Sprint Cup’s return to Martinsville Speedway was the strongest weekend yet of the 2016 season for both Brian Vickers and the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet.
Vickers finished seventh, bettering his previous season best of 13th two weekends ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
But given Vickers’ noted competitive nature, and not knowing his future with the No. 14 after next Saturday night’s race at Texas, Vickers was still somewhat disappointed in Sunday’s finish.
“I was pleased, but not satisfied,” Vickers said. “We had such a good car. We were so fast. I don’t know if the track changed or we had different tire codes today. It just wasn’t quite as good as practice all weekend. But I’m really proud of the effort by the guys. We had a great car. It was a top 10.”
Vickers admitted the length of the race wore on him a bit, but it also brought back memories of the 2004 Hendrick plane crash into nearby Bull Mountain that killed all 10 occupants, including Ricky Hendrick, the only son of Hendrick Motorsports founder Rick Hendrick and wife Linda.
“This is a bittersweet special track for me, I lost my best friend here,” Vickers said of Hendrick. “I really wanted to win for him. But it was still a good day. We’ll take a seventh and move on. The team is getting stronger every week. I’m proud of those guys and it’s going to be a strong team.”
The question is will it continue to grow and get stronger with Vickers behind the wheel. Stewart, who suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in a Jan. 31 all-terrain-vehicle accident, has still not announced when he’ll return behind the wheel in what is his already announced final season in Sprint Cup racing.
And with Ty Dillon having only two starts to date, he may be called upon for additional starts after Texas, as well. As of now, SHR has not announced who will be in the No. 14 after Texas.
Vickers moved up five places in the standings. But since he’s made just four starts in 2016, Vickers is now up to 31st in the points.
“We just kind of got out-tired in the end,” Vickers said. “It was worth the shot and I’m glad we did what we did. It was a pretty exciting final few laps, but they always are at Martinsville.”