Brian Vickers back as if he never left

As the common saying goes: You never know how much you miss something until it's gone.

After an absence of nearly five months, Brian Vickers returned to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition Sunday at Bristol as a sub for Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers, who was left in the dark after his long-time sponsor Red Bull left the sport last season, pulled off a top-five finish and showed his skills were deserving of another ride.

Vickers led a total of 125 laps, which is almost as much as his career total with Red Bull Racing (135 laps). His fifth-place finish rounded out a top-five trio for MWR, as Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer finished third and fourth, respectively.

His appearance at Bristol was the first of a six-race deal with MWR's No. 55 car that is piloted part time by Mark Martin. Vickers' next race will be April 1 at Martinsville.

He may only have two Sprint Cup wins, but he's got years of racing experience under his belt. After overcoming his health problems in 2010 and now without a full-time ride, he's more passionate about his future in racing than ever. Perhaps he will be the one to give MWR its third series win.