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Vickers hoping to expand part-time role

September 24, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Vickers hoping to expand part-time role
LOUDON, N.H. -- Fourth top-10 finish could earn driver full-time ride in Cup or Nationwide

No one can blame Brian Vickers for looking ahead.

"I can't wait for Martinsville," he said after Sunday's ninth-place finish in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Brian is way underrated. There's no doubt in my mind we'd be in the Chase if he'd driven [the 55] all year."

--RODNEY CHILDERS

The Oct. 28 race is the next Sprint Cup race Vickers is scheduled to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing, and he knows there's a chance it could lead to an expanded role next season.

Vickers has been sharing the ride in the No. 55 Toyota with Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip this season. Sunday was his sixth race of the season and the fourth time he's produced a top-10 finish. In his previous start in August at Bristol, he finished fourth, and he led 125 laps there in March en route to a fifth-place finish.

He also could be in line for a Nationwide Series ride in 2013, perhaps with Joe Gibbs Racing, another Toyota team. But Vickers has designs on making his mark in Cup.

Rodney Childers, Vickers' crew chief at MWR, said he thinks his driver deserves another full-time shot. Vickers has run full Cup schedules in six of the past nine seasons and qualified for the Chase when he drove for Red Bull Racing in 2009.

"Brian is way underrated," Childers said. "There's no doubt in my mind we'd be in the Chase if he'd driven [the 55] all year."

MWR does have two drivers in the Chase, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., and Childers says that Vickers, as well as Martin, have played vital roles.

"[Vickers] is a real team player," Childers said. "He gives us real good information. I think all of us have really enjoyed working with him and with Mark. ... If it wasn't for [the 55 team], the other two probably wouldn't be in the Chase. It's all about teamwork, everybody working together."

Vickers qualified fourth for Sunday's race but went to the rear of the field after changing engines. Battling back, he was strong enough to lead Laps 180-184, one of only seven drivers to lead more than one lap Sunday.

Childers made the call to take two tires when the caution came out on Lap 179 for debris on the track. That decision enabled Vickers to leap from 14th to the lead but left him in all-but-impossible circumstances as the race progressed with only one more caution.

"[Sunday] was all about track position," Vickers said. "We had to come a long way to the front, and once we got there on two [fresh] tires, we held our spot pretty well. If a few cautions had gone different, it could have been a lot better finish."

Sunday's race was also about long runs, and Vickers was unable to hold his top-five position without the chance to take new rubber.

"We had like 150 laps more on our left side [tires] than everyone else," he said. "Still, we had a good enough car to go and race with them for a little while."