Each month Esquire magazine features a popular section in their publication entitled “What I’ve Learned”. If you are not acquainted with the popular men’s magazine, What I’ve learned features a different personality each month detailing exactly as the title states what they’ve learned through the course of their lives, from the successes to the failures, and everything in between. To say it’s not one of my favorite columns would be a gross understatement.
Should Esquire magazine ever considering contacting Brian Vickers about appearing in the popular feature, it would only be fitting considering the trial and tribulations Brian has endured over the last three years. Remarkably after all Brian Vickers has endured over the past three season’s he now finds himself back in the limelight with a tremendous opportunity to shine at Michael Waltrip Racing. Certainly MWR’s a team in desperate need of some positive karma after last season’s spin scandal smeared their reputation amongst the competition.
Like Vickers, Michael Waltrip Racing once appeared to be on the fast track to attaining nirvana on the NSCS tour. Vickers first made headlines over a decade ago by becoming the youngest NASCAR Nationwide series champion in series history, winning the title at the age of 19, and at that time Brian Vickers was highly touted to be Hendrick Motorsport’s driver of the future.
A year removed from his championship victory Brian would graduate to the NSCS with Hendrick Motorsports piloting HMS’s famous #25 car. Unfortunately Vickers would achieve minimal success in his three seasons with HMS, capturing one victory and finishing no higher than 15th in the standings. Subsequently Brian Vickers would be released from Hendrick Motorsports in favor of Casey Mears following the 2006 season.
Here’s where the nightmare begins.
Brian Vickers rebounded from his failed venture at Hendrick Motorsports by landing a full time ride with Red Bull Racing. Spirits were high when the energy drink giant announced it’s foray into the ranks of NASCAR Sprint cup series racing at the beginning of 2007. Coming off his best season with HMS, Vickers had a confident swagger about him heading into 2007 with Red Bull. Here was a golden opportunity to make a splash, and put his failures at HMS behind him, and forge a new identity with a fresh team in Red Bull Racing.
Once again Brian Vickers would find himself on the back end of less than satisfactory circumstances. Red Bull Racing struggled miserably right out of the gate. Vickers would fail to qualify 13 of the 36 races he attempted. His once burning star appeared to be burning out far too soon. Heading into the 2008 season critics doubted whether Brian Vickers would bounce back from such a demoralizing experience. Incredibly Vickers would show a great deal of poise and determination in the face of adversity by miraculously turning Red Bull Racing’s program seemingly overnight. Vickers finished the 2008 season a respectable 19th in the standings. Vickers enormous turnaround was only a prelude of bigger things to come for the Red Bull organization.
One year removed from respectability Vickers would qualify for the chase in 2009, and captured the organizations first NSCS victory. Just when things were starting to look up for Red Bull Racing & Brian Vickers fate would take another disappointing turn. Following the 2010 Southern 500 Vickers would be sidelined for the remainder of the season with complications due to blood cloths. For a third time in his young career Brian Vickers was facing great uncertainty as it pertained to his NSCS career.
Defying the odds has become something of a trademark for Brian Vickers. He would return to the track in 2011 a year removed from overcoming his medical issues, but it appeared as if the magic he was building with Red Bull prior to his absence had long fizzled out. Red Bull Racing would close up shop following the 2011 NSCS season. Here was Brian Vickers facing as familiar tune again, on the outside looking in. With Red Bull Racing now out of business Vickers would be facing unwelcoming uncertainty.
He vowed he would race again in the NSCS, but also made it widely known he wanted to continue his career with a high profile organization. Rather than become another casualty racing politics Vickers took a step back and opted to accept a part time role with MWR in 2012.
Vickers immediately excelled in his new role with MWR finishing inside the top 10 in 5 of the eight racers he competed in. Vickers followed up his part time successes of 2012 by capturing his first victory since 2009 at New Hampshire in July of 2013. Now as a collective unit both Brian Vickers & MWR hope to reach the pinnacle of NSCS success together in 2014. Following two successful consecutive seasons of sharing the #55 Aaron’s dream machine with veteran Mark Martin, Vickers is now ready to assume the role on a full time basis. This will be Vickers first full season on the NSCS tour since 2011. Provided Brian’s health issues remain in check for the entire 2014 campaign expect him to make a serious run at making the 2014 chase. Developing chemistry with new crew chief Billy Scott perhaps stands to be the team’s only challenge coming out of the gate. However if they click immediately this team could become not only the face of MWR, but a legitimate championship contender.
Final grade- A-
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com