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The Hot Pass: Decision time for Red Bull

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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BROOKLYN, Mich.

It is very possible that Brian Vickers, winner of the pole at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, could be behind the wheel of the No. 83 Red Bull Chevrolet next season. Yes, Chevrolet. Over the last three years, the Red Bull program has worked to gain speed but has experienced some reliability issues with the Toyota Racing Development engines.
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Red Bull's contract with Toyota is up at the end of this season. And although General Motors likely cannot afford to support additional teams at this time, Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who owns race teams in both NASCAR and Formula One, could certainly afford to take on the role as Chevrolet parts customer. If Red Bull Racing was to make the switch to Chevrolet engines, Hendrick Motorsports would be the logical choice of vendor. Given Jay Frye's relationship with HMS, most recently during the management of Ginn Racing and MB2 Motorsports prior to that, there's a familiarity as a technical customer. On a related note, Vickers, who won the pole on Friday, will continue driving the No. 83 Red Bull entry. A formal announcement regarding the multi-year deal is expected next week.

Talking in circles

Roush Fenway Racing has enlisted the services of engineering manager Chris Andrews to assess and assist the No. 6 UPS Ford and driver David Ragan beginning this weekend. Owner Jack Roush had high expectations for Ragan, who started the season sixth in the point standings at Daytona and has dropped to 31st over the last 13 races. Roush is hoping Andrews can dial in the communication between the driver and the team. "I made the decision on Chris' special assignment for the next five weeks after consulting with Robbie Reiser, our general manager, and the other RFR crew chiefs," Jack Roush said. "We arrived at the consensus for Chris to assist Jimmy (Fennig, crew chief) and David with the application of our engineering tools to help with pre-weekend preparation and tuning at the track." Fennig will remain in charge of the No. 6 team throughout the weekend. Andrews worked as a crew chief for Evernham Motorsports prior to joining RFR in 2006. He currently oversees the research and development program for RFR. "Chris is obviously our head engineer and he's just kind of bridging the gap between myself and Jimmy, and everyone else in the Roush Fenway organization," Ragan said. "A little bit of help is always needed when you're struggling and in a small slump. Certainly, Jimmy is still the guy on our UPS team, but I think Chris can just bring a little extra to the table and give me some things to think about, work with our engineer and he'll be helping us for a couple of weeks — just trying to get things figured out. "We haven't been as fast as we'd like, but, at the end of the day, we're all working together for a common goal and that's to get the UPS Ford back up front."

Help is on the way

Bill Elliott, who qualified 15th, was the top Ford in time trials for Sunday's LifeLock 400. So what about the three Roush Fenway Racing drivers hoping to lock into the Chase? Matt Kenseth, who qualified 16th, said his car was set up in race trim. Still, he admits, "We were just really slow." Translation: The new FR9 engine can't come quick enough. How does July sound? Ford has tested the FR9 but chief engine builder and team owner Doug Yates doesn't expect the engine to be ready before late summer. Still, some sources contend the engine could be ready by next month. "The development is coming along really good," Yates said. "It's going to be a real good piece for us. It just takes time to get the parts and pieces. We're just getting blocks and heads. We're going as fast as we can." So who will get the engine first? That's up for debate. But don't expect Carl Edwards to be a test driver under race conditions. "I have really high hopes for it so hopefully that will be good," said Edwards, who qualified 29th."I told them I don't want it right off the bat. We'll see who's not in the Chase and maybe start testing it that way." Edwards is spot on that it's too risky to test the new engine in a car with Chase implications. Edwards is currently sixth in the points standings, 281 markers behind leader Tony Stewart. But he and his RFR teammates Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth, who are seventh and eighth in the point standings, respectively, are separated by just 17 points. Only 67 points separate the Roush trio from 13th-place Mark Martin. On the opposite side of the Ford spectrum, David Ragan and Paul Menard are 31st and 33rd in the point standings, respectively. However, with the shrinking car counts top 35 status does not appear to be an issue.
Tagged: Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Tony Stewart, David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers

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