Brian Vickers' road back to the Sprint Cup Series has led him to victory lane. And who knows where it will go next.
Vickers drove by Tony Stewart with 15 laps to go and held on after a green-white-checker restart for the third Sprint Cup Series win of his career and first since 2009.
That year, Vickers won at Michigan for Red Bull Racing and made the Chase. The following season, Vickers competed in 11 races before being diagnosed with blood clots that sidelined him for the rest of 2010. In 2011, Vickers ran the entire season for Red Bull and ended up 25th in the standings, but when the team shut down shop at the end of the season, Vickers was without a full-time ride.
He latched on at Michael Waltrip Racing, and ran eight races in the No. 55, helping fill in for Mark Martin in the races that Martin wasn't scheduled to run. Vickers ran well, scoring five top 10s in those races, including three top fives.
Vickers landed a full-time ride for 2013, but it was in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. Though his part-time success for MWR meant that their arrangement continued through 2013 with an eye on a full-time ride for 2014, after Martin's contract is up with the team.
"It couldn't have been filled with more trials and tribulations," Vickers said in victory lane about the time between his Michigan win and this one at New Hampshire, "But thanks to so much support from friends and family... but I've got to thank (MWR Vice President Ty Norris) for making that phone call and (MWR co-owners Michael Waltrip and Robb Kauffman) for believing in me."
Think Sunday's victory might have helped Vickers' case in those contract negotiations?
"I think it's pretty much a done deal," crew chief Rodney Childers said.
That was after Vickers had held on for the win with a strong move to the outside of turns one and two on the green-white-checker restart. Starting on the outside, Vickers had Stewart and Kyle Busch to his inside through the corners. But he held his line and matted the throttle off the corner and cleared both drivers as they exited onto the backstretch. The race was effectively over from there.
Before the caution flag, Vickers had the race's strongest car over the final segment, chasing down Busch for second, and then setting his sights on Stewart. Just two laps after getting to Stewart's bumper, he swooped past the three-time champion on the inside with ease and immediately pulled away.
The only thing that could possibly get in his way at that point was either lapped traffic or a caution flag. Vickers adeptly handled the former, but the latter was out of his control, and with five laps to go, the yellow flew for debris, setting up Vickers for the final stand, and the potential chance to seize the reins of the No. 55 full-time next season.
"Nothing's a guarantee in life, I've learned that the hard way," Vickers said in victory lane. "Even when you think it's done it's not done. But (the win) definitely goes a long way."
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