Brian Vickers will fill in for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at Daytona Speedweeks and possibly beyond, FOXSports.com has confirmed. Ty Dillon will also drive the No. 14 at some point, FOXSports.com has learned.
Vickers, 32, was the youngest champion in NASCAR XFINITY Series history.
More to the point, Vickers will be a good fit at Daytona.
He is an excellent restrictor-plate racer and won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in 2006, when he triggered a last-lap crash that knocked out leader Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 8 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet and second-place Jimmie Johnson, then Vickers' teammate when both drove for Hendrick Motorsports.
In the short-term, Vickers should be an excellent fit with the team. In 318 career Sprint Cup starts, he has 3 victories, 29 top fives and 77 top 10s. His best season came in 2009, when he won at Michigan International Speedway from the pole driving for Red Bull and made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Ability has never been an issue with Vickers, but health has.
In 2010, he missed 25 races with the first of a series of blood clots that also sidelined him later in his career, most recently in 2015 after competing in just two races.
Another factor in Vickers' favor in filling in for Stewart is the fact that he's done it before for another driver who broke his back. Vickers filled in for Denny Hamlin for three races in 2013, after Hamlin fractured his L1 vertebra in a last-lap crash with Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway.
Vickers will practice the No. 14 SHR Chevy on Saturday morning and will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 on Sunday. He will not take part in the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night because he is not eligible to be in the race, which starts at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
It is not known how long Stewart will be out or how many racers Vickers will run.
Stewart suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra when the sand rail he was driving in the Glamis Dunes near the California-Arizona border landed wrong, compressing its shock absorbers. He was wearing a six-point harness and a helmet at the time of the accident.
Last week, Stewart underwent surgery and there is no timetable for his return.
SHR officials said he is expected to make a full recovery and return to action later this year.