2007 Ride: No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota
2007 Sponsor: Red Bull
2007 Owner: Dietrich Mateschitz
2007 Crew Chief: Doug Richert (February – October)
Randy Cox (October – November)
Stats: 23 races, 0 Wins, 1 Top 5, 5 Top 10s, 0 poles, 38th in Points.
Average Finish: 25.1.
Best Finish: 5th – Coca-Cola 600, May.
High Point: Despite missing two of the first five races of the season – immediately putting himself behind the 8-ball – Vickers ran well in the races that he did qualify for in 2007. Being outside of the Top 35 in owner points was a difficult task for any driver in that position, but in the 23 races that the No. 83 team did make, Vickers averaged a 25th place finish with 5 top 10s. His best run came at the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend, where a number of Toyotas ran strong – Vickers led several laps and finished 5th, his lone Top 5 of the season.
Low Point: A shift to Toyota as one of the manufacturer’s top drivers left Vickers starting on a very sour note at the beginning of the year. Running in the Top 10 for much of the Gatorade Duel 150s, Vickers cut a tire towards the end of the race, eliminating any hope he had of qualifying for the Daytona 500. Qualifying for races then became a major problem for the first-year organization – in the end, Vickers missed 13 races on the year. The ultimate disappointment of the season came in June at New Hampshire: Vickers qualified 28th, but was disqualified after his car was deemed too low in post-qualifying inspection. It was the 8th time in his first 17 races that he failed to make a race.
Summary: Vickers rebounded from missing the Daytona 500 by finishing 10th at California the next week, beginning a roller-coaster season in his first year with a new team. Those first two races basically summed up the 2007 season for Vickers: he drove a car that raced well at times, but struggled in qualifying. In addition to the expected problems a new team must face, Red Bull also lost its GM and Vickers lost his crew chief, Doug Richert, creating additional obstacles. Still, the No. 83 team was arguably one of the top 3 Toyotas on the year and got its program together towards the end of the season, qualifying for the final four events after Richert was replaced by Randy Cox in October.
2008 Outlook: It would have been unfair to expect Vickers to improve on his 2006 campaign with Hendrick Motorsports in his first year with Team Red Bull. Many anticipated Vickers carrying the Toyota banner last preseason – but those predictions were simply unrealistic. In order to rebound in year two, Vickers and the No. 83 team must start off by qualifying for the Daytona 500, as well as each of the other five races that lock in owner points for the 2008 season. As shown last season, Vickers has the ability to run strong when he makes races – and if this team can make the first five races and run well enough to be in the Top 35, it isn’t unrealistic to think this could be a Top 20 team by season’s end. The more track time this team gets, the better they will run – it’s as simple as that.
2006 Frontstretch.com Grade: B.
2007 Grade: C-.
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