Brian Vickers came from behind to score an exciting and surprise victory in the Camping World RV Sales 301 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on a warm Sunday afternoon in New England.
The 301-lap race marked the 19th of the 36-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. At New Hampshire, Vickers became the 11th different winner in 11 races.
To win, Vickers had to make up a lost lap (miscue on pit stop) and then had to survive a green-white-checkered flag overtime scene, and he did it by besting the likes of Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch. The trio ran three abreast on the final restart, and Vickers surged to the front to seal the deal.
Just as the dust was settling, Stewart ran out of fuel, and the fast-moving field had to take evasive action to miss his slow-moving car. He was credited with a 26th place finish.
For Vickers, his last win came at the Michigan International Speedway in August, 2009, which, with his downtime for health and a limited schedule, took place 75 races ago. In total, he has 271 Sprint Cup starts.
The winner drove the Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota from Michael Waltrip Racing. He led 16 laps en route to his third career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
“I don’t know I can put this win into words,” Vickers said. “Everything I have gone through in recent years from the blood clots to being without a ride. You wake up one morning wondering if you are going to be around the next morning and then wondering if you are ever going to race again. To go through all that and to be able to work with (crew chief) Rodney Childers after 20 years of trying, nothing can be more special to me.
"For me, the biggest thing has been the support of family and friends. When everything is going your way and you are in victory lane, everyone is your friend. When your back is against the wall, you find out quickly who is willing to vouch for you, and I learned a lot from these learning curves. Going through all of that and sitting in victory lane makes this one of the most special events of my life.”
Regarding the final restart, he noted, “It was nervous being on old tires. You never know what can happen, but it was fun racing Tony (Stewart) for the win.”
Added Childers, “This means a lot to me. We have been hot and cold over the years and got to win our first race at MWR in 2009 and again in 2010. It is something you think about every weekend. We knew we had a good car this weekend, and it was hard to sleep last night.
“Brian drove his butt off all day, and we just got the right opportunity at the end. Sometimes days go your way, and it was fortunate the way things worked out at the end.”
Second place went to Busch, who was perplexed with the outcome. Yesterday, he had won the Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire, and he was seeking to repeat.
“I think we had the fastest car all day, especially on the short runs, but maybe I used the tires up,” Busch said. “I hate it because I had such a great race car but we didn’t have it on the long runs. I wish we could have made it home one spot better.”
Third place went to Jeff Burton in the Caterpillar Chevrolet.
“We had a good day and are happy with our finish,” Burton said of his best finish of the season. “The cautions didn’t fall the way we needed them to. In turn, we lost track position. I thought we had second or third-best car and I thought we had a shot at it, but it didn’t work out.
“We haven’t given up on ourselves, as we feel we are not out of it (the Chase). For the last month, we have been running solidly in the top 10. Earlier in the year, if there was a wreck on the track, I seemed to get to it as quickly as I could, but hopefully that is behind us now.”
Brad Keselowski came home fourth ahead of Aric Almirola.
Sixth through 10th were Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Johnson started last due to failing the post-qualification technical inspection. Undeterred, he moved through the field at a quick pace and made the top 15 within 80 laps.
“It was tough; it wasn’t easy by any means,” he said. “You had to make quick work of people on the restarts and then we all kind of fell in line. There were not many opportunities to get by. We just fought through the day and got our Lowe’s Chevrolet to sixth.
“Again, we had a mistake that we made and that hurt us in qualifying. We knew we had a fast race car. We proved that again on Saturday. And we were very confident coming into today.”
A dozen caution flags slowed the race for 58 laps.
In the important point standings, there were no changes in the top eight with Johnson continuing to head the field by 56 over Clint Bowyer with Edwards third 73 back. Harvick is fourth 74 behind with Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth 118 back.
Sixth through eighth are Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle.
Keselowski advanced four positions to take over ninth and Kasey Kahne improved by two to gain the 10th spot.
Martin Truex Jr. is 11th with Gordon 12th. Stewart lost three to 13th and Kurt Busch dropped five spots to 14th.
Kurt Busch crashed out of race, and he ended up 31st.