2007: 38th and 43rd in owner points, missing 31 races (including the Daytona 500) between the two teams in what Brian Vickers refers to as a ?painful? year where neither he nor A.J. Allmendinger came close to being locked in.
2008: Raced into the Daytona 500 with Brian Vickers and catapulted to 20th in points while the #84 missed only 3 races, earned a locked in position past halfway and held onto 35th as the season ended, giving the organization a sure position in the first five races of 2009. A.J. Allmendinger was traded for Scott Speed before the Fall race at the Lowe?s Motor Speedway while Mike Skinner stepped into the second car for 7 races early in the season.
2009: Made the Chase in only their third year with lead driver Brian Vickers, albeit finishing 12th of the 12 teams, as the newly renumbered 82 struggled with their rookie and finished 36th in owner points again missing 3 races.
From the disastrous 2007 to the huge improvement in 2008 and making the Chase in 2009, Team Red Bull showed huge improvement and anticipated another year of huge gains. And huge gains they made; after the fifth race at Bristol, both the 83 and 82 were in the top 20 in points and had only 3 finishes lower than 20th between Brian and Scott. After getting as high as 12th following Martinsville, Brian Vickers suffered three bad finishes and fell to 25th in points before rallying slightly to a 20th place finish in Richmond and slapping down a 10th in Darlington to move back up to once more get inside the top 20 in points.
Over the same stretch of races, Scott Speed managed only a highest finish of 15th and two out of the top 30. Despite that, moral was high following Brian Vickers? 10th place finish as they were on the verge of Brian?s best part of the season. Last year he earned four poles (including 3 in a row, not including the rain-outs) and nine top 10s plus three more in the top 20 on his stellar run to the Chase.
But major trouble struck on May 12 when Brian made an emergency visit to a Washington D.C. hospital and was diagnosed with blood clots. Team Red Bull made a last minute decision to put Casey Mears in the 83, leaving him with the unenviable position of filling in for a friend. What was supposed to be an opportunity turned into a nightmare with neither team claiming a top 15 finish and culminated in contact between the two teammates at Michigan that sparked Red Bull?s switch to Reed Sorenson after Mattias Ekstrom raced at Infineon.
Other than Daytona, where both teams finished in the top 10, Reed and Scott have spent the majority of their time running anywhere from 25th to 35th each week (finishing 26th and 32nd at Pocono). Also caught up in the wake left from Brian Vickers? absence was Red Bull?s newest rookie, Cole Whitt, who is in the NASCAR K&N East Series. His first two races were very impressive, but the three races after, from the end of May to the end of June, saw him experience two unusual mechanical problems that dropped him from the lead to 8th in points. Although he has rebounded considerably in recent races, things on the Cup side continue to be plagued by mechanical issues and blown tires.
Now, coming off a new low of 43rd for Scott Speed (after engine problems) and 38th for Boris Said after wrecking at Watkins Glen, NASCAR heads back to the race that Red Bull claimed their first win in last year, three months after Brian Vickers? sudden exit. With the announcement that Kasey Kahne has joined the team for next year comes many questions. Will Scott Speed be returning next year? Will RBR expand to three teams & could they even successfully support that many? Assuming that Brian Vickers will be healthy enough (as he and those around him are fully preparing for), how will Red Bull do with two experienced drivers in the car & will they still be structured around Brian?
I don?t care for this newest development at all. If Red Bull really is replacing Scott Speed with the temporary Kasey Kahne, they will be making a huge mistake. What the team needs is consistency and swapping out one driver a year for the foreseeable future is not in their best interest. As Scott said in a recent article (and I have been saying all along), the problems they are experiencing are typical considering the unexpected lost of their main leader and central support.
Scott hasn?t been the leader that Brian was, but he has continued to be their highest finishing driver, with the exception of last weekend. Mechanical problems, flat tires and damage obtained by contact with other people (that predominantly happened when he had a car capable of being up front) can?t be blamed on him and his performance in the next month will only improve if their program as a whole can step up. I sincerely hope they keep Scott Speed around, if for no other reason than he fits the Red Bull image so well. If they don?t expand to three cars (which I also hope they don?t), placing Scott in a Nationwide car for a year could help him immensely and keep him in their grasps to promote again in 2012.
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