Substitute driver Brian Vickers can empathize with Denny Hamlin

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange

MARTINSVILLE, Va.-In picking Brian Vickers to substitute for Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing got a driver who can empathize with what Hamlin is feeling while he waits to return to his car.
Vickers will start a stint of indeterminate length in the No. 11 Toyota next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, as Hamlin continues to recover from a compression fracture of the first lumbar vertebra suffered during a last-lap crash Mar. 24 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Make no mistake. Driving the No. 11 Camry is an important opportunity for Vickers, who is running a nine-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, including Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
But Vickers has mixed feelings about the circumstances that will put him behind the wheel of Hamlin's car. Much of Vickers' ambivalence stems from a medical condition that forced him out of his ride at Red Bull Racing in 2011. Suffering from blood clots in his legs and lungs, Vickers missed the last six months of the season while he recuperated.
"Next week I'm going to be in the 11 car, which I'm obviously excited about, but sad how the opportunity came about," Vickers said Friday morning at Martinsville. "I know what it's like to be pulled out of your car for health reasons -- I've been in that boat before and wish Denny a speedy recovery.
"I'll do the best job I can for him and (sponsor) FedEx and everyone at Gibbs and Toyota until he returns ... Again, I reiterate it's very sad how it happened because I've been on the receiving end of this. I'm happy to jump in and do the best I can."
Hamlin is expected to miss five races, but that number is inexact, pending the speed of his recovery and a green light from his doctors.

Denny Hamlin's wreck, the result of hard racing from Joey Logano as both drivers battled for the win at Fontana, wasn't the only nastiness that occurred at the two-mile track.
On the final restart, Logano blocked Tony Stewart and broke his momentum, costing Stewart a chance to win the race. After the race, an angry Stewart confronted Logano on pit road, as crew members struggled to restrain the drivers.
Asked for his take on the incident Friday at Martinsville, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said blocking has always been a part of Cup racing and probably always will be. But, Johnson added, it's important to be aware of whom you're blocking.
"Blocking is part of what we do, and sometimes it works in your favor, and other times it doesn't," Johnson said Friday before Cup practice. "Sometimes a driver will understand it, and other times they don't. Those are decisions we all make on the track, and when you are in the sport long enough, you realize what those decisions could lead to and, honestly, who you throw a block on...
"I assume, when you see the 14 (Stewart), you probably expect something is going to happen. He has made that known over the years, so there are guys that you probably don't want to do that to. But then again, at the end of the race, I feel like things go to the next level and they change, and to defend for a win you have to take some extreme measures at times."

As far as the blocking issue at Fontana is concerned, both Tony Stewart and Joey Logano indicated Friday that the incident is in the rear-view mirror.
Though Stewart says his stance on blocking hasn't changed, he deflected a question about his promise to teach Logano a lesson.
"That's two weeks ago," Stewart said. "I'm on Martinsville this weekend. We're trying to figure out what we need to do to make our race cars go fast this week."
From Logano's point of view, the off week in the Cup schedule has helped.
"I feel like, with Tony and I, it's pretty much over," Logano said during a question-and-answer session behind his transporter. "We have not talked to each other, but we had an off weekend and time to relax a little bit and cool off, so I feel like that's over. I feel like we're moving on."
What remains to be seen is how Logano and Stewart will treat each other when they're in close proximity on the track. No matter what the drivers might say, race fans around the world will be watching to see if actions speak louder than words.

Elliott Sadler will drive a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing car in three NASCAR Sprint Cup races under sponsorship from Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, the team announced Friday. Sadler will be behind
The wheel of the No. 81 Toyota Camry at Kansas (Apr. 21) and at both Talladega races (May 5 and Oct. 20). ...
Mark Martin, who is subbing for Denny Hamlin this weekend, is convinced controversy is a good thing when it comes to raising the profile of the sport. "It makes for really good TV to have the controversy," Martin said. "It's good for the sport to have rivals and controversy. I don't particularly want to be in one, but I certainly don't mind watching one."

  • Ryan Miller slams goaltending equipment criticism: 'I’m inside the rules'

    Vancouver Canucks netminder Ryan Miller still has hard feelings over how he has been portrayed in the debate over the size of goaltending equipment. Last season, TSN’s Ray Ferraro pointed out how Miller and Carey Price wear the same size pant even though Price is much heavier than the 168-pound Miller.

    Puck Daddy
  • Chelsea rout Manchester United 4-0 to ruin Jose Mourinho's return (Video)

    Jose Mourinho accomplished something on Sunday that he was incapable of doing last season as Chelsea manager: motivate Chelsea’s players. The return of the Special One to Stamford Bridge – for the first time since being fired last December – was all the inspiration the Blues needed as they rampaged to a 4-0 Premier League victory over Mourinho’s listless Manchester United. It took just 30 seconds for Chelsea to grab the lead.

    FC Yahoo
  • Mets expect starting pitchers to be healthy by Spring Training

    Team doctors are telling the Mets that Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey should all be 100 percent healthy at the start of next season, ESPN's Buster Olney reported this past weekend.

    Comcast SportsNet New York
  • Circuit of The Americas announces attendance record of 269,889

    AUSTIN, Texas – As the United States Grand Prix comes to a close here shortly, Circuit of The Americas has rebounded from the rain-drenched 2015 USGP weekend in the best way possible: with a new attendance record in its fifth year hosting the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Buoyed in large part by last night’s Taylor Swift concert, but also with near perfect weather in Austin throughout the weekend helping the Saturday and Sunday crowd numbers in particular, track officials have announced a weekend total of 269,889 for the weekend. This marks a new overall announced weekend attendance record for COTA. In 2012, the track announced a total of 265,499 overall and 117,429 on Sunday. In 2013, a

  • Gilbert Arenas -- My $111 Mil NBA Contract Is Up ... I Can't Afford Private School

    Gilbert Arenas' infamous $111 MILLION contract with the Washington Wizards is finally about to expire ... and Gilbert says he will be so poor, he won't be able to afford private school for his kids.  Gilbert signed the 6-year guaranteed contract back in 2008 -- but according to new court filings in his family law case, obtained by TMZ Sports, Arenas will get his last installment on October 31st (the contract was paid out over 8 years). It was good while it lasted ... and Gilbert knew it when he spoke to our photog about the contract in 2013. The problem, Arenas says ... is now that he's no longer getting NBA checks, he'll only earn $169,895 per year in investment income ... not enough to live

  • Disastrous Break, Quadruple Bogey Derails PGA Tour Player's Chance at Win

    (c) 2016 Time Inc. Justin Thomas Defends Title at CIMB Classic Justin Thomas battled back from a four-shot deficit during the final round of the 2016 CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lampur to successfully defend his 2015 title.Anirban Lahiri had one of the

  • Joe Gibbs Racing shows why being conservative works in the Chase

    Maybe Talladega was the “lay up” race of the third round? Joe Gibbs Racing’s four cars represent half of the eight drivers advancing to the third round of the Chase. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth entered Sunday’s race with hefty points advantages over ninth place.

    From The Marbles
  • Godwinks and hallelujah: Cubs reward faithful fans with long-awaited pennant

    CHICAGO—Torture and ridicule finally relinquished their 71-year hold on the Cubs thanks to the goodness of godwinks. As lifelong Cubs fan Rhena Knourek, now 82 years old, told me two years ago at Cubs Convention, the annual mid-winter Hajj for the most devout of the Cubbie flock, godwinks are seemingly random moments of ordinary life that actually occur because of heavenly direction. A godwink is Carlos Ruiz of the Dodgers, the penultimate batter of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series Saturday night at Wrigley Field, hitting a foul pop fly with nearly the same trajectory as the one hit by Luis Castillo of the Marlins in the last NLCS Game 6 at Wrigley.

    Sports Illustrated
  • Russian deputy minister suspended over doping resigns

    MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian deputy minister who was suspended following allegations he covered up doping cases at the 2014 Winter Olympics has resigned, the government said Monday. Deputy Sports Minister Yuri Nagornykh was the most prominent among a group of sports officials suspended in July by order of President Vladimir Putin following the publication of a World Anti-Doping Agency report which accused them of covering up hundreds of doping cases, including at the Sochi Games. Nagornykh had vehemently denied allegations of a state cover-up, a position shared by the Russian government, but disappeared from public life since the suspension. His departure comes in the run-up to the publication of

    USA Today
  • Wow! A.J. Green makes an unbelievable catch on a Hail Mary

    Hail Marys are always pretty cool, but Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green made one of the greatest catches you’ll see on one. At the end of the first half, Andy Dalton heaved one to the end zone. It was the same scrum in the end zone we’ve seen for most other Hail Mary throws, with everyone going up at once.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Gary Cahill doubles Chelsea's lead

    Off a Chelsea corner kick the ball falls to Gary Cahill who smashes the ball into the back of the net to give Chelsea a 2-0 lead over Manchester United.

    NBC Sports
  • Jenrry Mejia still a member of Mets organization

    RHP Jenrry Mejia is still a member of the Mets organization, notes Adam Rubin of ESPN. The Mets can release him if they choose, but he's currently costing the team nothing, adds Rubin.

    Comcast SportsNet New York
  • MLS Decision Day: The big winners, big losers and the super duper extra loser

    FC Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record. There are 340 Major League Soccer games in the book this year, and at length, the playoffs can start. FC Dallas: After falling short on goal difference last year, FCD finally lifted its first Supporters’ Shield this year with a consistent and impressive campaign.

    FC Yahoo
  • NFL Power Rankings - Seahawks stay put

    Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab explains why there's still plenty of potential for the Seattle Seahawks once they get healthy.

    Yahoo Sports Videos
  • Report: Yi Jianlian has asked for release, will be waived by Lakers

    On paper, Chinese center Yi Jianlian made a lot of sense for the Lakers, especially in Luke Walton’s system — he was the only floor spacing big on the roster. Watching Yi at the Olympics, it was easy to imagine it working out for him in the NBA this time around. In practice, he was struggling to find a consistent role with the team. He had averaged less than 11 minutes a game in the preseason, shooting 35 percent overall and 16.7 percent from three. His defense wasn’t good, and he remains a player who doesn’t exactly have a high motor. With Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Timofey Mozgov, and Tarik Black, Yi wasn’t finding a consistent niche. So he has asked out of his contract and the Lakers are

  • Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Man United

    LONDON — Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0 on Sunday in an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for Jose Mourinho. First half goals from Pedro and Gary Cahill set them on their way and then Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante added gloss to the scoreline as United unraveled as Chelsea went into the top four. Here’s what we learned from a humbling afternoon for Mourinho back in west London. NIGHTMARE RETURN FOR MOURINHO “You’re not special anymore!” “You’re getting sacked in the morning!” “Who are ya? Who are ya?” Those were just sum of the chants directed at Manchester United’s manager Jose Mourinho on his first return to Chelsea since he was sacked last December. It was an incredibly uncomfortable afternoon

  • Cubs overwhelming favorites to win World Series over Indians

    For the past 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have played the underdog. The Cubs come into the series as an overwhelming favorite to hoist the World Series trophy, according to Bovada. The Cubs might be the favorites in the World Series, but the money is coming in on Cleveland.

    Big League Stew
  • Forde's Fab Four: Who replaces Ohio State?

    The big playoff news from the weekend was Ohio State’s upset loss at Penn State, which boots the Buckeyes out of the bracket but not out of contention. If Ohio State wins out, it almost assuredly will be a playoff team – but in order to win out it will have to jump-start an offense that has been held to its three lowest yardage totals of the season in the past three weeks. Against the Nittany Lions, Ohio State averaged a season-low 4.98 yards per play.

    Yahoo Sports
  • Giants still in last place in division despite win over Rams, 4-3 record

    The New York Giants may have turned their season around the past two weeks with two hard-fought victories, but they are still on the bottom looking up in the suddenly competitive NFC East. The frontrunning Dallas Cowboys (5-1) remained alone in first place after a bye week; the Philadelphia Eagles stunned the previously-undefeated Minnesota Vikings, 21-10, at home to improve to 4-2 and move to second place; and the Washington Redskins fell in the final seconds to the Lions in Detroit, 20-17, to fall to 4-3 on the year. With a little over half the season remaining, only a few division games have been played. The Eagles, who play Dallas next week, have only played one game in the division thus far.

  • One day later, Mike Zimmer is still salty and vowing to “change things up”

    Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t happy with his team’s performance after Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia. A day later, he’s still upset. “We’re trying to figure out everything right now,” Zimmer said Monday, via Chris Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is a gut check day. . . . We’re going to change some things up this week.” After a showing that prompted Zimmer to call his offensive line “soft,” he offered up this biting critique that should force every player to engage in soul searching: “I have faith in this football team. But faith is belief without proof, and I have no proof yet.” The defense has given Zimmer plenty of proof, but defense alone isn’t enough. As to the offense, Zimmer

    NBC Sports: ProFootballTalk
  • Randy Moss, Tedy Bruschi highly critical of Roger Goodell's handling of Josh Brown case

    Two more former NFL players have weighed in on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his mishandling of the situation with New York Giants kicker Josh Brown. Randy Moss, during a segment on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” discussing Brown and the league continuing to bungle domestic violence cases, put things squarely on Goodell’s shoulders.

    Shutdown Corner
  • Curt Schilling's Donald Trump Rally Was Really Sad

    The Red Sox legend doesn't have the draw that he used to. We're currently in the midst of October baseball. This time of year used to belong to Curt Schilling. The Red Sox great is a three time World Series champion (once with the Arizona Diamondbacks as well) and delivered postseason performances that were beyond great. They were mythic. I mean, remember the "bloody sock"? But we're a long way away from 2004 and October clearly no longer belongs to Schilling. No, Schilling is no longer thought of as the tough as nails guy who helped deliver the Boston Red Sox their first World Series title in 86 years. No, now he's better known for being a crazy troll who likes to post insane memes online. He

  • Kaepernick doesn’t think anthem protests affect ratings

    Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick likely don’t agree on much. But here’s one thing on which they occupy the same page: They believe the 2016 drop in TV ratings has nothing to do with the ongoing national anthem protests. “I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, via Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.” Goodell was blunt and concise last week when asked about the potential connection by reporters: “That it’s

    NBC Sports: ProFootballTalk
  • Duncan-less Spurs eager for another run at NBA postseason

    SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs responded to their most successful regular season in franchise history with the greatest turnover in Gregg Popovich’s two decades with the team. Tim Duncan’s retirement played a large role in the reconstruction, but so did losing in six games to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals. Duncan is gone along with veterans Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and late-season additions Andre Miller and Kevin Martin. While San Antonio added another veteran in Pau Gasol, they also brought in a lot of youth and athleticism as they prepared for life without Duncan, the power forward who led the franchise to five NBA titles in 19 seasons. “Right now we don’t know

  • LeBron James says he can still win MVP with reduced workload, cites Stephen Curry

    The door is open for LeBron James to win a legacy-altering fifth MVP. But his Cavaliers could also win another championship, leaving Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue planning to limit LeBron’s minutes in preparation of a long playoff run. LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN “No,” James said Saturday when asked if he was concerned that planned rest could affect his MVP case. “Because Steph played 31 minutes a game and he won the MVP.” “Well, I’ve never set into a season saying I want to win MVP,” he said. “I’ve always thought of the season saying I want to be MVP for my team and it’s resulted in me getting four of them. So I’ve been available, for the most part, every night and I’ve been available on