Vickers finds blessings in life and upcoming racing opportunitiesBy Kelly Crandall
If life is a game of inches, as Al Pacino’s character once said in the 1999 movie Any Given Sunday, then Brian Vickers has yet to run out of inches. For his margin of error, his movements fast and slow and decisions right or wrong, have yet to permanently derail him.
Vickers has stared down every obstacle thrown his way the last few years. Some, both personally and professionally, than many other NASCAR drivers will encounter in their careers. Whether it was daring to leave Hendrick Motorsports, eyebrow raising enough to join Red Bull Racing to strong enough to race again following life and career threatening blood clots and heart surgery.
“The silver line is I’m alive. That’s always a plus. That all those events led me to where I’m at right now,” said Vickers on Tuesday during the media tour at Michael Waltrip Racing.
“Quite honestly, I’m very happy where I’m at right now. Very happy where I’m at with my life personally, professionally – being at MWR, I feel like I’ve really found a home here. I feel like I’m splitting my time between two families now, I found a great home at JGR [Joe Gibbs Racing] as well.”
Let’s start with the current: the 2013 season will be Vickers 11th year in the NSCS. He has a part-time ride with MWR and full-time deal in the Nationwide Series with Gibbs, in which he’ll race for the championship. One he won back in 2003. Perhaps he never thought he’d get the chance again, he was after all, on the rise to stardom in Cup before his life changed forever.
That would be where the past comes in – it was May of 2010 while enjoying time in Washington, D.C. that Vickers started to feel unlike himself, suffering chest pains. Wisely deciding to head to a hospital blood clots in his lungs, legs and finger were discovered. While he took the necessary precautions in treating those, he would have heart surgery after doctors found a hole between the left and right atrium in his heart and was informed he had May-Thurner Syndrone – a condition that puts an individual at risk for more blood clots and possible strokes – and was done driving halfway through the season.
Incredibly he was back by the start of the 2011 season. Except his career hasn’t been the same. Even though Vickers helped put Red Bull Racing on the map, in Victory Lane and the Chase, they shut down. Since then, he’s been working his way back towards the top.
“I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person and I think everybody does as they age, but especially when you go through traumatic events in your life,” Vickers noted. “Your perspective on life changes. When I’m at the racetrack, I’m probably as engaged or more engaged than I’ve ever been in my whole entire life. At the same time, when I’m not at the racetrack I’m probably more disengaged than I’ve ever been and I think it allows me to balance my life in a way that I’ve never had.
“I think it keeps me from being burned out. It keeps me from falling into a lot of pitfalls that I think it’s easy to fall into in our sport. Our season is so long and so in depth that you kind of get sucked into it. You do that for so many years and you see a lot of guys just get burned out. The experiences that I’ve gone through created balance in my life that is a very healthy balance and when I show up at the racetrack I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
“I enjoy the team I’m with. I enjoy the people I’m around. I just enjoy racing and I think I appreciate it more than I ever have.”
When Vickers will return to NSCS on a full-time basis is yet to be determined. He isn’t even sure, but he’s not rushing it. If the last few years have taught him anything, it’s to enjoy life to the fullest and Vickers certainly has. From skydiving, to racing in different series around the world, to enjoying simple things like getting to attend other sporting events. Racing has never been far from his mind, but it just hasn’t been the only thing on his mind.
Until now, that is. Now the time is right again. But don’t read wrong, Vickers loves NASCAR and this is where he belongs, but getting to partake in the events he did were perhaps a once in a lifetime experience.
For 2013, splitting time in two different series will provide Vickers with full hands, although don’t expect to find him complaining about it.
“It’s going to be a different year. It’s going to be just like it used to be. It’s actually going to be like going back 10 years,” Vickers said about his upcoming season. “It’s going way back. Compared to last year it’s going to be very different.
“Last year was an amazing year and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I got to race a great car for eight races with Mark [Martin] and Michael [Waltrip] and everyone at MWR and Toyota. Then I got to travel all through Europe and around the world racing sports cars and I loved it.
“This year, it’s back to NASCAR and back to full-time again and I’m looking forward to it.”
And looking forward to the unfinished business he left behind.