Team Red Bull In For Hit Or Miss 2011 Campaign

By Brody Jones

Make no mistake about it, 2010 was, to say the least, a tumultuous year for Team Red Bull. Brian Vickers only lasted 11 races before blood clots cut his season short. Replacement drivers Reed Sorenson, Casey Mears, and even Kasey Kahne couldn’t bring the Red Bull #83 back up to speed. Not only did the #83 have problems, but Scott Speed was tossed to the curb after a largely unimpressive two-year stint in the Sprint Cup Series and has filed a lawsuit against Team Red Bull over the way his release was handled. Hard to believe that two years ago, this team was right in the thick of the Chase For The Cup with Brian Vickers.

Going into the 2011 season, not only does Brian Vickers come back to the team, but Kasey Kahne is on board for what appears to be a one-year stint with Team Red Bull. Which there are two schools of thought on how this could all play out. Either Vickers & Kahne will have tremendous seasons or both will struggle like they did for most of last year. It’s going to be harder to build team chemistry with Kahne as he’ll likely only be part of the organization for one year before departing for the greener grass of Hendrick Motorsports. That is, unless Mark Martin throws a wrench in those plans. After a 2010 season where some observers felt he “quit” on Richard Petty Motorsports and the #9 team, Kahne desperately needs 2011 to be a success not just in terms of momentum for next year, but in terms of confidence as well.

Vickers, on the other hand, is a different situation. With blood clots that very well could have cut short his career, or even ended his life, the inevitable question has to be how much racing rust will Brian Vickers have in 2011? Initially, it could be a tough transition to get back up to speed, but both he and Kahne are in the prime of their careers with a tremendous amount of upside working in their favor. Not to mention Vickers has been with Team Red Bull since the inception of the organization back in 2007 and seems to have a good rapport with his crew. Sure, at first it may be a struggle, but Vickers will be back to full-speed in no time at all. Making the Chase might be a bit much to ask, but a solid top 15 points performance is not out of the question.

But the big thing from 2010 that has to improve for both drivers is the quality of the equipment. At one time, Team Red Bull had one of the best 1.5 mile track programs in NASCAR, even in the fiasco that was Toyota’s 2007 Sprint Cup campaign as Vickers supplied the lone bright spots for the organization (and Toyota for that matter). In 2010, more often than not, no matter who was driving the car, Team Red Bull just seemed to be like a newborn fawn in an apocalyptic meteor shower on the track in 2010. The simple fact is if they’re going to make any strides in the right direction, they must get their 1.5-mile program back on track as that was a huge advantage Team Red Bull had for the longest time over many teams in NASCAR.

At the end of the day though, when all is said and done, both Vickers and Kahne are going to have the great expectations fall on their shoulders. While it’s nothing that either driver has not become accustomed to in recent years, after a partial season in 2010 for Vickers and a disastrous 2010 campaign for Kahne, that microscope is going to get bigger. The question is does Team Red Bull wilt under the pressure or can they make lemonade out of a lemon of a 2010 season and get back to being a team on the cusp of breaking through into the upper echelon of NASCAR? Only time will tell, but with drivers like Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be back to form in 2011 as, at times, both drivers have shown brilliance behind the wheel.