2014 Ride: No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
2014 Crew Chief: Billy Scott
2014 Points Finish: 22nd
2014 Stats: 36 starts, zero wins, three top fives, nine top 10s, one pole, 53 laps led, three DNFs, 14.1 average start, 18.6 average finish
2014 Best Finish: Second (Daytona II)
High Point: Starting the season with a full-time ride. After languishing in NASCAR limbo-land following his medical issues related to blood clots, Vickers finally took on a full-season schedule in the Sprint Cup Series. Thus, just being able to resume his career had to feel like a bit of a win. Nearly scoring a win at the Daytona summer race would have to be the other high point, as doing so would have locked him into the Chase.
Low Point: The offseason. See that Kevin Harvick guy holding that championship trophy? Oh, yeah, his crew chief used to be the guy with Vickers in the 2013 season, that guy who helped Vickers score a win at Loudon and that guy helped Vickers accumulate two top fives and six top 10s in just 17 races the previous year. Yes, watching Rodney Childers walk out the door probably had to be the low point of the year for Vickers.
Summary: For Vickers and the MWR organization, the 2014 season can be seen in a number of ways. The big one is that Vickers is behind the wheel and still has the potential to be a regular Chase driver. But the team as a whole suffered from the controversial Clint Bowyer spin at Richmond in 2013 and seemed to be in the process of dealing with the fallout over the course of the 2014 season. Having shifted from a three- to two-car operation after losing the NAPA sponsorship, the resources didn’t appear to be there to back strong season for either car (note that Bowyer finished 19th and had stats not all that different from Vickers).
Perhaps the 2014 season will be looked at as one of growing pains and figuring out what may or may not work. Failing to make the Chase is one thing. The fact that Vickers didn’t finish in the top 20 in points, however, is more problematic.
2015 Outlook: It seems like it might be hasty to call 2015 one of those make-or-break years, but that is what Vickers could be looking at when Cup resumes in February. One positive is that the changes are purported to make the Cup cars drive a little more like their Xfinity counterparts – a series where Vickers raced 30 times in 2013 and holds a championship from 2003.
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