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“When I look back at what he’s been through over the last three or four years, the first issue he had was a medical issue. And I know how difficult it was for him to not be in the car due to medical reasons,” the five-time series champion said, adding that Vickers missed an opportunity to pursue another job after last season because the Red Bull situation was up in the air for so long.

“I know he’s trying to do everything he can to position himself as a top pick and work his way back into a great team and do his job. He’s been through a rough few years and hopefully things get stable for him on the racing side of things,” Johnson said.

By Sunday night, Vickers hopes his comeback is still a hot topic of conversation, and his mistakes of last year are not.

“My goal this year is for that to go away _ for that to become a non-issue _ and that’s what Bristol was for me and I can’t thank Michael enough for that opportunity,” he said. “My goal this weekend is to make it disappear again, so that when we’re back here in the next race, we’re talking a great run at Martinsville and everybody completely forgets about the other one.”