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GMAC Racing Bounces Back at Phoenix

  • Nov 03, 2003

AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 3, 2003) – After finishing 31st at Atlanta Motor Speedway one week ago and dropping from first to fifth in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings with three races remaining, GMAC Racing responded Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Rain forced the 200-mile event to begin under the yellow flag for four laps until NASCAR displayed the red flag and teams were forced to wait out the wet weather for nearly three hours. Green-flag racing finally resumed on Lap 12 with Brian Vickers in third.

During initial run under green, lap times indicated the No. 5 GMAC Chevrolet was getting stronger on the long run, despite Vickers mentioning the car needed more grip.

On Lap 51, the caution flag waved and all of the leaders pitted, including the No. 5 team. During the pit stop, the team changed four tires and topped off with fuel. Racing resumed on Lap 57 with Vickers still in third.

The next 45 laps were run caution-free with GMAC Racing holding down the third spot comfortably. On Lap 102, the caution flag waved and Vickers pitted for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Great pit work by the crew allowed him to maintain third place when the green flag waved on Lap 107. On the restart, Vickers quickly moved around the No. 59 Chevrolet of Stacy Compton and into second place.

With 80 laps remaining, Vickers was told by crew chief Lance McGrew to take it easy and try to conserve fuel because it looked as if the team was going to be very close on whether or not they would be able to make it to the end of the race.

Several laps later, fuel mileage calculations showed they could not make to the end and would have to stop once more, so Vickers was given the go ahead to proceed without caution. Vickers was passed on Lap 133 and relegated back to third.

The rain drops once again began to fall lightly on Lap 160, and on Lap 167 the caution flag waved again for the third time for an accident on the backstretch. Track officials quickly took care of the cleanup and racing resumed on Lap 171 with Vickers in third.

Teams were notified that, because of impending darkness, the race would be cut by 10 laps to ensure the safety of the competitors. With fewer laps remaining in the race, the GMAC team breathed a sigh of relief knowing they might be able to run to the end without having to stop for fuel, but Vickers was still told to try and conserve as much as possible.

Rain began falling lightly again on Lap 174 and increased with frequency until NASCAR officials made the decision to call the race and wave the checkered flag early on Lap 181. Vickers finished third, where he had run for most of the day, and managed to gain valuable points in the chase for the championship.

With two races remaining, Vickers currently sits in third place in the point standings, a mere 21 markers behind leader Scott Riggs.

“This is what we needed,” Vickers said. “The guys did a great job in the pits and we never lost a spot on pit road all day.

“Our car was consistent throughout the entire race. Bobby (Hamilton Jr.) and Kevin (Harvick) were both strong and I wasn’t going to be able to catch them, but we’ll take our third-place finish and go to Rockingham.”

Vickers and the GMAC team will continue their quest for the championship when the Busch Series visits North Carolina Speedway on Saturday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. ET (TNT, MRN Radio).

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