BRISTOL, Tenn. — There was an awkward moment at the start of Saturday night’s race when feuding drivers Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers shared the same truck for their introductory lap around Bristol Motor Speedway.
The two drivers didn’t appear to speak as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the back of a truck and waved to the sold-out crowd. Some fans and an ESPN camera crew shared the ride, which appeared to be tense.
Busch and Vickers, former teammates, had a run-in last week at Michigan International Raceway when hard-racing between the two on the last lap of the Nationwide Series allowed Brad Keselowski to sneak by and steal the victory.
Busch was angry about how Vickers raced him, and Vickers has not minced words since.
“I hate that he lives in such an angry place,” Vickers said. “It must be miserable to live like that. That’s just not the way I want to live my life.”
Busch has not discussed the feud all weekend, and said before the start of the Sprint Cup Series he was trying to bounce back from a heartbreaking finish in Friday night’s Nationwide race. He had just passed Kevin Harvick for the lead when 19-year-old Chase Austin turned left directly into Busch to wreck his car.
Busch couldn’t afford a repeat in the Cup race: He started the night 15th in the standings with just three races before the 12-driver Chase for the championship field is set.
“Last night was a pain in the neck,” Busch said. “It wasn’t a good feeling to get wrecked. But we’re here tonight and focused on what we’ve got to do in order to get everybody fired up.”
Vickers started 14th and Busch was 15th to set up their pre-race ride.
FUEL INJECTION: NASCAR is considering moving to fuel injection engines, but any such change probably wouldn’t happen until the 2011 season.
The move is being considered after NASCAR met with several engine builders about how to make the cars more fuel efficient. The current cars have used carburetors since the 1980s, which has little application to what is currently sold on showroom floors.
Toyota president of racing development Lee White said the switch could easily be made.
“It could potentially reduce costs and increase the potential audience for the sport,” White said.
INTERESTING INTRODUCTIONS: Bristol officials added an entertaining twist to the pre-race introductions, allowing each driver to choose a song to play as they emerged from behind a curtain.
It made for some interesting selections: The reserved Sam Hornish Jr. came out to the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” while Reed Sorenson came out to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
Some choices were obvious. Australian driver Marcos Ambrose picked Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” and aging veteran Michael Waltrip used Toby Keith’s “I Ain’t as Good as I once Was.”
Each driver also spoke briefly to the fans, and three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson appeared to tell the 55th consecutive sold out crowd, “I know you love me.”
Tony Stewart, meanwhile, watched the introductions from a small TV inside the media center. When 50-year-old polesitter Mark Martin came out to AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock,” Stewart mimicked his potential crowd address.
“I’m the baddest 50-year-old on the planet,” Stewart said to laughter. “No seriously. He’s bad. I wasn’t as bad as he is a day in my life.”
TOYOTA CATCHES UP OFF TRACK: When Toyota entered NASCAR, group vice president Bob Carter said the manufacturer trailed General Motors and Ford by 20 points in U.S. auto sales.
Now in its third season of Sprint Cup Series racing, Carter said the three manufacturers are dead even.
“It’s delivered more benefits quicker than we accepted,” said Carter, making his first visit to famed Bristol Motor Speedway. “We want to be on the top of the minds of all the race fans, and we think our participation has legitimized ourselves in the eyes of many fans. We see that in the showrooms.”
Toyota last week sold it’s 20,000,000 car built in one of its 14 U.S. assembly plants.
PIT STOPS: Irwin Tools will replace Sharpie as the title sponsor of Bristol’s second race beginning next season. The new name will be the Irwin Tools Night Race. … Marcos Ambrose on Saturday picked up Kimberly-Clark as primary sponsor of his No. 47 Toyota for five races next year, including the Daytona 500. … NASCAR confiscated the rear-end housing from the Braun Racing car David Reutimann drove in the Nationwide Series on Friday night. NASCAR occasionally takes parts and pieces for additional inspection.