Right in the backyard of struggling carmakers Chevy, Ford and Dodge, Toyota rubbed salt in the wounds by locking up the top-2 starting positions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Brian Vickers put his Team Red Bull Toyota on the pole Friday in qualifying.
Vickers won his second straight pole at Michigan and third of the season Friday, turning a lap at 189.110 mph (38.073 seconds) during qualifying for the LifeLock 400. The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota was a brand new car (chassis No. 225) built on short notice by Red Bull Racing’s manufacturing team.
The No. 83 drew an early 12th-place qualifying position, forcing Vickers to sweat out 33 more cars in the session. He was second fastest in opening practice, and the team picked up a needed tenth of a second in qualifying.
Sitting on the pole is no easy accomplishment. The Red Bull guys did a great job and Vickers will start inside Kyle Busch when the green flag waves at 2 p.m. ET.
“We had an unbelievable car from when we unloaded, but we did have to work on it. We had to make a lot of adjustments during practice. By the end of practice we were really happy and the final lap I told the guys before I even crossed the line, ‘I can’t ask anything else out of you, it’s up to me.’ We were either going to be on the pole or I was going to mess it up. I’m glad I didn’t mess up.”
It was his second pole in eleven races at the two-mile superspeedway.
Jimmie Johnson qualified third in the Lowe's Chevrolet.
David Reutimann and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
A.J. Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and John Andretti completed the top-10.
Quotes from Top-2 Qualifiers
How was your qualifying lap?
"It was a really good lap -- it was faster than we put down last year and I didn't think we were going to be able to beat what we ran last year. Last year, was probably even a little better lap. I was really happy with the car in practice. The guys did a tremendous job. We went to go get a little more out of it and made it better on the exit, which made it better off (the corner). I don't know if we hurt the center a little bit. I got a little tight in the center of (turns) one and two when I got back in the gas. I don't think it hurt us too much. I was able to get wide open and stay in it."
How important is qualifying now with the double-file restarts?
"I think qualifying is still more about pit stall selection than anything else. The double-file restarts, if anything, help. Track position is still very important, but it's not as important. I think you can make up track position better now that everybody is stacked up a little closer."
Do you feel like your team is making gains every weekend?
"I think we're making gains -- we've been making gains all year. We've been making gains since this team founded. There are times when we made huge gains and times when the gains have been slow. There's been times when we've taken a few steps back, but for the most part we've always taken more steps forward. Really proud of the progression of this Red Bull team. We've come so far in such a few amount of years and hopefully we can keep going."
How does it feel to win the pole for Sunday's race?
"It always feels good to be the fastest driver in this series on any given day. It's a challenge to say the least. This is the most competitive racing series in the world, definitely here in the U.S. From the drivers to the teams, top to bottom. Sitting on the pole is no easy accomplishment. The Red Bull guys did a great job. We had an unbelievable car from when we unloaded. Last year, when we sat on the pole, literally after lap one we just put a cover on it and didn't even touch it because it was that great. Today, we had a good car, but we did have to work on it. We had to make a lot of adjustments during practice. By the end of practice we were really happy with the car and the final lap in practice I told the guys before I even crossed the line, 'I can't ask anything else out of you, it's up to me.' We were either going to be on the pole or I was going to mess it up, but the car was great. I'm glad I didn't mess up because I pretty much put it all on myself. I told them I couldn't ask anything else out of the car, but they gave me a great car."
How does it feel to be in a Toyota and win the pole in Michigan?
"That's a great question and probably better for Toyota. It may mean a lot to them, it may not. Personally, I didn't grow up in the Detroit generation -- I grew up in a national and international generation. To me, I see multi-national conglomerates that do business all around the world and it's very difficult to distinguish where their headquarters really is. Probably the only person that can distinguish where any company's headquarters is these days is whoever is collecting taxes. I can assure you that 'Uncle Sam' knows where their headquarters is. Toyota, in a lot of eyes and to me with what I've learned about them, they are as much of an American car company as anyone. They have been over the years and the Toyota Camry is the only car in the sport right now that's built in the U.S. I don't really think about it that much and I have received that question several times so it's not an uncommon question. It's probably a good question for Toyota. It probably bothers the 'Big Three' more than Toyota really cares. I think a pole for them anywhere is special -- I know it is for me."
What will it take to convert this pole into a win on Sunday?
"We've had the poles and we've had the fast cars. We had the car to win here last year, right up to the very end of the race we thought we put ourselves in a great position. Late caution came and we got put back several positions under the last caution. Later, NASCAR admitted they made a mistake in the ordering that cost us the race. We did all we could. Charlotte, there again we did all we could, we had the car to win and the rain just came at the wrong time. Granted there's a lot of races this year where we could have done better. Hopefully we can do our part again Sunday -- have the best car, make all the right decisions and beyond that we're just going to have to get some luck. I hate to always be the driver to just put it always off on luck, but it seems like every time we have the car to win, something happens that is out of our control. Hopefully we can do our part and whatever else happens, happens."
How much of a role does confidence play at Michigan for you?
"Confidence I think is important in anything you do. I was told from a very young age that cocky is inappropriate and that's always been instilled in me from my parents. There's a fine line there. I think internally, you have to have a certain amount of confidence in anything you do. It doesn't matter if you're a sports writer or a race car driver. You have to believe that you can do what you're doing. It definitely helps when you go to a race track that you know and you feel like you have history there and you've run well. It takes more than that. Pocono, last week, wasn't one of our best races and historically its been one of the best. I've had a lot of top-fives there and its one of my best tracks on the circuit -- last week it wasn't. Just because its been good in the past doesn't guarantee anything. You still have to work hard for it and all the pieces have to be put in place and everybody has to do their part."
What was it like to make a pit stop in Times Square last week?
"We just decided to do a pit stop in Times Square -- why not? It was fun -- it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. New York City is an amazing city -- to have the opportunity to do a pit stop in Times Square is pretty incredible. I think it generated a lot of press for the sport, for the city and it was fun."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 2nd
How strong is your race car?
"It wasn't bad. Actually, I thought it was a pretty good lap. Figured it would get beat, but not by what it got beat by. Myself and Jimmie (Johnson) ran relatively close lap times and (Brian) Vickers was up about a tenth from me. A tenth at a place like this, with these cars, is a lot. Not sure where (Brian) Vickers got that, but a good lap from him and his team. Felt like the M&M's Toyota was good when we unloaded here -- felt like it had good grip. The best we've unloaded at this place in a while, so we're excited about that. Hopefully, tomorrow in Happy Hour we can work on it a little bit and just try to get a little more longevity out of it for the long run."
How important is it to qualify up front?
"It's important to qualify up front in general, just for the start of the race. It gives us good pit selection. There's only about eight openings here on pit road, so the top -eight is really crucial. Besides that, you've got to be up front all day long in order to take benefit of those double-file restarts. It should be good for us."
Do you feel like your momentum for winning might have started at Nashville?
"No, because if you look at Sunday, we sucked -- all day. Pocono is just one of those tracks for me though. I don't know what's wrong there. Here at Michigan, I don't know why, we run good at California for some reason, but here there's just something about it. I don't know if its easier for everybody else or we just can't get around here. It's a little different, but for me it's a fun track -- I like it, I enjoy it and we ran second here last fall, which was my best run here ever. Had a shot to win, but we were just too tight on the last run. Carl (Edwards) beat us. I think it was a green-white-checkered finish. Feel like we've got something good this weekend, better than what we had here last year."
||Aaron's Dream Machine
||Office Depot / Old Spice
||Shell / Pennzoil
||Red Stag by Jim Beam / Kid Rock
||Martin Truex Jr.
||The Home Depot
||National Guard "Year of the NCO" / DuPont
||Dale Earnhardt Jr.
||Amp Energy / National Guard
||Carquest / Kellogg's
||Sam Hornish Jr.
||Charter Air Transport.com
||NAPA Auto Parts
||Pittsburgh Paints / Menards
||Long John Silver's
||Miccosukee Resort & Gaming
||Did Not Qualify
||Tommy Baldwin Racing
+ Set by Owner Points
* Denotes Rookie