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This season is no bull for Vickers

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With his victory at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Brian Vickers made a bold statement that he intends to make this year's "Chase for the Sprint Cup" championship.

Vickers and crew chief Ryan Pemberton put their Chase-hopeful season on the line by taking a fuel-mileage risk at Michigan. Vickers drove the final 51 laps around the two-mile track without pitting.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had pitted the same time as Vickers earlier in the race, but Johnson's bid for a first-time win at Michigan came up short when ran out of fuel while holding the lead with less than three laps to go. Vickers then grabbed the top spot and held it for his second career Sprint Cup Series victory. Gordon hung on for a second-place finish, while Johnson ended up one lap down in 33rd.

Brian Vickers gave Red Bull Racing its first-ever win.
Vickers gave Red Bull Racing its first-ever win in the organization's third year of Cup competition. He also put Toyota in Victory Lane at Michigan for the first time.

"We've put together some good races, but not a great race," Vickers said. "We [hadn't] sealed the deal. [Sunday] we finally did. It's a big weight off our shoulders. I know it is off of mine. I'm sure it is off of the whole team."

With the victory, Vickers moved to within 12 points of 12th-place Mark Martin, who also ran out of fuel in the final laps and wound up 31st. Vickers was 197 points behind the Chase cutoff spot after New Hampshire the last weekend in June, but has since marched his way to a possible playoff position with five top-10 finishes in the last six races.

"Hopefully we can take this momentum and carry it into the Chase, go get in the Chase, go race for a championship," he added.

Vickers finished second after a heated battle with Kyle Busch in the closing laps of Saturday's Nationwide event at Michigan. Vickers pinned Busch to the apron of the track on the last lap, allowing Brad Keselowski to move underneath the two on the final turn and then win at his home track. Busch ended up third.

After the race, the clash between Vickers and Busch continued on pit road as they harshly exchanged words.

"In a lot of ways I feel sorry for Kyle, that he lives that angry about stuff, something so small," Vickers said. "I hope that he can get past it. I don't have any hard feelings."

Busch dropped to 15th in points after his 23rd-place finish in Sunday's 400- mile race. He now trails Martin by 70 markers.

Vickers has made gradual steps to becoming a top competitor in NASCAR's premier circuit since his rookie season in 2004. He spent his first three years with Hendrick Motorsports before joining Red Bull.

Vickers scored his first Cup victory in October 2006 at Talladega. His win, however, came with quite a bit of controversy. Vickers bumped his then- teammate Johnson from behind on the final lap. Johnson then hit leader Dale Earnhardt Jr., causing the two to spin.

During his first year at Red Bull in 2007, Vickers spent the season outside the top-35 in owner points, requiring him to qualify on time. Vickers started in just 23 of 36 races, as Toyota struggled in its inaugural Cup season.

Vickers' team improved significantly the following year, as he finished 19th in points compared to 38th in '07. He gave Red Bull its first Cup pole one year ago at Michigan.

With three races remaining before the start of the Chase, Vickers is in the midst of renewing his contract with Red Bull. Team manager Jay Frye expects his renewal to be completed any day now.

"We have every intention of getting this done and getting it done very quickly," Frye said. "We certainly don't want him to go anywhere, except right where he's at."

Vickers admitted that if he does not make the Chase this year, he's going to be very disappointed. Regardless of whether he makes the playoffs or not, his season has certainly been anything but bull.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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