NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 22 Brian Vickers

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Brian Vickers

Season finish: 22nd

2014 Season Stats: 0 Wins, 3 Top-5s, 9 Top-10s, 1 Pole.

What went right: Just being able to return to full-time Sprint Cup competition was huge for Vickers, who ran a full, 36-race Cup schedule for the first time since he lost his ride at Team Red Bull after its 2011 shutdown. Restrictor plate events were particularly fruitful for Vickers; he earned two of his three Top-5 finishes in 2014 (including his season-best of second at Daytona in July) as well as a pole on the mega-tracks.

What went wrong: Following a decent early-season stretch (two Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in the first 12 races), Vickers lost an engine early at Dover and finished 43rd. That appears to be where the year took a turn for the worse, as his results, outside the aforementioned runner-up at Daytona, became largely mediocre.

2015 Prospectus: It was pretty clear that Michael Waltrip Racing struggled with downsizing to a two-car team after its Richmond 2013 race manipulation incident. In addition to Vickers’ woes, teammate Clint Bowyer also faltered noticeably. Unfortunately, Vickers will have to wait for his opportunity at redemption. Heart-related health issues – the latest in a series of medical setbacks that have hampered his career – have forced him out of the car for at least the early part of the 2015 season. We wish him the best and we hope to see him back behind the wheel soon.

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”