Following this week’s exciting announcement that Brian Vickers will drive the Dollar General Toyota fulltime for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013, the 29-year-old driver made his first career start with the team at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday.
Piloting the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, Vickers locked in a fifth place starting spot for the afternoon’s Great Clips 200. He quickly charged up to second by lap seven of the 200 lap event.
The second of 10 cautions came out on lap 31. Crew chief Matt Lucas brought the No. 20 car to pit road under the yellow for left side tires, fuel and adjustments to help with the handling of Vickers’ Camry. He restarted fifth on lap 37.
The caution was back out on lap 69, and Lucas elected for a four-tire stop under the yellow while many of the leaders opted for two tires. The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was positioned 11th when the field went back to green on lap 74. Throughout the next green-flag run, Vickers reported that the handling of his racecar had improved. Not having track position was the only struggle.
Vickers’ lap times continued to get better and he was fifth when the yellow was back out on lap 119. This allowed for a pit stop for right side tires and fuel, moving the Dollar General Toyota to third when the field went back to green on lap 124. Vickers was in a close battle inside the top-five through several restarts.
When the yellow flag fell with only 10 laps to go, the No. 20 Camry was second behind his teammate, Joey Logano. Coming to the white flag, Vickers was in a side-by-side battle with Logano for the lead when the field was stopped under red flag conditions for an accident involving the No. 2, No. 33 and No. 88 cars.
Once the track was cleaned up, a green-white-checkered flag finish would allow Logano and Vickers once last chance to battle it out for the finish. Logano picked up the lead on the restart and Vickers drove through the checkers close behind in second earning a one-two finish for Joe Gibbs Racing at Phoenix International Raceway.
Saturday was Vickers’ 32nd top-five finish in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. His impressive second place finish marked his first career race with Joe Gibbs Racing before he competes fulltime for the team in 2013, exactly 10 years after winning the Nationwide Series Championship title in 2003.
In recognition of the strong finishes by all of the Dollar General Racing drivers this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, a 20 percent discount will be offered on all online Dollar General purchases on Monday. To take advantage of this special offer, visit dollargeneral.com on Monday, November 12.
Vickers’ Post Race Thoughts: “It was a hard fought race. We had a really good car on the long runs. We weren’t quite as good on restarts. The track was really slick for everyone I think. I guess it’s a good day when you walk away disappointed with a second place finish. I’m just really proud of the effort. It’s good to be back in the Nationwide Series. I just can’t thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing enough for this opportunity. What an incredible group of guys. A great car. Dollar General for putting it all together. Toyota — a great engine. We wanted to win. We fought hard for it at the end. Joey did a great job. They were a little better on restarts than us. But, it was still a great day and a great way to get next year started. We were close. Really proud of the guys. To get in the car for the first time, a new group of guys, and have a top-two you can’t complain about that. I’m pleased but not satisfied. I really wanted to get Matt Lucas a win and this whole No. 20 Dollar General team. They did a great job. I’m really looking forward to next year with JGR and Dollar General.”