Jul 14, 2013, 4:58 PM EDT
Brian Vickers stretched out his final fuel load and held on to win the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a green-white-checkered finish – his first victory in NASCAR’s top category since the 2009 season.
A debris caution with five laps remaining set the stage for the G-W-C, with Vickers and Tony Stewart – both running low on fuel – leading the field to the green flag. Kyle Busch in third dropped to the inside for a brief attempt at three-wide, but coming off of Turn 2, Vickers was able to clear Stewart on the outside. Moments later, Stewart slowed on the track as his car went bone-dry, effectively handing the race to the Michael Waltrip Racing part-timer.
The win is especially sweet for Vickers, who has been through many obstacles in recent years both on the track and off. In May of 2010, while driving for Team Red Bull, he suffered blood clots in his legs and around his lungs, which forced him out for the remainder of that season. He would return in 2011, but at the end of that year, the Red Bull camp shut down.
Since last year, he has raced in a part-time capacity for MWR and currently splits the No. 55 Toyota with Mark Martin and team owner Michael Waltrip. However, Waltrip has been eyeing Vickers to take over that particular ride full-time for next season.
Vickers’ crew chief, Rodney Childers, said to TNT after today’s win that he felt it was “pretty much a done deal” that his driver would get the ride. Vickers wouldn’t go that far, however.
“Nothing’s a guarantee in life,” he said in Victory Lane. “I’ve learned that the hard way. Even when you think it’s done, it’s not done. But it definitely goes a long way.”
As for Stewart, he wound up finishing 26th.
“It’s hard to calculate how much we’re saving on the cautions,” he said to TNT. “I thought we were three-quarter of a lap to the good there before that last caution, so obviously, we didn’t save as much as we thought we would.”
Kyle Busch wound up moving to second after Stewart sputtered out, while longtime New Hampshire contender Jeff Burton collected a strong third-place finish ahead of Brad Keselowski in fourth and Aric Almirola in fifth.
Kyle’s older brother, Kurt, looked set to fight for the win until he was caught in a Lap 226 wreck with Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth narrowly made contact in Turn 1 with Busch, who then went into Newman and caused the two to spin out.
Kurt finished 31st after leading 102 laps on the day.
Sixth place went to Jimmie Johnson, who had to start 43rd today for the first time in his NASCAR career after he was disqualified from Friday qualifying for failing post-race inspection. Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kenseth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the Top 10.