for sure.”
Not only was the Daytona jump exhilarating for Vickers, but it was also a piece of unfinished business for the young driver. Finishing the Dover race this year also fell into that category as well.
“We had this scheduled last year and it got cancelled due to my health reasons,” Vickers said of his skydive. “So to be able to come back and finish it and to finish what we started meant a lot.”
“Jumping into Daytona and then finishing Dover were two very important things to me personally,” Vickers said. “Dover was the first race I missed so to finish that race and finish it well was important to me. Skydiving at Daytona was something we started in 2010 and to go back and finish that was very special.”
Vickers is counting on that exhilarating feeling from his jump carrying right over into his run at Pocono Raceway, one of his favorite tracks. In fact, Pocono is one of Vickers better tracks, having spent 73.4 percent of the laps in the top 15 in his last ten starts at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’
Vickers has started in the top ten in eight of his twelve starts at Pocono and he has had four top-five and five top-10 finishes. Pocono Raceway ranks second as far as top average-finish tracks for Vickers, with an average finish of 14.3 there.
“Pocono has been a good track for me,” Vickers said. “We’ve run well. I’ve sat on poles, we’ve been fast and I’ve finished second but we haven’t won here so there is unfinished business here too for sure.”
Vickers acknowledges that, as good as he is at Pocono, he along with all of the other drivers, will face some significant challenges. Among those are facing yet another potential fuel mileage race, as well as the new ability to shift.
“This race has been fuel strategy before but sometimes it’s just been a battle at the end,” Vickers said. “It just depends.”
“You can’t just plan on doing fuel strategy because it just depends on when the last caution falls,” Vickers continued. “It just depends on how the race plays out.”
“The shifting is going to be power shifting again and I think it’s better for the racing,” Vickers said. “We’ll see more passing.”
“I never understood why they stopped us from shifting,” Vickers continued. “It didn’t save anything or serve any purpose to my knowledge and it was harder to pass. It was a great decision to start shifting again.”
Another issue making the Triangle tricky in Vickers’ opinion is the heat, which is a bit of a carryover from the Kansas inferno of last weekend. Yet, Vickers definitely feels that plays right into his hands.
“It’s been very hot lately and the last couple of races have been very hot,” Vickers said. “I love it because I’m in the best shape of my life. It’s just an advantage that I have.”
Vickers also admitted that the heat not only makes the drivers miserably physically but can also lead to some heated emotions as well.
“There have been a lot of hot tempers lately,” Vickers said. “That’s just the emotional part of our sport.”
“It’s also just the personalities of each individual,” Vickers continued. “The hot head or temper has never been my thing.”
Vickers also acknowledged that the length of the race, the Five Hour Energy 500, can also take its toll, physically and emotionally.
“It’s a very long race and it’s actually too long,” Vickers said. “I love Pocono and I want to see them keep their race dates but I think to do that, they’re going to have to shorten the race.”
“The fans here are amazing and they almost always fill the stands,” Vickers continued. “I really enjoy racing on the track, but it’s too long. But it is what it is for now.”
Vickers’ final challenge at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ is figuring out his qualifying order strategy.
“You want to go out early for qualifying so you have to sandbag a little bit,” Vickers said. “But if it rains, you want to be in the front. So, it’s tough.”
“A lot of it is just going to be playing the weather and whoever makes the best guess for the weather will have that advantage,” Vickers continued. “If it looks like it’s going to rain, they’ll go as fast as they can to qualify late. But if it looks sunny and hot, you’ll see some guys lay off in practice.”
“It’s hard because you want to go fast,” Vickers said. “But there’s ways to do it without compromising the performance of the set up or the car.”
Vickers is also hoping, very earnestly, that Pocono will not only yield a good finish but will also help him continue to climb in the point standings. And, of course, he too has his eye on making the Chase, currently sitting 26th in the point standings, just 29 points shy of the 20th spot.
“We need to keep climbing,” Vickers said. “We got in a hole at the beginning of the year and we got into some wrecks early in the season. So, we need to get out of this hole.”
“I still think we can get there,” Vickers continued. “A win or two would put us in the Chase for the wild card and hopefully we can climb our way back up the hard way. But either way, I still think we have a shot at it.”
What was truly amazing to Vickers, however, was that he actually skydived into Daytona at 5,000 feet, which is just slightly longer than the front stretch of the Pocono Raceway at 3,740 feet.
“That’s crazy,” Vickers said. “It was exhilarating.”