It was just another ordinary NASCAR weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as a part-time Sprint Cup driver went to Victory Lane. And lest we forget, he's a driver who hasn't won since 2009 and has had to overcome a vast number of hurdles just to be competing again.
When you don't have a full-time Cup ride lined up for next season and there is doubt whether a sponsor thinks you're the best fit, the surefire way to enhance your stock is to go out and win. To his credit, this is exactly what Brian Vickers did.
More so, it's not as if he backed into the victory or that it came at a plate track. This came on a slick, tight track where passing can be a challenge, and he hunted down Tony Stewart and then withstood a push from Kyle Busch. And of the three career wins Vickers now has, this was by far the most impressive.
New Hampshire has always been a good stop for Jeff Burton, who owns a track-best four career wins on the "Magic Mile." So it wasn't a surprise to see him battling for a top-10 finish Sunday, especially with the uptick in performance the No. 31 team has produced as of late.
But his third-place finish was a high-water mark for Burton. It represented his best result on a non-restrictor-plate track since a second at Dover in September 2010. And like Vickers, it comes at an opportune time, as there are questions about whether Burton will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.
In the midst of a 10-race stretch where he had posted just one top-10 finish, Brad Keselowski was in need of a strong result at New Hampshire.
Mission accomplished for the defending Cup champion, as he secured his first pole-position in two-plus years on Friday. Then he followed that with a fourth in the race, which moved him from 13th to ninth in points. Overall, it was a quiet, drama-free and productive weekend for Keselowski.
Here is Ryan Newman's week in a nutshell: On Wednesday he found out he was gone at the end of the season from Stewart-Haas Racing so the team could clear way for Kevin Harvick. Then, while battling for a spot in the top 10 Sunday, Newman was collected in a wreck he didn't start and finished 39th. It was the sixth time this season he's posted a result worse than 30th.
The topper in Newman's week from hell was Kyle Busch calling him "the biggest stupid idiot out here" and that he resembled an "ogre." In short, Newman could probably use a hug or a stiff drink. Or both.
Two weeks ago, Joey Logano entered Daytona 10th in points and was riding a wave that saw him finish 11th or better in six consecutive races. He was very much in contention to earn his first Chase spot, but tire failures in consecutive weeks have led to him posting back-to-back 40th-place finishes.
Consequently, Logano sits 18th overall, and a season that once looked so promising has taken a vastly different complexion. Although he could still climb back into the top 10, realistically his only path to the playoffs involves him winning at least once, maybe twice, in the next seven weeks.
New Hampshire represented the ideal track for Clint Bowyer to break through and claim his first victory of the season. After all, it's a place where he's won twice previously and finished in the top five in both races a year ago. Instead, he was a nonfactor throughout the afternoon.
Bowyer never ran higher than eighth, had an average running position of 14th and came home 13th. Additionally, because Vickers won, that leaves Bowyer's No. 15 team the only MWR car not to earn a win this season.
Although it's hard to quibble considering he's still second in points, New Hampshire seems like a wasted opportunity for Bowyer to establish himself as a bona fide title contender.