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Vickers Comes Back To Win Cup Race In Loudon

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 14 2013

Brian Vickers came up a winner in New Hampshire on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett)

LOUDON, N.H. – It has taken Brian Vickers three seasons to get his comeback into high gear. He finally made it to the top Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, pulling away from Kyle Busch on an overtime restart to win the Camping World RV Sales 301.

As he crossed under the checkered flags on the final lap, an emotional Vickers radioed, “Thanks for not giving up on me.’’

An equally emotional Ty Norris, executive vice president of Michael Waltrip Racing, said, “Welcome back, baby.’’

Vickers earned the third victory of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. The first came in 2006 for Hendrick Motorsports and the second in 2009 for Red Bull. At that point, it appeared Vickers, then 26, was well on the way to a successful Cup career.

But the youngster was sidelined for most of the 2010 season by blood clots, which initially threatened his racing future and his life.

He did come back in 2011, driving the full season for Red Bull, but the team folded and Vickers has had only the part-time ride in Cup with MWR since, driving eight races in 2012 and the same so far this season.

He also became the 11th different winner in the last 11 Cup races here.

Vickers, who has been sharing the MWR entry with Mark Martin and Waltrip, thanked team co-owners Waltrip and Rob Kauffman for giving him the opportunity to keep his Cup career going.

“It couldn’t have been filled with more trials and tribulations, but thanks to so much support from friends and family and, this year, my finance’e. … Man, just thank God for the chance and the opportunity to come back , and this team and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and just everyone believing in me and giving me a second chance.’’

Team officials have said they will have only one driver in the No. 55 Toyota next season and this victory, along with two other top 10 finishes this season have apparently give Vickers a leg up on the ride.

“Nothing is a guarantee in life,’’  Vickers said. “I’ve learned that the hard way. Even when you think it’s done, it’s not done. But (the win) definitely goes a long way.’’

Childers, a longtime family friend of Vickers, was more confident.

“I think it’s pretty much a done deal,’’ the crew chief said.

Norris said Vickers is the guy they would like to hire for 2014 if the sponsorship deal can be worked out.

“He’s been our focus and we would love to have him in our car, but we need commercial support,’’ Norris explained. “This is true for every race team.’’

It was a very popular win, with most of the competitors driving past to congratulate Vickers on the cool-down lap or coming to Victory Lane to offer their good wishes.

Vickers was not in contention throughout most of the race. A problem in the pits cost him a lap in the early going, but Vickers was able to get back on the lead lap and hang on until series of pit stops under caution shuffled the field for the last 100 laps. That moved Vickers into the top 10.

He took full advantage of the situation, catching and passing leader Tony Stewart with 14 laps to go in regulation and hanging on to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line by 0.582-seconds, about 10 car lengths.

Asked when he knew he had the car to win, Vickers said, “It wasn’t until the end when we started running down the 18 (Busch) and the 14 (Stewart) that I felt we had a car capable of winning. Then I was hungry.

“(The last restart) was nervous. Old tires and wheel spin. You never know what can happen here,’’ he added. “It was tough and it was fun racing for the win.’’

It was pretty close for Vickers as his car ran out of gas before he could even do a celebration burnout.

Stewart, who appeared a lock to win the race after taking the lead on lap 203 following his final pit stop, was second on the final restart but ran out of gas and slid all the way to 26th. That knocked him out of the top 10 in points with only seven races remaining before the start of the Chase for the championship.

However, Stewart still has a tentative hold on the second of two wild card spots in the Chase with several other drivers in hot pursuit.

Stewart said he was getting pretty nervous about having enough gas as the laps wound down. He knew he was in trouble when debris on the track brought out the last of 13 caution flags on lap 297, meaning the race would go beyond the scheduled 301.

“It’s hard to calculate how much we are saving the cautions, so we thought we were about three-quarters of a lap to the good there before that last caution,’’ he said. “Obviously, we didn’t save as much as I thought we would.’’

The two-time Cup champion fell to 13th, five points behind Kasey Kahne, who now holds down the 10th position, the final points position for the Chase.

Jeff Burton, a four-time winner at New Hampshire, had his best race of the season, finishing third, followed by pole-winner and reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola.

Series points leader Jimmie Johnson, who started last in the 43-car field after his front-row qualifying effort was disallowed because the front end was too low, shook off the misfortune and finished sixth, increasing his series leader from 49 to 56 points over Clint Bowyer.

Kurt Busch continued to run in bad luck, leading a race-high 102 laps before a collision with Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth knocked him out of contention with 75 laps to go.

Morgan Shepherd, who set a NASCAR record by starting the race at 71 years old, ran only 92 laps before parking his car and finishing 41st.

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Camping World RV Sales 301

Sunday, July 14, 2013

1. (13) Brian Vickers(i), Toyota, 302, $214075.

2. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 302, $228043.

3. (9) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 302, $141935.

4. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 302, $179076.

5. (17) Aric Almirola, Ford, 302, $152496.

6. (43) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 302, $147646.

7. (18) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 302, $140221.

8. (6) Carl Edwards, Ford, 302, $128560.

9. (12) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 302, $127776.

10. (5) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 302, $134871.

11. (8) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 302, $105235.

12. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 302, $117380.

13. (20) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 302, $127518.

14. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 302, $108260.

15. (22) Greg Biffle, Ford, 302, $102410.

16. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 302, $118610.

17. (14) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 302, $116501.

18. (24) David Gilliland, Ford, 302, $103918.

19. (29) David Ragan, Ford, 302, $109618.

20. (42) David Stremme, Toyota, 302, $100518.

21. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 302, $101110.

22. (26) A J Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 302, $104218.

23. (39) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 302, $93782.

24. (10) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 302, $111149.

25. (38) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 302, $80985.

26. (16) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 302, $132560.

27. (33) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 301, $91210.

28. (27) David Reutimann, Toyota, 299, $82910.

29. (40) J J Yeley, Chevrolet, 298, $82535.

30. (37) Ken Schrader, Ford, 298, $83785.

31. (2) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 283, $110430.

32. (36) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 281, $78810.

33. (21) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 277, $105799.

34. (23) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 275, $128221.

35. (35) Josh Wise(i), Ford, 270, $78185.

36. (28) Casey Mears, Ford, 242, $85955.

37. (32) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, Accident, 237, $77741.

38. (31) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, Accident, 236, $80675.

39. (15) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 225, $102833.

40. (25) Joey Logano, Ford, 211, $92583.

41. (41) Morgan Shepherd(i), Toyota, Vibration, 92, $60675.

42. (30) Michael McDowell, Ford, Vibration, 89, $56675.

43. (34) Mike Bliss(i), Toyota, Rear Gear, 75, $53175.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 98.735 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 14 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.582 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 12 for 58 laps.

Lead Changes: 10 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: B. Keselowski 1-9; Kyle Busch 10-62; Kurt Busch 63-74; B. Keselowski 75-77; Kurt Busch 78-123; B. Keselowski 124; M. Kenseth 125-157; B. Keselowski 158; Kurt Busch 159-202; T. Stewart 203-286; B. Vickers(i) 287-302.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kurt Busch 3 times for 102 laps; T. Stewart 1 time for 84 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 53 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 33 laps; B. Vickers(i) 1 time for 16 laps; B. Keselowski 4 times for 14 laps.

Top 12 in Points: J. Johnson – 696; C. Bowyer – 640; C. Edwards – 623; K. Harvick – 622; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 578; M. Kenseth – 576; Kyle Busch – 576; G. Biffle – 545; Brad Keselowski – 529; K. Kahne – 523; M. Truex Jr. – 521; J. Gordon – 521.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 14 2013
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Tony Geinzer says:

    The Victory is a Good Story in a Bad Year. But, what I feel needs to be done is The Chase be history, and I find if it was an Owners Points Entry vs. A Full Everyweek Team, it would be the scuttlebutt that needs future answers.