Murto: Vickers shows no-quit spirit

Brian Vickers never gives up, and his Sprint Cup win at New Hampshire proves that it pays not to give up.

Vickers has only driven 16 Cup races on his part-time schedule with Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR), but half of those races were top-10 finishes. And now he has a win for the team, the third of his career and first since 2009.

For the sake of full disclosure, I like Brian Vickers. I spent a lot of time around him when I covered the old Hooters Pro Cup Series extensively. He was always a polite young man, and it took me a lot to convince him that my name wasn’t “sir.” And he knew how to win against the veteran racers in that once-thriving division.

Vickers wasn’t poor, and he came from a racing family. His father, Clyde Vickers, owns CV Products — you can see that company’s decals on every car in the Cup garage. But Clyde didn’t just hand his son the keys to the kingdom — Brian had to not only work on his racecars, he had to get top grades in school, otherwise his racing career was finished.

So Brian Vickers was not only an extremely talented racecar driver, he was one who was taught respect and taught to work for and value what he had. When the late Ricky Hendrick convinced his father to give Vickers a break, it was well deserved.

It’s been said that it nearly broke Rick Hendrick’s heart when Vickers left to go to the Red Bull team, but money and talk of a long-term commitment was hard to pass up. Nobody then could have predicted that Red Bull would get out of NASCAR as quickly as they came — nor could anyone predict the blood-clot issues that kept Vickers out of a car for nearly a year.

And through perseverance he finally gets himself in victory lane again, in his second year as a part-time racer for MWR. He also competes full time in the Nationwide Series this season for Joe Gibbs.

The rumor is that Vickers is a week or two away from signing to drive the No. 55 MWR Cup car full time next year. Ironically, the one thing that may keep it from happening is former employer Rick Hendrick. The 55 car is currently sponsored by Aaron’s, a longtime supporter of MWR. But Hendrick is trying to convince Aaron’s to sponsor up-and-coming driver Chase Elliot full time in next year’s Nationwide Series. There may not be enough money from the sponsor for both.

Whatever happens for Vickers, he proved that it pays to maintain a never-give-up attitude.

Vickers was a Late Model competitor in North Carolina, and he competed against Timothy Peters a time or two. Peters, from South Boston, Va., found himself in victory lane at the end of the Iowa truck race, just ahead of Erik Jones. Keep an eye out for Jones to rise quickly — last December, as a 15-year-old, he out-raced Kyle Busch to win the prestigious Snowball Derby Super Late Model race in Pensacola, Fla.

The hottest driver in North America right now is Scott Dixon. The Ganassi Racing IndyCar driver won both races of the doubleheader over the weekend in Toronto, making it three in a row following his win at Pocono. Dixon now has 32 IndyCar victories, giving him the most wins of any active driver on the circuit.

Former world champion motorcycle racers Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosi were inactive at the MotoGP German Grand Prix. Lorenzo re-injured his collarbone and will have to miss a number of races, as well have surgery again. Pedrosa broke his collarbone and was declared unfit to race. That left the rookie rider Marc Marquez to not only ride his Honda to the victory, but also grab the point lead.

The best televised race of the weekend was the Whelen Modified Tour race from New Hampshire. Doug Coby beat Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece in a race that featured more lead changes in 100 laps than all other NASCAR divisions at the track the past three years combined. SPEED and Fox Sports will show three more Modified races this season — watch them.

And be sure to watch the best show on TV next week, Wednesday night’s (July 24) truck race from Eldora. It’ll be live on SPEED, with qualifying starting at 7. Expect a number of dirt Late Model stars to get one-off rides for the event.

And congratulations to J.T. Spence. Spence is another who knows not to give up, and he won the Red Nininger Memorial at Hagerstown, giving his car owner Greg Gunter his first victory at the track.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.