Brian Vickers has been working on a Sprint Cup Series return for the past year and a half. That quest got a boost this past week when he was announced as the replacement driver for Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is recovering from injuries sustained during the last lap of the Auto Club 400 from the Auto Club Speedway.
Vickers has already been lined up to run a partial Sprint Cup Series with Michael Waltrip Racing, but driving for Hamlin will add an additional four races to his schedule and hopefully impress car owners for a ride next year.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me. I feel like I’m very fortunate to have both of these opportunities — to be in the 55, which I consider a great car and then to go drive the 11. I welcome the opportunity and the challenge — I look forward to being in it. Obviously, that team and that car have run good for a long time. Darian (Grubb, 11 crew chief) has won championships and he’s a very good crew chief — I’ve known him for a long time so I look forward to working with him as well and everyone at FedEx. Again, I reiterate it’s very sad how it happened because I’ve been on the receiving end of this. I’m happy to jump in and do the best I can,” Vickers told reporters Friday at the Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday’s STP Gas Booster 500.
Vickers knows a thing or two about being out of a ride due to health reasons. In 2010 he had to step out of his ride for the majority of the season after blood clots were diagnosed in his legs and around his lungs.
“Next week I’m going to be in the 11 car, which I’m obviously excited about, but sad how the opportunity came about. I know what it’s like to be pulled out of your car for health reasons — I’ve been in that boat before and wish Denny (Hamlin) a speedy recovery. I will do the best job I can for him and FedEx and everyone at Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Toyota until he returns,” commented Vickers.
When pressed by reporters on what the future could hold and if this could mean bigger things with Joe Gibbs Racing, Vickers basically said any opportunity could be a good one for next year.
“I think anything’s possible. I mean, they could clearly go to a fourth car, so could MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) — so could a lot of teams. I found definitely that I enjoy both organizations. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to run at Gibbs and MWR. I’d love the chance to be in the 55 next year and for some reason that doesn’t or can’t work out then maybe there’s an opportunity at Gibbs as well, as you pointed out. But, that’s so far off and it’s so many ifs and buts. For me right now, the focus is Martinsville and then the focus will be Texas and to go do the best I can. I think if we go out and run good and win and contend for wins and then the rest will take care of itself wherever it is,” said Vickers.
It will be interesting how this plays into his future with both organizations. The first step to that takes place Sunday at 1 PM EST for the STP Gas Booster 500, which can be seen on FOX.