Sunny
63°
Sunny
Hi 66° | Lo 42°

Vickers looking to relive his Magic Mile magic

  • Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

    Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

  • Brian Vickers climbs into his car before practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Thursday, May 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

    Brian Vickers climbs into his car before practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Thursday, May 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • Brian Vickers, right, is congratulated by Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

    Brian Vickers, right, is congratulated by Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

  • Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

    Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

  • Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Brian Vickers climbs into his car before practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Thursday, May 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
  • Brian Vickers, right, is congratulated by Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
  • Brian Vickers celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, July 14, 2013.  (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

When Brian Vickers came to New Hampshire Motor Speedway last July, one of the feel-good stories of 2013 followed when he won the Camping World RV Sales 301.

Vickers was back in Loudon this week to do some testing on the Magic Mile. Last year’s win has been a common topic of conversation for Vickers over the last 12 months, and he was asked about it again on Tuesday.

“The win was huge,” Vickers said. “I think a win any time in the Sprint Cup Series is a huge accomplishment. The competition is so high, but I think that win was very special and

it was my first win with this team and the Aaron’s Dream Machine and the 55, but it was also special because of everything we kind of went through personally, health-wise in and out of the series, in and out of a car. I didn’t know if I would ever race again and then to be able to get back to victory lane was great.”

Last summer, Vickers was dealing with life- and career-threatening blood clots that had plagued him for years. He only had a part-time ride. He had the fastest car in the final practice, but his crew missed on the initial setup. He was also penalized a lap for a misplaced wrench and found himself stuck in the middle of the pack deep into the race.

But some shrewd, and gutsy, fuel strategy brought Vickers to the front of the field at lap 221. And then some shrewd, and gutsy, passing, on a track where passing is a rare sight, earned Vickers a dramatic and heartwarming win.

When Vickers returned to Loudon last September, he started 29th but finished seventh in the Sylvania 300. That was one of six top-10 results he posted in his 17 starts in 2013 and his third-best finish overall.

Those results in Loudon helped Vickers earn a full-time ride with Michael Waltrip Racing this season, but it’s been an up-and-down 2014 for Vickers and the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry team. After a slow start, he climbed all the way up to eighth in the points standings in late May after finishing sixth at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, his fifth top-10 finish in nine races. But a stretch of bad luck and poor results have dropped Vickers to 19th in the standings heading into tomorrow night’s race at the Daytona International Speedway.

Despite the recent setbacks, Vickers should still be considered a threat on July 13 for this year’s running of the Camping World RV Sales 301 considering how well he performed at NHMS last year. Just don’t expect him to admit it.

“You obviously always feel good about coming to a track that you’ve won at to an extent, but everything changes so much,” said Vickers, who hasn’t had any blood clot issues this year but must remain vigilant. “Because of all the new rule changes this year to the new car and the no-ride heights, none of the setup is the same. It’s not like we can throw in last year’s setup and go fast. We have to adapt and change and find a new package to win just like everyone else.”

Vickers and the No. 55 will be wrapped in a fresh package tomorrow at Daytona. The Camry will be sporting a garnet-and-gold paint job to honor the Florida State football team that won the 2013 BCS national championship, and Vickers will wear an FSU-themed uniform custom-made for the occasion.

Connecting college sports with Sprint Cup has become a tradition for Michael Waltrip Racing. Paint schemes for football champions Auburn (2011) and Alabama (2012, 2013) were on MWR cars at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, while basketball champions Louisville (2013) and Kentucky (2012) have been represented on the Kentucky Speedway.

Vickers drove the Louisville-colored car in 2013, but a crash prevented him from finishing that race. He’ll try not to repeat that history tomorrow in his Florida State ride, but he hopes history will repeat itself when he arrives at the Magic Mile with the No. 55 back in its normal blue and white.

“We had really good short-track cars as a company last year, and for the last couple of years for that matter, and the guys did a great job setting the car up,” Vickers said. “We had a really good car and a fast package and we dialed it in throughout the race and we were there at the end.”

Even though he avoided any bold predictions about repeating last year’s success in Loudon, there’s no doubt NHMS brings up plenty of good feelings for Vickers.

“It’s a great racetrack and the fans here are awesome,” Vickers said. “They always fill the place out and I love it.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.