Vickers set for another comeback

TORONTO -

Brian Vickers has completed a full NASCAR Sprint Cup season only twice in the past five years since being diagnosed with blood clots and heart issues in 2010.

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He has fought through it all, including his most recent surgery this past winter where he had hole in his heart repaired.

In all, it put the 31-year-old Vickers out of 74 races and maybe even a chance at a championship.

Vickers was one of those can’t-miss kids coming into NASCAR’s top series as a teenager with powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports team and when Toyota launched its Sprint Cup program, it picked Vickers to head it up.

Now, hopefully, with his health issues in check, Vickers is making another comeback on Sunday in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.

“There are certainly times where I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be back and then you kind of deal with those emotions and then all the sudden you’re back and then you have to deal with those emotions,” he said at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I think to a large extent a month ago, I was as curious as probably some of you were as to how I would feel.

“If we go out there and do well, that’s great and even if we don’t, just being able to get back in a race car again and go 200 mph is incredible.

“No matter what the outcome, I’m happy to be here and get a chance to do something I love.”

Ten Things Top Watch For In Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400

1: UP FRONT - For the third time in the past four Sprint Cup races Jeff Gordon was to start on the pole until he hit Danica Patrick on the final lap of practice on Saturday. Gordon will go to a back up and start at the rear.

2: ODDS AND ENDS - Kevin Harvick is the Vegas oddsmakers’ favourite to win the Kobalt Tools 400 in the No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet. It is a curious choice given his zero wins at LVMS in 14 tries.

3: TOYOTA TIME - This could be the weekend that Toyota ends its 25-race win drought. Two likely candidates are Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota or teammate Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Toyota.

4: PENSKE POWER - Once again there will be a Team Penske car — the No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano — on the front row to start the race. Penske is on a hot streak that started last season.

5: SIX PACK - Fresh off his dominating win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson is primed to go after his seventh Sprint Cup championship in the No. 48 Chevrolet. He and crew chief Chad Knaus are back in sync.

6: CANUCK LUCK - The Canadian connection in Sunday’s race is Cole Pearn, crew chief for the No. 78 Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr. Pearn has that team on top of its game after two top-10 results to start the season.

7: SMOKE BREAK - Tony Stewart and the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet team need a solid finish on Sunday. After finishes of 42nd at Daytona and 30th at Atlanta, Smoke has to up his game.

8: JUMP START - Brett Moffitt, driver of the No. 34 Ford, was hardly noticed last season in six Sprint Cup starts, but his 10th-place finish at Atlanta has him in the limelight this week at Las Vegas.

9: JUNIOR NATION - No wins in his first two starts but Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a pair of top-five finishes and says he feels real good about his chances at Las Vegas in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

10: ROUSH WOES - It has been more than a year since any of the current Roush Fenway Racing drivers have won a Sprint Cup race. Once a powerhouse, RFR has fallen on hard times.

MY PICK

Since Kyle Larson exploded onto the NASCAR Sprint Cup series scene last season it has been a case of when not if he would win his first race.

That time has come with the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson and the No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet have been at or near the top of the speeds charts since the team unloaded at LVMS on Friday.

At Las Vegas Larson has found a track where running up high has plenty of advantages and that pretty much where he has made his bones in Cup so far.

If he can keep close to the wall without hitting it he’ll get that first win.

BLIND SPOT

Paul Menard and the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet have not visited Victory Lane since his 2011 Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Menard was 11th fastest in practice Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Add his third place finish there last season and two top 10 results in the past three and it bodes well for a winning run on Sunday in the Kobalt Tools 400.?



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