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GMAC Racing Retakes Points Lead at Memphis

  • Oct 19, 2003

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Oct. 19, 2003) – After qualifying second and third respectively at Memphis Motorsports Park, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers were poised to duplicate their 1-2 finish at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in August.

In the five NASCAR Busch Series races he has competed in this season, Busch has earned top-10 starts in all of them with the exception of Dover (Del.) International Speedway in September when qualifying was canceled.

Entering the race, Vickers trailed Busch Series points leader David Green by just 36 markers, but that would all change by the time the checkered flag waved on Saturday. Vickers recently lost the points lead three weeks ago at Kansas Speedway where he finished 32nd.

After the drop of the green flag it took only three laps for the first caution flag of the event to wave. When it did, Vickers was leading and Busch was second. On the Lap 7 restart, Busch was caught on the outside lane and lost several positions before maneuvering the No. 87 ditech.com Chevrolet to the inside.

On Lap 29, the caution flag waved again for an accident in Turn 1 with Vickers still leading and Busch in seventh. During the restart, Busch radioed his crew and explained the car was too tight and becoming much more difficult to keep on the bottom of the track, which is the preferred line at Memphis. Vickers was also fighting a tight-handling condition on his No. 5 Chevrolet. Both drivers were told by their respective crew chiefs to ride things out until the next caution period and they would pit for changes.

Their wishes came true on Lap 58 when the caution flag waved once more. Vickers led the field down pit road and quickly darted into his pit for four tires, fuel, a track-bar adjustment and an air-pressure change. Busch also elected to pit during the caution period for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment.

Racing resumed on Lap 63 with Vickers in second and Busch running in 13th. On Lap 65, Vickers passed the No. 10 entry of Scott Riggs for the lead and started to pull away.

Meanwhile, the handling on the No. 87 Chevrolet seemed to be getting worse and on Lap 82 the ditech.com team elected to pit again for a track-bar adjustment to help loosen the car. Five laps later, the No. 63 car made contact with Busch, so the team pitted again on Lap 89 for four tires and fuel.

Vickers remained in the lead, but the handling on the No. 5 GMAC Chevrolet was starting to fade.

With an opportunity to pit on Lap 100 during another caution period, the GMAC team elected to stay out knowing if they ran 20-25 more laps, they would only have to stop once more during the race.

Racing resumed on Lap 106 with Vickers still in the lead and Busch running 22nd. At halfway (Lap 125), Vickers was first, but he was being chased down quickly by the No. 57. On Lap 157, Vickers relinquished the lead and fell back to fifth by Lap 160, while Busch had worked his way into 14th.

For the seventh time during the race, the yellow flag waved on Lap 164 and most of the front-running teams elected to pit, including the No. 5 and No. 87 entries.

Vickers pitted for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment while Busch also pitted for fresh tires and fuel. The race restarted on Lap 169 with Vickers in seventh and Busch in 11th.

Vickers picked up two positions by Lap 177, but the first three cars began to pull away as the race wore on.

For Busch, his car started to fade and by Lap 220 he had slid back to 13th with only 30 laps remaining.

Vickers was unable to mount a charge and finished fifth.

“I drove a little harder than I normally would during the middle portion of the race and probably used up my tires,” Vickers said. “I just wanted to make sure we earned the extra bonus points for leading the most laps.

“We would have liked to win, but fifth place is good and we got the points lead back.”

Vickers, 19, now has 19 top-10 finishes this season—the most of any driver on the circuit—and currently leads the championship standings by 23 points over Green with four races remaining.

Busch, just 18, drove his Chevrolet to a respectable 16th-place showing, despite handling problems.

Bobby Hamilton Jr. won at Memphis for his third victory of 2003.

Vickers and Busch will each see action when the Busch Series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Aaron’s 312 on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 1 p.m. ET (TNT, PRN Radio).

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