Pit road gamble yields fourth-place result for Brian Vickers

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It was worth a shot.

Brian Vickers and his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota crew decided to roll the dice and go for two tires in a bid for track position heading into the green-white-checkered finish of today’s Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The gamble put Vickers in second alongside leader Jeff Gordon, but both were no match for Joey Logano, who darted past them both to win the race.

Vickers, on the other hand, ceded third to Kyle Busch and narrowly hung on to fourth over rookie phenom Kyle Larson. Nonetheless, he believed that the two-tire call was a stroke of genius.

“We really did [give it everything] — that was a great call by [crew chief] Billy [Scott] and the whole crew,” Vickers said after his first Top-5 result of the season and first since last August at Bristol. “The pit guys did a great job all day and they did a good job on that last stop, obviously when it mattered most.”

“[I’m] really proud of everyone on this Aaron’s Dream Machine team…We probably didn’t have a car to win, but we made the most of it. We’ll learn from this and we’ll move on to the next race and we gave it our best there at the end.”

Vickers also earned his third Top-10 in the last four races, continuing what has been a steady effort from him over the last month or so. While yet to win a race, he has now moved into the Top 10 of the points standings in ninth place.

After starting 23rd, Vickers moved gradually into the 10th-15th place range, where he would be for most of the afternoon. He was ninth after the final wave of green flag stops with roughly 30 laps remaining, setting up his crew’s decision heading into the G-W-C.

His teammate, Clint Bowyer, was also competitive today at Texas but his potential bid for a win was stymied by a penalty for a missing lug nut after a stop under yellow with 76 laps left.

That forced him to pit an extra time, but Bowyer was able to make up some ground in the final stages and finished eighth.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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