LOUDON, N.H. Stuck in a hospital bed, Brian Vickers wanted to live another day.
Once he recovered, he hungered for a competitive ride.
And once he landed a solid seat, well, Vickers simply had to win.
Even when life tossed obstacles in Vickers' path, his determined spirit never waned. After four years of health scares and unemployment put his promising career in doubt, Vickers kept pushing toward the finish line. He got there Sunday as the surprise winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"Coming here and sitting in Victory Lane just makes it one of the most special events in my life," Vickers said.
He had plenty of drivers in the series pulling for this comeback.
One by one, they saluted Vickers with a wave from the car or a back slap on the way to Victory Lane.
Close friend Jimmie Johnson, a five-time Cup champion, pumped his fist out the window in pure happiness as if he'd won a sixth title.
Vickers did all he could to savor the unforgettable scene.
"When you have so much love and support around you," Vickers said, "it makes all the difference in the world."
About the only key cog missing was owner Michael Waltrip, who was with co-owner Rob Kauffman in England over the weekend for the 20th annual Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Vickers drives a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing and shares the No. 55 Toyota with Waltrip and Mark Martin. Vickers' win made him the No. 1 contender for a full-time ride at MWR in 2014.
"Wins help a lot of business issues. So this was a great day for that," MWR general manager Ty Norris said. "He's been our focus. We would love to have him in that car."
Vickers snapped a 75-race winless streak and hadn't won since the August 2009 race at Michigan. He won his first Cup race in August 2006 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Vickers made the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship in 2009, only to be sidelined most of the next season because of blood clots. He had two procedures to close a hole in his heart and insert a stent into a vein in his left leg.
After Red Bull Racing shut down following the 2011 season, Vickers hooked on with a limited ride with MWR. He has been driving full time for Joe Gibbs Racing this season in the Nationwide Series.
With his first checkered flag since his return, Vickers is done looking back.
"That's why I came back," he said. "For what's to be, not what's happened."
Kyle Busch was second and Jeff Burton third. Pole winner Brad Keselowski was fourth and Aric Almirola fifth.
Johnson brushed off his 43rd-place start to finish sixth. Tony Stewart was running near the front at the final caution but ran out of fuel during the green-white-checkered finish and plummeted to 26th.
IndyCar in Toronto Scott Dixon went into Pocono Raceway a week ago ranked seventh in the IndyCar standings and approaching the one-year mark on his last victory, but he snapped his slump with a win at Pocono, then pulled off a weekend sweep of the doubleheader event at Toronto.
Three wins in seven days made Dixon the winningest active driver in IndyCar, but more importantly thrust him into the heart of the championship race.
With six races remaining, he's vaulted five spots in the standings to second over the last week and trails championship leader Helio Castroneves by 29 points.
Next up for IndyCar? An Aug. 4 race at Mid-Ohio, where Dixon is the defending winner.