The Frontstretch: Vickers' Win Was A Long Time Coming ... And There Will Be More by Summer Bedgood -- Monday July 15, 2013

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Brian Vickers’ win on Sunday was popular amongst his competitors, as a driver who breaks a winless streak or wins for the first time usually is. As Vickers rounded the final corner of the final lap, he expressed gratitude and thanks to his team as several drivers caught up to him on the cool down lap.

Drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, and Matt Kenseth all congratulated him on the cool down lap by tapping their cars against hisor waving at him through the side window. Post-race several drivers congratulated him in their post-race interviews, referencing his struggles throughout his career and all that he’s been through up to this point.

The reality is that Vickers has been through a lot in his career. In the Sprint Cup Series alone, Vickers has been through three teams since 2007, and has had very few reasons to celebrate since then. Though Vickers’ first career win came during a controversial finish at Talladega back in 2006, Vickers would not return to Victory Lane again until the August race at Michigan in 2009 while he was driving for the now defunct Red Bull Racing. He would not win again until last Sunday in Loudon.

Vickers’ first full season in the Sprint Cup Series in 2004, driving for Hendrick Motorsports until he decided to leave for upstart team Red Bull Racing at the end of the 2006 season.

The move, initially, seemed to be a terrible one. 13 DNQs and only 5 top 10 finishes all season had many fans and former team owner Rick Hendrick wondering what was going on in Vickers’ head to leave HMS for a new team. As of then, it didn’t seem to be a good move.

However, the next season would bring brighter skies. No DNFs, a total of six top 10s, and a top 20 finish in the final points standings led many to believe that the future was bright for RBR, and they followed it up in 2009 with a win and a spot in the Chase where they ultimately finished 12th.

Again, Vickers was expecting big things in 2010, but it wasn’t to be. Vickers was visiting Washington, D.C. when he went to the emergency room with chest pains. He was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and left leg, and would be out of the car the rest of the season after running 11 races while taking blood thinners and having undergone heart surgery.

Vickers returned to the car in 2011, but the team would again struggle. Though they made every single race that season, the team had only seven top 10s and they finished 25th in points. Red Bull Racing closed at the end of the season, leaving Vickers without a ride.

2012 would be a trying year for Vickers. He ran eight races for Michael Waltrip Racing in the Sprint Cup Series and one race for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, but otherwise sat out of the NASCAR field that year.

It turns out, though, that both opportunities would lead to another chance at success. This season, Vickers is running a full season for JGR in Nationwide and a part-time schedule for MWR in Cup, and he’s had considerably more success this season. Vickers has had seven top fives in 17 races in the Nationwide Series, and currently sits sixth in points.

And, of course, the win at Loudon was a good start.

So, long winded though it may be, Vickers has had to deal with a lot during the course of his career, and especially in the past few years. A rollercoaster season of sorts has left many fans and fellow competitors talking about how much he deserves a full-time Cup Series ride, but a good opportunity was just never there.

Now, it looks like he might have gotten it. Pending sponsorship, both crew chief Rodney Childers and MWR General Manager Ty Norris say they want Vickers in the No. 55 car for all 36 races in the 2014 season, and they think the win might have helped them do just that.

“Michael (Waltrip) has made no bones about it,” said Norris. “In the last 30 to 45 days, he talks about Brian a lot as being that candidate that we want to go ahead and try to get moving forward with. All I can tell you is wins help a lot of business issues, and so this was a great day for that.”

The interesting thing is that it doesn’t seem to be upsetting anyone that Vickers may finally be getting another chance at Sprint Cup Series success. As I said before, there were so many positive comments regarding Vickers’ victory. In fact, I didn’t hear anyone say anything negative, and drivers aren’t known for holding back when it comes to their opinions on fellow drivers.

Sure, Vickers has made some enemies before. I’m sure many of you will remember a certain Martinsville race where Vickers was racing like that one punk who always drivers backwards on the NASCAR videogames.

Still, though, he has more than redeemed himself and paid his dues to get back to where he is. It’s a feel good story that people like me eat up with all the ferocity of a tabloid outside of Amanda Bynes’ apartment.

It’s a great story to follow, and it would be fun to watch Vickers continue enjoying some success over the next couple of years. He would deserve it, he has all the support in the world behind him, and the fans would eat it up. After all, who doesn’t like an underdog?

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07/15/2013 05:40 PM

Since Talledaga in Oct 2006, Brian Vickers has won MORE races than Dale Earnhardt Jr.