I think Brian Vickers is a lot smarter than most of his critiques giving him credit for. After losing his ride with defunct Red Bull Racing, where he has been employed since 2007, and spending time on disable list due to an undisclosed medical problem that caused blood clots around his lungs and legs, he has made some smart decisions concerning his Sprint Cup career.
I’m sure that with the talent the 28 year old driver from Thomasville, North Carolina had, he could have landed a ride with a lower tier team where he could log some laps and get a steady paycheck, but instead, he elected to sign with Michael Waltrip Racing for a partial schedule where he would be sharing time with veteran Mark Martin and his boss.
This would prove to be a very wise decision. At least with MWR , the time he got in the seat would be quality time where he could actually showcase his talent and have a chance to win. Instead of driving equipment where he would be competing for 25th place finishes, now he would be able to compete for top 10′s, maybe even wins if he could get lucky.
He signed with MWR for the 21012 season to drive both races at Bristol, Martinsville and Loudon, but after his fourth place finish at Sonoma in the SaveMart 350 this past weekend, his contract has been extended to include Watkins Glen. In fact in three races this season he’s finished in the top ten at Sonoma and Bristol and finished 18th at Martinsville.
After winning Rookie of the Year awards in the USAR Hooters Cup Series where he had two wins in 2000 and won five races in 2001, finishing 2nd in the points.
Brian Vickers debuted in the Nascar Busch Series in 2001 while running family owned equipment which continued through the 2002 season with very little success.
Before the 2003 season started, he got the call from Hendricks Motorsports to drive the Busch Series #5 GMAC Chevrolet previously driven by Ricky Hendricks. He won three races that year and the Championship over David Green.
He also made his Cup debut that season driving in a couple of different cars at HMS, but later in the season qualified the UAW Delphi #25 Chevy four times in the top 5 each time, but only finished in the top 20 once.
He would run the #25 full time starting in the 2004 season where he won 2 poles and had 4 top 10′s and finished third behind Kasey Kahne and Brendan Gaughan for Rookie Of the Year awards.
The 2006 season would be a disaster for Brian when he announced in June he would be leaving for The Red Racing team for the 2007 season, and during the UAW-Ford 500 at Michigan while running in third place, he bumped Jimmie Johnson from the rear spinning both Jimmie and Dale Earnhardt Jr. out, and getting his first win. A livid Jimmie Johnson and crew chief both questioned Vickers motives with Knaus stating that he had “run out of talent”.
Jimmie and Brian would later talk it out and settle their differences. Brian was the first to congratilate Jimmie at Homestead and get a hug from the Champ.
The 2007 season saw him driving the #83 Red Bull Toyota where he would have a blown tire during qualifying at Daytona, and with no owner or driver exemptions to fall back on, would not make the race. He would rebound the following week and give Toyota it’s first top 10 at California where he finished tenth.
He went to Charlotte with a new Toyota Engine where he would finish fifth and give Toyota their first top 5. He surprised everybody by dominating most of the race, but fell off late in the race with power steering problems. After changing crew chiefs late in the 2007 season and Toyota beginning to test the COT, Brian fell to 38th in the points and out of any contention for the chase.
I look for Brian to stay with Michael Waltrip Racing and as Mark and Michael fade into retirement, I see Brian easing into a full time ride in a top notch team. This stint with MWR, I think will be his last opportunity in the Cup series. I also think he is smart enough to take full advantage of it.
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