Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/14/14

CONCORD, NC - OCTOBER 15: Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, stands in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on October 15, 2009 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Flashback to November 2003: A young hotshot has turned heads in the Busch Series throughout the year, and following the season finale at Homestead this twenty year old “hotshot” can also call himself a champion, as Thomasville, North Carolina native Brian Vickers edged out veteran David Green to win the Busch title. Young and extremely talented, Vickers was undoubtedly seen as the future of the Cup Series; after all, he was still very young, plus he had the benefit of driving for the best team in NASCAR in Hendrick Motorsports. Surely Vickers would find himself holding another championship trophy by the time he was thirty, but this one coming against the best drivers in stock car racing. Fast-forward to 2013, and things definitely have not played out like most thought it would for Vickers. Following a disappointing three-year run in Hendricks’ #25 car and an impressive and promising five-year run with Red Bull Racing that was stalled by a blood clot scare that hampered his progress, Vickers has spent the majority of the last few seasons in the Nationwide Series but has made a few appearances in the Cup Series, this year for Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers has done a commendable job with the #55 Toyota this year, posting two top fifteens in five starts prior to Sunday’s race at New Hampshire. While an average finish of 24th is not exactly the sort of stat that leads to a full-time Cup ride, this status may have completely changed thanks to the Camping World RV Sales 301, a race that Vickers would win thanks to a gutsy call to stay out at the end of the race and push the gas tank to its limits. The victory at New Hampshire is both a huge accomplishment for a man who saw his racing career come into jeopardy three years ago and is proof that although Vickers may not have had the best car on Sunday, he is still fully capable of running in the Cup Series on a regular basis. Vickers’ rejuvenated career, however, may prove to be hazardous to the careers of some of the other current drivers who may very well see the former Busch champion take their current rides. Here’s a look at some of the possible landing spots for Vickers in 2014: #55 Aaron’s Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing – This would most likely Vickers’ ideal landing spot. There’s been speculation that MWR has been looking to expand the #55 from a part-time ride—currently shared by Waltrip, Vickers, and Mark Martin—to full-time, which would be the third full-time team for MWR along with Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. Although Vickers may be the favorite to be tabbed as the team’s driver, the team may instead pursue an outside driver (possibly Ryan Newman). #47 Clorox Toyota, JTG Daugherty Racing – As bad as longtime NASCAR fans hate it, Bobby Labonte’s tenure with JTG is coming to a close sooner rather than later, made evident by the team’s decision to sit the 2000 Cup champion in favor of A.J. Allmendinger for a few races. While Allmendinger may also be a candidate to take on the ride permanently in ’14, the team may instead turn to Allmendinger’s former teammate at Red Bull Racing, who has done better than the Dinger has in his spot starts this season. #1 McDonalds Chevy, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – Aside from a really good 2010 in which he won the Daytona 500 along with the Brickyard 400 and the fall Lowes Motor Speedway race, McMurray’s tenure in the #1 car has been as disappointing as the majority of his Cup career, and the Joplin, Missouri native has had a fairly quiet contract season, sitting in 15th in points with just one top-five. Even though he is still in the hunt to make the Chase, McMurray is working on a three year winless streak, and a rough finish to this season could result in his departure from EGR. #78 Furniture Row Chevy, Furniture Row Racing – Kurt Busch has been turning heads throughout 2013 driving an underfunded car at the front of the pack in several of the races this season, which explains the Las Vegas native’s 14th spot in the points (Busch was 9th prior to Sunday’s race). Seeing a team like Furniture Row compete is definitely a feel-good story, but it’s just a matter of time before Busch leaves for greener pastures, more than likely in the form of the #29 Chevy recently vacated by Kevin Harvick. Furniture Row would undoubtedly be hurt by Busch’s departure, but they would be hard pressed to find another free agent driver with as much potential as Vickers. #42 Target Chevy, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing – The second EGR driver going into the last year of their contract, Juan Pablo Montoya has been much worse than McMurray this season, proven by him holding onto the 23rd spot in points. The 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner has seen limited success in his run in the Cup series, posting just two wins—the last coming in 2010—and just one Chase appearance in six full seasons, and though it’s very unlikely that EGR has two new drivers next year, Montoya should not feel very safe if he continues to post the type of finishes that have been commonplace in 2013. Even though the majority of this article has focused on other drivers that have not done enough lately in the Cup Series, I think it’s important to re-emphasize what a remarkable job Vickers has done lately in the #55, capped off by the victory at New Hampshire, and although the future is not exactly clear, it’s a safe assumption that Vickers will be chasing checkered flags in the series he selects to run in full-time in 2014.   Was Sunday’s win by Brian Vickers enough to justify a full-time Cup ride in 2014? Leave a comment and share your opinion

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