Vickers Gives Honest Insights on SPEED's NASCAR Race Hub
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brian Vickers, who’s piloting the No. 55 Toyota for MWR Racing in place of Mark Martin at selected races this season, showcased his talents at Bristol Motor Speedway with an improbable fifth-place finish.
But yesterday’s feel-good story may, for Vickers, represent a light at the end of the tunnel as well. The past couple of seasons have been filled with turmoil and frustration for the 28-year-old hot shoe, including the shuttering of Red Bull Racing and a contentious back-and-forth with driver Matt Kenseth at Martinsville (Va.) last year.
He spoke with NASCAR Race Hub host Steve Byrnes, and here are highlights from that interview:
Byrnes: You’ve had a lot of character building in a short amount of time. I read a quote this weekend where you said that you’ve learned some important life lessons through this process.
Vickers: I really have. Where do we start? I don’t know if we have enough time on this. The last couple of years… there’s been a lot of ups and downs in my life. A lot of really good things, from winning races at Red Bull, building that team and being a part of that, to making The Chase for the first time, to laying in a hospital bed not knowing what was next, period, much less if I was ever going to race again. There have been a lot of ups and downs. The biggest thing, through advice from friends and family and kind of sticking to it, being patient, finding the right team, it paid off.
“I’m pretty sure he’d like to put Martinsville (Matt Kenseth incident) behind him. I don’t think that was the brightest part of his racing career, but he has a lot of other great racing moments to be able to back up. Now he has another shot at it, I think he’s humble, he’s appreciative of the opportunity, and he’s looking forward to getting that second chance.”
Byrnes: Jeff Gordon mentioned Martinsville last year… you had a spirited battle with Matt Kenseth…
Vickers: That’s a good way to put it… (chuckling)
Byrnes: Thank you. But it’s a fine line for drivers. You know, when do you say I’m not taking it anymore? When do I stand up for myself? What did happen at Martinsville last year, Brian?
Vickers: Wasn’t that last year?
Byrnes: It was last year…
Byrnes: Do you think that hurt…
Vickers: I was hoping that it was still last year.
Byrnes: It was last year. But the question really in a bigger sense was, did that hurt your marketability with other owners?
Vickers: It’s a great question. You know at the end of the day at Martinsville, it’s in the past and I want to move on. He wrecked me. I wrecked him - hindsight’s always 20-20. Did it hurt me going into this year? I don’t know, but it depends upon who you ask. The media, the sport the fans, the industry as a whole, it is interesting, you can have 10 good years and one bad race, and the focus is on the one bad race. You would like to think the focus is on the 10 good years. The wins, the poles and the championships (and) racing for The Chase and all of those things. But sometimes that’s just not the case and that’s a life lesson, for sure. I learned a lot from the experience that I’m going to carry for the rest of my life, and most importantly, carry into a successful 2012. I wasn’t trying to beat up on you…
Byrnes: No… No…
Vickers: But that’s last year and…
Byrnes: Fair enough.
Vickers: But really my focus is on 2012 and how pumped I am to have this opportunity. The chance that (car owners) Michael (Waltrip) and Ron (Kauffman) took putting me in the car, and not being in a car all year, I haven’t been in a race car since Miami-Homestead. I haven’t tested, I haven’t done anything. They took a big chance putting me in a car at Bristol, and I can’t thank them enough. That’s truly where my focus is right now. It’s not a lot of races, but I want to make the most of the one’s I have.
Byrnes: Fair enough, and I wasn’t trying to put you on the spot.
Vickers: But you had to ask… (laughing)
Byrnes: Sure. But what did yesterday’s finish mean to you personally? In terms of, if you looked at the numbers, you had been 12th. Was it vindicating for you? Or was it just, ‘Hey, I’m a race car driver. This is what I do for a living.’
Vickers: I’ve always liked the track, and I’ve ran well there in Nationwide. I just haven’t found whatever it is that the car wants. Or what I need there out of a car. But this past weekend, working for the guys, they had a great setup under the car and it really worked.
<&let; Twitter question: Brian, are you still working on other deals to run more in Cup, or the Nationwide Series for this season?
I’m working on every opportunity I can, to run as much as I can. I love racing. But like I said at the very beginning of the year, I wanted to make sure in whatever I do, that it’s the right thing. I want to be in a race car so bad I can’t stand it. But I want to be in the right race car, the right team and the right fit. I’ll be honest with you, it’s only been one race and only time will tell, but I really felt like I’ve found a home at MWR. I’m really happy there. It’s the whole organization. Right now, my focus is those six races, and if I get more, great, but the important thing is that they are good, quality races.