- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 22, 2009

BRISTOL, Tenn. | Brian Vickers expected to discuss his recent Sprint Cup victory, a contract extension with Red Bull Racing and his chances at making the Chase when he arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Instead, all of Vickers’ positive news was interrupted by his feud with Kyle Busch.

Vickers grew testy during a 25-minute question-and-answer session with reporters Friday, when he was forced to defend his passion for winning after once again criticizing Busch for being “so mad about something so small.”

“I hate that he lives in such an angry place,” Vickers said of his former teammate. “It must be miserable to live like that. That’s just not the way I want to live my life.”

The only problem with his assessment is that what Busch is “so mad” about - the conclusion of last weekend’s Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Raceway - isn’t at all “small.”

To Busch, winning races is everything, and the temperamental driver has an admittedly difficult time accepting defeat. So when Vickers became so preoccupied with Busch in the closing moments of Saturday’s race, he never saw Brad Keselowski charging toward them in a last-lap pass that gave Keselowski the victory.

Busch was furious about the way Vickers raced the final lap, and the two exchanged heated words on pit road. They then sat side-by-side in a comically awkward news conference in which they discussed their frustrations with each another as if the other wasn’t in the room.

Vickers went on to win the Sprint Cup race the next day, the first victory for Red Bull Racing. He moved within 12 points of the final Chase qualifying spot with three races remaining. He also completed the paperwork on a drawn-out contract extension Tuesday.

But the issue with Busch, who spent two-plus years with Vickers at Hendrick Motorsports, has overshadowed all of Vickers’ achievements. So he bristled when asked to elaborate on “something so small” when most drivers view winning as the most important goal.

“The way he got out of the car and how angry he was, I just feel bad for him,” Vickers said. “I’m mad that I didn’t win the race, too. I don’t know what you expect out of someone who wants to win the race. I love what I do and I’m very upset if I don’t win, but if that’s what it takes to win, then maybe I don’t want to. It’s just not who I am. I just don’t want to be that upset because I didn’t win.”

Vickers also seemed to send a warning to Busch that he had stored last week’s race in his memory bank, and saying, “I don’t know if you want to call it strike one or strike two, but either way, he’s out of strikes.”

Elaboration on that didn’t go far.

“What do you think it means?” Vickers snapped. “I’m going to race him the way he races me. In my book, he’s out of rope. I’m just done. I’m just to my limit.”

It should make things interesting Saturday night at Bristol, where both drivers will be vying for a victory to boost their chances at making the Chase.

For Busch, who earned one of his three victories this season on the 0.533-mile bullring in March, another win would help lift him from the 15th position in the standings. He has two wins and six top-10 finishes in nine career starts at Bristol, and Saturday could give him the momentum he needs to charge back into the Chase.

For Vickers, Bristol is the worst of the three tracks remaining before the Chase field is set Sept. 12. In 10 career starts at Bristol, Vickers’ best finish was 12th in 2005.

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