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Brian Vickers' bad pit stop cost him, Carl Edwards' bad pit selection cost him...and Jeff Gordon never got to make a move on Kurt Busch


Brian Vickers: costly pit stop at Atlanta (Photo: Getty Images for NASCA)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Races can be won in the pits or, as Brian Vickers learned again here Sunday, lost in the pits.
   Vickers, in Ryan Pemberton's Toyota, was tightly dogging Kurt Busch in the closing miles of the Atlanta 500, waiting to make a move for the win. Then suddenly Robby Gordon blew a tire and  brought out a caution with six laps to go.
   With 14 men on the lead lap, there was briefly question of who might pit and who might not.
   But Busch, Vickers, and the rest of the challengers all stopped for fresh rubber, and a splash of gas – which might or might not have been needed, but no crew chief was willing to show his cards on that point afterwards.
   Carl Edwards took only two new tires and came out in the lead, but right behind were Busch and Jeff Gordon, on four new tires, and they blew right past Edwards.
   And Vickers?
   Well, his crew got him out too slowly, and he never got back into contention for the two-lap sprint to the finish.
   "I definitely think we had a good enough car," Vickers said, clearly disappointed at the turn of events.  "We always seemed to have one of the best cars, if not the best car, at one point throughout a run. 
   "And most of the time, it favored the end of a run.
    "So I was really hoping it would stay green. It was going to be a great race to the finish with Kurt.
   "But we had a great car…Ryan and the guys did a tremendous job…we fought all day…and lost it there at the end on the pit stop."
   Without that final yellow, "We would have finished first or second -- or wrecked trying," Vickers said. "We obviously had the better car there at the end.
   "But Kurt and I were running the same line, so it wasn't going to be easy to pass him.  Still, on the last lap, you can stick it off in there wide-open to run it against the wall and hope for the best."
   Runner-up Jeff Gordon conceded Busch "was better than us on the long run, but we were really good on the short run. And I thought we might have a shot at him.
   "And we did.
     "I got a good restart, and he started to go low, and I went to the high side -- and I don't know if his spotter told him or what, but he moved up and, man, we about wrecked.
   "When we got in the corner, we were both just wide-open trying to get by Carl…and we did. 
    "I didn't quite clear Carl. If I would have, I might have had a shot at Kurt.
    "But I drifted high.
   "Both Kurt and I drifted high.
    "And Carl got a run back under me. And until I got clear of him, there wasn't anything I could do. And we had run out of laps."
   Edwards said his two-tire gamble wasn't really a gamble for track position, though it did give him the lead for the final restart.
   "We just had two tires because we had a bad pit stall, and we were going to be blocked in, by Jeff and Dale Earnhardt Jr.," Edwards said. "So we took two tires and did our best.
   "I don't think more laps (of green) were going to help us.  We just needed more tires. That would have done it.
    "Kurt had been fast all day, so I knew he was the guy to beat.  He was right there behind me with four tires, and I felt like a sitting duck… pun intended (he's sponsored by Aflac). 
   "We got down into turn one, and he got to the outside of me, and that was it.
   "So I was fighting with Jeff to get everything we could.
    "Third place -- considering our pit debacle down there….it was just a bad pit stall selection, and it didn't work out like we planned."

Carl Edwards: Pit stop gamble didn't pay off (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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