Flying High With Wings: Brian Vickers Captures Long Awaited Second Win

Rob TiongsonSenior Analyst IAugust 16, 2009

BROOKLYN, MI - AUGUST 16:  Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2009 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

While it is one of sport's most-overused sayings, Henry Russell "Red" Sanders' motto, "Winning isn't everything...it's the only thing!" truly applies to 25-year-old Brian Vickers, who captured Sunday's CarFax 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Following years of relative obscurity, trying to position himself as a weekly race contender with Team Red Bull, his career struck some growing pains of 2007 to parts of '08.

This time, the Thomasville, N.C. native's patience was finally rewarded in grand fashion.

Perhaps serving as a day of "upsets" or incredible victories (with Y.E Yang besting weekend-long leader Tiger Woods for the PGA Championship), Vickers out-fueled perennial race-leader Jimmie Johnson, June race winner Mark Martin, and former mentor Jeff Gordon to the checkers.

"I've got to tell you, when you're coming to two to go, I'm still sweating bullets, no matter how much confidence you've got," said an elated Vickers from Victory Lane (per AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins's article).

Referring to Vickers' trust in crew chief Ryan Pemberton and his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota crew, the '03 Nationwide Series champion has often seen his share of victory opportunities slip by the wayside.

Be it a tire problem, a lackluster final pit stop, or fuel/equipment issues, BV seems to encounter a late-race issue when he is in contention for a win.

Pocono and Michigan have often been Vickers' showcase for that second victory, leading laps or running in the front in his blue No. 83 Toyota, pacing along in contention when another driver or a circumstance outstages his outstanding day.

This time, the cards were finally played right by the Tar Heel ace, elevating the No. 83 team to 13th in points, just 12 points from the 12th and final coveted Chase seed occupied by Martin.

The victory raised the issue of Vickers' future once again, with a contract that has yet to be renewed by sponsor Red Bull in Austria.

With the victory on Sunday, Vickers may have solidified his case as to why TRB ought to re-sign his talents for a multi-year, lucrative deal.

Vickers led for only 12 laps, including the final three when deja vu played out for Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's Chevy team.

Pacing the field for a race-high 133 trips, it appeared as if the three-time defending Cup champion was going to capture win number four of the year.

Instead, Johnson found himself sputtering to the finish yet again, stymied another time by the fuel mileage game.

As you could imagine, JJ was none too pleased with yet another "Michigan Mulligan," which relegated him to 33rd in the race and third in points, behind leader Tony Stewart (who finished 17th) and teammate Jeff Gordon (who finished second once again).

"Certainly frustrated," Johnson said. "We've won one race on fuel mileage ever."

Technically, Three-Time has captured a trio of fuel mileage wins (both Loudon races in 2003 and last year's spring Phoenix race), but the point made was one of frustration and bewilderment.

Nevertheless, Sunday produced a fresh face in the winner's circle, with the Race to the Chase truly heating up in the final three events before "playoff time."

Basically, the top three virtually assured of a Chase berth. Meanwhile, fourth position on back could see some great shuffling between Bristol and Richmond.

Do these Chasers opt for the safe, conservative game plans or risk it out for victories?

Even if you are Johnson or Martin, nothing is impossible in terms of a gamble going astray.

However, the stars finally aligned themselves for BV, whose confidence has to be at an all-time high and proving to some fan bases that he can legitimately win a Cup race.

Based on Vickers' incredible triumph after three years of frustration, anything goes in the world of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

And with Bristol Motor Speedway on tab for next Saturday night's Sharpie 500, it could make for one wild summer night with tempers and sheet metal flying astray.