Before the 2013 season started, many NASCAR experts and analysts thought Brian Vickers would have the inside track to winning his second NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.
As the series heads into its second consecutive week off before heading to Texas Motor Speedway for the April 12 O’Reilly Auto Parts 300, the 2003 series champion has some catching up to do if he wants to prove those prognosticators right.
Vickers currently sits 11th in the standings, 63 points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. and five points back of 10th-place driver Alex Bowman.
Vickers will get extra seat time when he fills in for the injured Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for at least four NASCAR Sprint Cup races, starting at Texas. The extra time behind the wheel could prove invaluable in his efforts to battle back into championship contention.
In Vickers’ championship season, he sat 12th in the standings after the first five races. After nine races that season, he was only ranked 11th. Therefore, mounting a comeback putting him back in contention is definitely not out of the question, but he’ll need stronger, more consistent showings if he is to be successful.
Outside of a pair of third-place finishes at Las Vegas and Bristol, Vickers’ best effort is a 17th at Phoenix. In the most recent race, at Auto Club, his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota experienced engine trouble that forced him to hang up his driving gloves after only 53 laps, leaving him with a 34th-place finish. In the season opener at Daytona he finished 19th, two laps down.
This is Vickers’ first full-time season in the NNS since 2003, when he posted three wins and 21 top-10 finishes.