CORNELIUS – The second-place driver in a rain-shortened race almost always feels shortchanged. It was Brian Vickers’ sentiment on July 6.
Vickers, a Cornelius resident, was in second place in the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Rain stopped the race in early afternoon. After an hour-long drenching, NASCAR officials made the race official after 112 of 160 laps had been completed. A race becomes official when more than 50 percent of the laps are finished.
“Knowing that we weren't even supposed to start the race (July 5) until 7 p.m., I was shocked that we called it at 2-something in the afternoon,” Vickers said.
“I know a lot of the fans tuned into the TV and stuck around at the racetrack waiting to see a finish, and I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer knowing that we have lights here and it was going to be a night race anyway.”
Vickers, who drives the No. 55 for Michael Waltrip Racing (based in Cornelius), registered his best finish of the season. It snapped a sluggish streak of five straight races finishing 14th or worse.
Hamlin making a move?
HUNTERSVILLE – Denny Hamlin, who drives for Huntersville-based Joe Gibbs Racing, is hovering near the top 12 places in the Sprint Cup Chase standings. He’s already won a race this season (Talladega), which means he’s likely already qualified. But Hamlin jumped three spots in the points standings to 14th with a sixth-place finish at Daytona. It came after disappointing finishes his past three races – 29th, 26th and 42nd.
Hamlin is only one point behind 13th-place Austin Dillon and 16 points behind 12th-place Clint Bowyer.
McDowell has a breakout performance
HUNTERSVILLE – Michael McDowell hasn’t had a memorable Sprint Cup season driving the No. 95 car for Leavine Family Racing. In eight starts, he hadn’t finished better than 24th place until last week at Daytona. McDowell finished in seventh place, one spot ahead of Danica Patrick.
NASCAR truck series returns
HUNTERSVILLE – The Camping World Truck Series, idle during last week’s holiday, returns with a July 11 race at Iowa. Ryan Blaney, who lives in Huntersville and drives for Mooresville-based Brad Keselowski Racing, is fourth in the driver points’ standings. The top three – Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters – are from Mooresville.
We rank Herald Weekly-area drivers in the racing world:
1. Brian Vickers – Finished second in the Sprint Cup race in Daytona last week, his best finish of the season. Ended a streak of five races finishing no better than 14th place.
2. Denny Hamlin – A strong sixth-place finish in Sprint Cup race after ending 29th, 26th and 42nd in the previous three races. A turnaround?
3. Ryan Blaney – He’s in fourth place in the truck series points standings and within striking distance (12 points) of leader Johnny Sauter.
4. Michael McDowell – Huntersville resident made his ninth Sprint Cup start his best by finishing seventh at Daytona. He’d been no better than 24th in the previous eight races.
5. Clint Bowyer – Finished ninth in Sprint Cup last week at Daytona. His second half of the NASCAR season has been much better than the first.