Brian Vickers enjoyed a great comeback to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Michael Waltrip Racing, leading plenty of laps and finishing fifth at Bristol.
The former Red Bull Racing driver, who was left without a job when the team he had been driving for the past five years folded at the end of last season, made great use of an opportunity to return to Cup racing filling in for Mark Martin this weekend at Bristol, as the veteran skipped his first race of the year while running a partial schedule.
The 28-year-old led the race for 125 laps and seemed to be on his way to contend for victory, but his long-run pace wasn't as strong as that of some of his rivals, including his MWR teammates. Still his performance was good enough to contend for a top-five finish, crossing the flag in fifth place and matching his best result of his final season with Red Bull in 2011.
The race was probably the strongest showing for MWR yet, a team that made its debut back in 2007 and which currently fields three full-time cars. Vickers' teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer – new to the squad this season – finished third and fourth ahead of him, respectively.
"This was pretty good and it felt really good when we were out there leading," said Vickers. "It would have been awesome to hold onto that, but it's the first time back so I can't complain about that. What an organization.
"So proud to be a part of getting all three cars in the top-five. Can't thank Michael Waltrip (team owner) and Rob Kaufmann (team owner) and everyone at MWR enough. I don't know those two guys that well, but I can tell a lot about them by the group of people they've built and the team they've built."
Vickers, who had to sit out most of the season two years ago due to a blood clot diagnosis, is signed up to run five more races for MWR this season, his next outing coming in two weeks at Martinsville. Despite his impressive return, he refused to get carried away by this weekend's result and remains focused on his six-race deal with MWR.
"I'm going to enjoy it tonight and then we've got to go back to work tomorrow and think about Martinsville," Vickers said. "As fast as it can go this way, it can go the other way just as quick. I've been around long enough to see both sides of the coin."
The No. 55 MWR Toyota currently runs seventh in the owner standings, adding both the points scored by Martin and Vickers. The other two cars the team fields are also ranked among the top 10 in both the drivers and owners championship.