Brian Vickers’ return to the seat of a Sprint Cup Series car after being sidelined nearly a year couldn’t have gone much worse.
On Lap 23 of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, Vickers’ car slammed the wall with a ferocious impact following a tire failure.
While Vickers was unhurt, the driver who is subbing for the injured Tony Stewart throughout Speedweeks called the impact "a really hard hit" while addressing reporters during Tuesday’s NASCAR Media Day events at DIS.
"That particular situation is just kind of worst-case scenario," said Vickers, who missed all but two races last season following a recurrence of blood clots in early March. "When you cut a right rear tire like that, the carcass comes off, there’s nothing you can do.
"I was kind of in the middle of the pack, three-wide, being pushed. You can’t really stop. You just kind of are along for the ride."
Although Vickers was unhurt in the wreck that damaged a total of seven cars, the 31-year-old driver walked away sore.
"You feel it everywhere," he said. "But really the pressure points, the belts and stuff. That particular incident, because it was a lateral impact, driver’s side, my head got rattled around because you kind of bounce off the headrest. Whereas if it’s a front impact, you kind of graze the headrest, and your HANS device catches it. It’s a slower deceleration, so it’s a little different."
Vickers couldn’t be more thankful for NASCAR’s SAFER barriers, which lessened the impact.
"I’ve hit the wall enough times that I don’t forget what it’s like. It’s never pleasant," said Vickers, who made his Sprint Cup debut in 2003. "Fortunately, I was OK and the safety equipment worked, the soft wall was great. I mean, I actually started my career pre-soft wall. I remember what those used to be like. I’m very happy that we have the safety improvements we do now, I can tell you that."
With Stewart out indefinitely after suffering a back injury in an all-terrain vehicle incident on Jan. 31, Vickers would like to drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy beyond Daytona.
But as of now, he doesn’t know what he’ll be doing come next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"I know the team wants me there as long as I can be there," he said. "I want to be there as long as they want me there. We’ll work it out. There’s obviously a lot more to it these days than just desire. There’s sponsors. There’s just so much kind of behind the scenes.
"But, you know, I know they want me back in the car and I want to be in the car. We should be able to figure something out."