Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Brian Vickers' surprising win on Sunday at
New Hampshire Motor Speedway made for one of the biggest feel-good stories of
the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season.
Three years ago, Vickers' racing career was in doubt when he suffered blood
clots in his legs and lungs and later had heart surgery as part of his
treatment. After sitting out most of the 2010 season, Vickers returned healthy
to his Red Bull Racing team at the start of 2011. But Red Bull shut down after
the season concluded, leaving Vickers without a ride.
Team owner Michael Waltrip came to Vickers' rescue in 2012 when he offered him
the role as part-time driver of the No. 55 Toyota. Mark Martin drove the car
in 24 races last season, while Vickers was behind the wheel in eight events
and Waltrip in four. Vickers looked impressive with Michael Waltrip Racing
last year, scoring three top-five finishes and five top-10s.
Driving the No. 55 car for the fifth time this season, Vickers' victory at New
Hampshire completed his remarkable comeback in NASCAR's top series. He ended
his 75-race winless streak. His last trip to victory lane in a Sprint Cup race
occurred in August 2009 at Michigan. He made the championship Chase that year.
"Just to be back in a race car for me personally was a big goal and a big
accomplishment and a big step," Vickers said of his comeback. "It was because
no one around me would let me give up on myself. I obviously didn't give up on
myself, but when you have so much love and support around you, that makes all
the difference in the world.
"Being able to win after all that is just almost unimaginable. It's so beyond
what I was thinking about in that moment. Just getting back into a race car
was all I could think about."
In addition to his partial schedule in Sprint Cup this year, Vickers is a
full-time competitor in the Nationwide Series, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.
He finished second in Saturday's race at New Hampshire, which elevated him to
sixth in the point standings. He is currently 46 points behind leader Regan
At age 20, Vickers became the youngest driver to win a championship in
Nationwide (then known as the Busch Series). He has not won a race in that
series since his title season.
Vickers now has three career Sprint Cup victories, which is the same number of
wins for him in Nationwide. His first Cup victory came in the fall of 2006 at
Talladega. He drove a full-time Cup schedule for Hendrick Motorsports from
2004-06 before heading over to Red Bull.
With his New Hampshire win, Vickers made a strong case that he is worthy of a
full-time opportunity in MWR's No. 55 car for next year. Martin is in his
final season with Waltrip's team.
"We always have confidence when (Vickers) gets in the car that we can run up
front and that we can compete for the win, and it's because he's a talented
race car driver," MWR general manager Ty Norris said after Vickers's win. "Our
organization is ready to win consistently, and we have won two of the last
four (races). I would say if we can keep that 50 percent streak going then
we'll be alright."
Vickers' teammate, Martin Truex Jr., won the June 23 race in Sonoma, Calif.
Waltrip and Rob Kauffman (MWR co-owner) were in England over the weekend,
competing in the Goodwill Festival of Speed.
Vickers, who is scheduled to compete in four more Sprint Cup races this
season, is hopeful he'll be a full-time driver for MWR next year.
"I feel very at home here and comfortable and confident in our chances to be
successful, so this is where I want to be," he said. "I'm sure that a win
helps, but it doesn't mean that the deal magically happens. We've still got
work to do."
Vickers' next four Sprint Cup races with MWR are Watkins Glen (August 11),
Bristol (August 24), New Hampshire (Sept. 22) and Martinsville (Oct. 27).
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