FORT WORTH, Texas - The Chase for the championship has been a disaster for Brian Vickers.
It would be a tougher pill for him to swallow had his season not been made before the Chase started. Making the Chase is a huge accomplishment for a team that made its debut in 2007 and had problems making races that season.
Vickers, who drives the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, is 12th in points and has not had a top-10 finish since the playoffs began.
"We were just excited to be in the Chase," Vickers said. "I'm proud of the fact we got in it. We're going to learn from it and grow from it. That's all we can do."
Earning a Chase berth was the last of three goals for Vickers this season. The first was to win a pole, which he did in the second race of the season in California, and has done five other times.
He accomplished his second goal - winning the first race for the Red Bull team - on Aug. 16 at Michigan International Speedway, when he won the Carfax 400 for his second career Sprint Cup victory.
Getting to the Chase was a more daunting task. He was 17th in points with nine races left before the field was set. But no driver accrued more points than Vickers over the next 10 races, and his seventh-place finish at Richmond allowed him to edge Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth for the final spot.
"This was definitely a big step for our team," said Vickers, who won his first Sprint Cup race at Talladega in fall 2006 when he was driving for Rick Hendrick. "For a 2 1/2-year old team to make the Chase, we're ecstatic. We've accomplished so much in a short time, but our ultimate goal is to win a championship. We haven't been able to do that."
As upbeat as Vickers is about the future, he knows his team has work to do. His best finish in the Chase is 11th and he has three results of 29th or worse. Some of that is bad luck, and part of it is a product of his team expending so much energy to make the Chase.
"If it could go wrong, it went wrong," Vickers said. "But what we've learned from this Chase will make us much stronger."
Vickers is not giving up on this year either. He has struggled in his Sprint Cup career at Texas Motor Speedway. He won the pole for the 2006 Dickies 500, but finished 27th. His best effort at TMS is 12th, which came in his first Cup start in 2004.
That does not mean he does not like coming here.
"Texas is a great track," he said. "I love going there. The people are great and it's a good facility. We're still trying to get better there."
Getting better at TMS would fall in line with Vickers' goals for next year.
"We've got to stop beating ourselves and we've got to learn from our mistakes," Vickers said. "Mistakes almost prevented us from making the Chase and mistakes have helped keep us from winning a championship. There's no reason we can't carry on what we've done at times this year. That's what we have to do."