Vickers turns in stellar Sonoma run

Brian Vickers says he “learned a lot” over the last two weeks after competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and then filling in for Mark Martin in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota this weekend at Sonoma and finishing fourth.

Had it not been for a speeding penalty on pit road on Lap 34 of 112 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Vickers might have been contending at the finish.

“It took me a few laps to get used to it,” Vickers said of the weight difference between his stock car and a Ferrari 458. “It’s been a while since I’ve driven a big, heavy car. I’ve been racing sports cars.

“Clearly, I’m still missing that pit limiter because I got caught speeding on pit road. I didn’t see the lights. I blew through them. That really hurt us a lot. We drove all the way up to eighth and had to start over again.”

Still, after three starts with MWR, Vickers has posted two top-five finishes. He’ll return to the driver’s seat at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next month after team owner Michael Waltrip runs the car at Kentucky and Daytona.

Could it be an audition for a future seat with Waltrip?

“Certainly,” Waltrip said. “We structured MWR and built our building and Toyota believes in the fact that we could have four teams one day. Certainly (it) is a possibility to add Brian to our driver lineup with a fourth team or even have him hang around another year, and if Mark ever gets done driving — which I wouldn’t wait around for Mark to quit if I was him.

“I would put something else in my contract if I was him, because Mark is probably going to do it a while.”

Waltrip currently fields three full-time teams with Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Martin.