Originally Published: July 15, 2013

Brian Vickers Wins At New Hampshire

Sprint Cup: Opportunity won -- and lost

By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

What we saw and heard on Sunday was a 1-2 finish for genuine humility by two drivers who haven't always expressed that, or felt that.

Brian Vickers gushed gratitude for a career second chance that landed him in Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- which in turn will likely launch him to a full-time ride with Michael Waltrip Racing next year.

Over on the pit road, postrace, second-place Kyle Busch essentially thought out loud with self-doubt -- a sort of helplessness, not because of his car but his own ability as a driver.

Usually this sort of thing comes out later, after the telecast has signed off, back in the more in-depth interviews inside the media centers. This time it all came out so freely that it was mostly said and done in front of the TNT cameras, minutes after the race.

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesTony Stewart leads Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire.

First came Busch, just after being left behind easily by Vickers on a green-white-checkered restart, largely because Busch had used up his tires.

"I just -- man, I don't know -- I think we were the fastest car out here today, definitely on short runs," Busch lamented to TNT, eliminating the car as an excuse, up front.

"I guess I burn the front tires off it when we're here," he continued. "I don't know what the deal is, but I definitely cannot -- we're out front, we're leading, we're doing fine, and when I get to lapped traffic, I can't turn anymore.

And that's when the leads evaporated on the long runs.

"It's just … how my driving style is, I guess, but I hate it because we have such a great car here [each time he comes to New Hampshire]."

He gestured toward his crew behind him and said, "These guys deserve to be in Victory Lane, and I -- I don't know what to do on the long runs, man, that's all there is to it, that's our day. Just got to get better and figure out what I've got to do in order to pass lapped cars."

Back when Vickers and Busch were prodigies, prima donnas, even teammates with Hendrick Motorsports in 2005-06, neither endeared himself to the public or his peers, what with an abundance of, well, early self-assuredness.

Both have learned humility the hard way, Busch with his myriad public tempests, but Vickers even harder, much harder: He bolted to the Red Bull team in '07, won only once in five years, then, three years ago, had to sit out much of a season with bizarre formation of blood clots in his lungs and legs. And then Red Bull folded out from under him after the 2011 season.

And so, in Victory Lane on Sunday, he was asked about "the road you've traveled."

"It couldn't have been filled with more trials and tribulations," Vickers confirmed, but wouldn't have another whit of self-pity, moving quickly to gratitude for the man who'd towed him out of the ditch of his troubles, Ty Norris, general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I gotta thank Ty for making that phone call and giving me the chance," Vickers said. "And Rob [Kauffman, Waltrip's financial backer] and Michael for believing in me."

He had fallen a lap down Sunday after a crewman left a wrench on the car and drew a penalty, but the Toyota was just sooooo good…

"We had a mishap in the pits and it got us a lap down, but we made it up," he said, his tone implying the ease of it all.

Enough analysis -- he needed to gush some more.

"Man, just thank God for the chance and the opportunity to come back, and this team and Rodney [Childers, the crew chief Vickers has known since he was 8 and Childers worked on his go-karts], and everyone believing in me and giving me a second chance.

"It means the world."

Asked whether this locked him in to a full-time ride with MWR next season, Vickers wouldn't back off the humility, even though Childers had just called it "a done deal" on the pit road.

"Nothing's guaranteed in life," Vickers said. "I've learned that the hard way. Even when you think it's done, it's not done. But this definitely goes a long way."

Norris, back in the media center afterward, told reporters just how far this win had gone toward the deal.

"Michael has made no bones about it," Norris said on behalf of Waltrip, who was in England participating in a speed festival. "In the last 30 to 45 days, he talks a lot about Brian as being the candidate that we want to go ahead and try to get moving forward with.

"All I can tell you," Norris continued, "is that wins help a lot in this business, and so this was a great day for that."

Nationwide: The Rundown from New Hampshire