Vickers nips Gordon for pole in Richmond
Vickers posted a lap of 171.131 mph in his Team Red Bull Toyota to claim the top spot, barely faster than Jeff Gordon.
The pole was the seventh of Vickers' Sprint Cup Series career.
"It was a great lap," Vickers said. "The car was unbelievable. I told the guys when I came across the line it was a pretty good one."
Jeff Gordon put his DuPont Chevrolet outside the front row with a lap of 126.844 mph.
Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, Jr. and Jeff Burton rounded out the top five.
Mike Bliss, Mark Martin, Scott Speed, David Reutimann and Ryan Newman completed the first ten qualifiers.
Saturday night's Crown Royal Presents the Russ Friedman 400 is slated for a 7 p.m. ET green flag with live coverage on FOX and MRN.
Q&A with polesitter Vickers
How was your qualifying lap? "It was a great lap. The car was unbelievable. I told the guys when I came across the line that it was a pretty good one. Whether or not it was going to be able to hold up, I wasn't sure. I knew that myself and Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson) were all very close in practice -- all three had really good cars. The sun popped out pretty bright when we ran our lap and I wasn't sure if that was going to make the difference but I knew that I couldn't ask anymore out of my car. The Red Bull team did a tremendous job. We didn't unload where we wanted to be. We struggled through a lot of bad changes throughout practice, but the guys really turned it around which is difficult to do. Once that momentum starts heading in the wrong direction, it's very difficult sometimes to turn it around. We did turn it around and we had a really good car by the end of practice and made it even better for qualifying and the lap held."
How did the change in the weather (from practice) affect the track? "It hasn't changed much. It added grip -- there's more grip on the track. It hasn't changed dramatically, balance-wise."
How important is it to start up front here? "It's very important. This is a very difficult track to pass on -- and pit selection matters."
Do you feel like you're better prepared now than you were five years ago when you were on the pole here? "The slower pole speed is due to obviously the COT and the track conditions. The track is worn out a little bit and they don't seal it anymore like they used to, which I think is a good thing. I think the sealing hurt it in races. We probably have as good of a car or better to go and compete for a win and obviously five years of experience is priceless when it comes to especially racing in this series. Not just qualifying, but racing. There's a lot of competition. It's a very difficult, very challenging series to race in and these cars are very difficult to drive in. You can't put a price on five years of experience."
Do you enjoy competing at Richmond? "Yeah, it is. I do enjoy Richmond. It's probably not my favorite race track. Not because there's necessarily anything wrong with it or anything particular I dislike about it, there's just others I like more. I do like coming here. It's a great race track. I think it's a great race for the fans. It's a very easy track to get beside someone. It's a very difficult track to complete the pass which can be very frustrating in the race. The short tracks, especially since I moved to Red Bull Racing, have definitely not been our best. With a new team you have to pick and choose and we picked to focus on the intermediate tracks which was the obvious, logical choice because there's more of them. We're just not starting to focus on short tracks. We made a big effort towards the end of last year, primarily over the off season, to focus on short tracks and I think it's starting to pay off. We had a great car at Martinsville -- ran in the top-10 all day. Was going to have a top-10 or maybe a top-five and unfortunately were held on pit road for three laps while NASCAR looked for oil, there wasn't any and we were let go but it didn't matter because we were three laps down. Then we come here with another great car and I think it's starting to show. This hasn't been my best track and it definitely hasn't been Red Bull's best track over the years but we hope to turn that around this weekend."
Were you surprised that Denny Hamlin dominated this race last spring? "This is typically not the track that you're going to see someone walk away with it, this is typically not the series you're going to see somebody walk away with it and it's typically not the car you're going to see somebody walk away with it. The fact that Denny (Hamlin) did it last year -- good for those guys, congratulations. I think no matter what you race -- if it's on foot, in a boat, in a race car or you can name anything -- sometimes you have a group of individuals that just put every piece together better than anybody else and they're going to dominate. That's part of any sport. That's never going to go away. It could happen tomorrow night. It's probably not very likely. I think it's very unlikely that it's going to happen but it's going to happen. You're going to have races where that happens and to be honest with you, I really hope that we stink up the show tomorrow night. That would be fantastic if we could just walk away with it but I don't anticipate that."
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