Tony Stewart’s misfortune becomes Brian Vickers opportunity. Pending medical clearance, the one-time Hendrick Motorsports phenom and winner of three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races will substitute for the injured former champion in the Daytona 500. As one who has had his own share of adversity, Vickers could well become the feel good story of the 2016 edition of the “Great American Race.”
The driver who earned the distinction of being the youngest to win a Busch (now Xfinity) Series championship has had his racing career derailed because of the recurrence of blood clots. Blood thinning medications give rise to concerns of a life-threatening bleeding event should he become involved in an accident. In recent years, Brian Vickers has become more famous for appearing in Xarelto commercials with Arnold Palmer and Kevin Nealon and for working as a racing analyst for NBC than he has his racing career.
To this point, the only race that Vickers will run for sure will be the 500. He is not eligible to run the Sprint Unlimited. Ty Dillon is also slated to race in Stewart’s absence.
Considering his first Cup win came in a restrictor plate race (Talladega), the Thomasville, North Carolina native has the chops to succeed. Talent has never been the issue with Brian Vickers. He made the 2009 Chase while racing for Red Bull, and it seemed to indicate that his Cup career was really starting to take hold before the health issues hit.
A veteran of 318 Cup races and a former Busch Series champ, Brian Vickers has already realized a dream few of us will ever know. Still, there are few things worse than not being able to continue your career on your own terms.
Wouldn’t it be cool if Vickers went out and won the race? How many sports are there where you can be inactive for a period of time and then return and perform at a high level? Not to in any way denigrate what it takes to be a successful racer, but NASCAR is one place where you can return from an absence and get your groove back pretty quickly. Tony Stewart’s unfortunate accident before what would have been his last Daytona 500- a race he’s never won- cast a pall over the beginning of the 2016 season. Perhaps a Brian Vickers victory will break the clouds.