As the checkers fell at the conclusion of the Ford 400 at Homestead, it was a sign of many things including the end of the season, the crowning of a new champion and the end of the road for some drivers and teams. Some will find themselves with new teams next year, but for others, Homestead was the end of the road. For one team in particular, Homestead brought closure to a five year stretch, peppered with multiple poles, two wins and a chase berth.
2007 Coke 600
Red Bull Racing made their entrance into the sport in February of 2007, fielding two cars, the #83 and #84. The #83 was driven by Brian Vickers, who left Hendrick Motorsports at the conclusion of 2006 to join the new upstart team and became their senior driver in NASCAR’s cup series. The #84 was driven by AJ Allmendinger as a new comer to the sport, but not a new comer to racing. Allmendinger had raced in Champ Car, an open wheel series, prior to making the transition to NASCAR. In their first full season, Brian finished 38th in points and AJ 43rd in points.
The following year, both drivers saw improvements in their teams but at the end of the season, Allmendinger left the team. In 2009, Scott Speed moved up from the ARCA series, where he had been running since 2007, and the #84 became the #82. However Scott found the year challenging in making the transition. For Vickers 2009 was a great year, scoring Red Bull’s first win in Cup at the August Michigan race and securing his place in the Chase. Both drivers remained with Red Bull for the following season. But when Vickers became sidelined by illness, the #83 saw a number of different drivers coming in to fill the seat, including Kasey Kahne, who ran the final four races with the team. Season’s end saw the return of Brian Vickers and the departure of Speed whose seat was filled by Kahne.
Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers started the season at Daytona, knowing their time together as teammates would be just a year. For Kahne, the season was going to be a question mark as he made the transition from Ford to Toyota for the year. For Vickers, the start of the season was a welcomed event, with high hopes for a strong return to the sport he loves after sitting out over half a season the previous year due to illness.
Brian Vickers 2009
Red Bull Racing Fan Day
As the season wore on, word came out that Red Bull was looking to pull out of the sport at the end of the year unless an investor or buyer was found. The news was not a big deal for Kahne, his future in the sport already locked in place with a contract he signed the year prior with Hendrick Motorsports. The news dealt a blow to Vickers as Red Bull had been his home since 2007.
The Ford 400 weekend brought no news on the Red Bull front despite the fact the team fielded three cars just as it had the prior week. Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, and Cole Whitt strapped to their cars all knowing this would likely be the last race for Red Bull Racing. Whitt’s day ended abruptly, caught up in a wreck involving Landon Cassill and Trevor Bayne. Vickers ran mid-pack all day and came away with a top twenty finish and closing the season 25th in points. Kahne’s day was up and down after starting 3rd then falling back to 28th due to a lengthy stop to make some aggressive changes to the car. The team never gave up and rallied back toward the front, coming away with a top ten finish and closing out the season 14th in points.
The closing of the season and the closure of the Red Bull organization leaves both Brian Vickers and Cole Whitt without certain futures. Vickers expressed his desire to stay with the organization if it remains in the sport and his name never came up in association with any open rides in Cup or Nationwide. Whitt, who campaigned the full year for Stacy Compton in the Camping World Truck series finishing ninth in the points and second in the rookie of the year standings, is now left without a sponsor but remains a Red Bull athlete. Both are good drivers at their respective levels with a chance to be around racing for a good long time. Hopefully both will be able to remain in the sport but for now the future for both drivers remains uncertain.
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