2013 Rides: No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota (Cup, 14 races), No. 11 FedEx Toyota (Cup, 3 races); No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (NNS)
2013 Primary Sponsors: Aaron’s, RK Motors, Jet Edge, LG, FedEx Office/March of Dimes, FedEx Freight, FedEx Delivery Manager (Cup); Dollar General (NNS)
2013 Owners: Michael Waltrip, Joe Gibbs (Cup); Joe Gibbs (NNS)
2013 Crew Chiefs: Rodney Childers, Scott Miller (55 Cup), Darian Grubb (11 Cup); Kevin Kidd (NNS)
2013 Stats: 17 Cup starts, 1 win, 2 top 5s, 6 top 10s, 5 DNFs.
30 Nationwide starts, 0 wins, 13 top 5s, 18 top 10s, 1 pole, 2 DNFs, 10th in NNS points.
Best Finish: NSCS: 1st – New Hampshire, July.
NNS: 2nd – Dover, New Hampshire.
Average Finish: 18.9 (Cup); 12.0 (NNS).
Team Ranking: 3rd in Cup and Nationwide. Vickers didn’t run the full schedule in either series so this stat isn’t indicative of his performance in 2013. He ran only 14 races in the 55 in Cup and missed the final three races in Nationwide. He most likely would’ve outpointed Elliott Sadler to become the second Gibbs car in Nationwide if his health issues didn’t interfere.
High Point: Vickers tracked down Tony Stewart late in the July Cup race at New Hampshire, passed Stewart and raced to his third career victory. Vickers snapped a 75-race winless streak and visited Victory Lane for the first time since 2009 with Team Red Bull. The win also was important because it solidified the then part-time driver’s spot at Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers signed a two-year deal with the team a month later.
Low Point: For the second time in four years, Vickers’ low point came away from the track. In 2010, the driver learned he had a rare condition called May-Thurner Syndrome, which increases his risk of blood clots and stroke. He sat out most of the 2010 season on blood-thinning medication. During a doctor’s appointment last October, another clot was discovered, forcing Vickers out his full-time rides in Cup and Nationwide. He said he’ll be ready for Daytona come February. On the track, Vickers’ low point was taking part in the MWR scandal at Richmond in September. Vickers pitted numerous times for no reason to move Joey Logano up in the running order, getting teammate Martin Truex, Jr. in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Summary: Vickers accomplished exactly what he set out to do at the start of the year. He probably didn’t expect the bumps in the road that came with it. The full-time Nationwide driver at the start of 2013 signed a deal with MWR in August, returning to Sprint Cup full-time and contending for championships in 2014-15. The MWR scandal that came a month later, repercussions, and his health setback in October certainly put a damper on the news. What Vickers accomplished shouldn’t be overlooked, though. It’s extremely rare for Cup regulars to bounce down to a lower series and then bounce back into Cup with a competitive team. And despite a rough finish to the year, Vickers is expected to be racing a full season in Cup for the first time in 2011 come February.
The win at New Hampshire made it happen. Although Vickers put up strong performances in the No. 55 car in 2012-13, he didn’t show a capability to win races before that breakthrough moment in July. Four of Vickers’ six top 10s came on tracks one mile or shorter. In Nationwide, Vickers failed to win in 30 starts and fell short of expectations with behemoth Joe Gibbs Racing. But he’s in Cup next year anyway, so who cares?
Off-Track News: See Low Point where Vickers’ health issues are chronicled. He also signed a two-year contract to drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine in 2014-15.
2014 Outlook: One thing Vickers couldn’t anticipate when he signed a two-year deal with MWR in August were the layoffs and cutbacks that came two months later. MWR will scale back from a three-car team in 2013 to a two-car team in 2014 with Martin Truex, Jr. out of the fold. Many employees were also laid off at the end of the season. The good news for Vickers and teammate Clint Bowyer is MWR is using some of the 56 team’s resources to test and run a partial schedule in 2014. Only time will tell what impact these moves will have on the organization – they’ve signed Jeff Burton to man that third car – but losing a Chase-caliber teammate doesn’t seem like much of a positive.
Vickers’ crew chief for his win at New Hampshire, Rodney Childers, and Truex’s crew chief Chad Johnston both bolted for Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of the season. Vickers didn’t perform as well in 2013 with Scott Miller on the pit box; however, he’ll return in 2014. Vickers’ other worry has to be his health. He’s had to pull himself from the car twice in the last four years and with May-Thurner Syndrome, there’s no guarantee it won’t happen again this season.
2013 Frontstretch.com Grade: A-. The Nationwide regular at the start of 2013 will find himself full-time in Cup with a solid team at the start of 2014. Mission accomplished.
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