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Vickers Subs For Injured Stewart

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2016
Brian Vickers has returned to racing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Brian Vickers has returned to racing. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Stewart-Haas Racing has named Brian Vickers interim driver of its No. 14 Chevrolet SS for all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events during 2016 Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

Vickers replaces three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, whose final season will begin on the sidelines after suffering a fracture in his back in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

Vickers has been in and out of race cars over the past couple of years because of health problems.

“If anything, I feel more rested than every single person in this garage,” Vickers said on Friday at Daytona International Speedway, as Stewart-Haas announced him as the interim driver for Stewart during Speedweeks. “I’m more hungry than every single person in this garage.

“I’m happier to be here, more appreciative.”

Vickers began driving the No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet Friday as he and the team prepared for Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited on DIS’ high-banked/2.5-mile trioval. On Sunday, Vickers will pilot the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in qualifying for the Daytona 500 before racing it again on Thursday in the Can-Am Duel and, finally, in the 58th running of the Daytona 500 Feb. 21.

Vickers is a three-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series and was the 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion. His best Cup finish at Daytona is a second-place result in the 2014 Coke Zero 400. His first career Cup victory came in 2006 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, sister track to DIS. The 2016 Daytona 500 will mark Vickers’ ninth start in “The Great American Race.”

An interim driver for the No. 14 team in the races following Daytona has not been determined.

Stewart, 44, sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in a non-racing accident while vacationing near San Diego late last month. While a timetable for Stewart’s return has not been confirmed, he is expected to make a full recovery and return to the No. 14 Chevy this season.

“It’s unfortunate that this is the car I’m in, because that means Tony’s not here,” Vickers said.

Stewart previously announced that 2016 would be his final season as a Cup driver, although he will continue as co-owner of SHR with businessman Gene Haas.

Stewart has missed several Cup races since August 2013, when he was sidelined for the final 15 events after suffering a broken right leg in a Sprint Car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa. That injury snapped a streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts. In August 2014, Stewart sat out three races after he was involved in a Sprint Car incident in which Kevin Ward Jr. was fatally injured in Canandaigua, N.Y.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 13 2016
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