Something to Prove! Vickers Looking for a Banner Year at JGRBy Justin Tucker
There was a time when Brian Vickers was on top of the mountain. In 2003 at the age of 19, Vickers was hired by Hendrick Motorsports to replace Ricky Hendrick behind the wheel of the No.5 GMAC Chevrolet. In August of that year, Vickers would get his first taste of victory in the Kroger 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park holding off Jason Keller by 2.296 seconds. Wins at Darlington and Dover would follow and Vickers would become the youngest champion in Busch Series history as he would hold off David Green by 14 points to claim the Busch Series championship.
Also that season, Vickers would makes his Sprint Cup Series debut at Charlotte that October starting 20th and finishing 33rd. 2004 would mark Vickers first time season in HMS’ No.25. Vickers would go on to finish 25th in points and score four top 10′s that season. 2005 proved to be a much more successful campaign as Vickers would score a 17th place finish in points to go along with 10 top 10 finishes.
2006 was a breakthrough season for Vickers after finishing a solid 7th place in the season opening Daytona 500. Vickers would claim his 1st NSCS win at Talladega in October that year but not without some controversy. On the final lap Vickers, who was running third, would bump then teammate Jimmie Johnson causing both Johnson and race leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. to spin out allowing Vickers to score the victory. Vickers would finish 15th in points while scoring 9 top 10 finishes.
2007 was a season of transition for Vickers as he would move over to the newly formed Red Bull Racing. After missing 13 races in 2007, Vickers went on to finish 38th in points. 2008 saw a season of improvement for Vickers and the Red Bull team as they would score a 19th place finish in points after recording four top 5′s and six top 10′s.
2009 proved to be Vickers finest year to date in the Sprint Cup Series. In August of that year, Vickers would score his second career NSCS win at Michigan International Speedway. Days after the win, Vickers signed an extension with RBR. Vickers would secure his first ever chase berth in 2009 and finish a career best 12th in points.
May 13th, 2010 was the day Brian Vickers life changed. Prior to the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover, Vickers was diagnosed with blood clots in his legs and around his lungs and would not be medically cleared to drive that week at Dover. Days after being released from the hospital it was announced Vickers would miss the remainder of the 2010 season.
Vickers would return to action with RBR in 2011. But it was a struggle all the way around for Vickers and Red Bull as Vickers would score a 24th place finish in points. At season’s end, Red Bull shut its doors and Vickers was a man without a ship.
In March 2012, Vickers luck would start to change for the better. It was announced that he would drive Michael Waltrip Racing’s No.55 part time that season. Vickers first race in the No.55 car was at Bristol in March. The Sheriff, as he is called in the garage, wasted no time proving he was back and better than ever. After starting 25th, Vickers would dominate for a lengthy portion of the Food City 500, leading 125 laps and scoring a top 5 finish. Vickers would drive in seven more races during the 2012 season and would record two more top 5 finishes (Sonoma,Bristol) and four more top 10 finishes. His performance in MWR’s No.55 can be directly attributed to Joe Gibbs Racing signing Vickers to drive the No.20 Dollar General Toyota in the Nationwide Series in 2013 as well as a contract extension to drive the No.55 on a part time basis for MWR.
2013 could be the year that finally returns Vickers to highest level of racing in the sport full time. The Sprint Cup Series. It is already rumored that Vickers is a leading candidate to drive the No.55 full time for MWR in 2014 and has been linked to several other top rides throughout the series. With top quality resources and equipment behind him at Joe Gibbs Racing and added seat time with MWR it will be absolutely no surprise to see Vickers contend once again for the Nationwide Series championship in 2013 and it is just a matter of time before he lands another golden opportunity in the top series of NASCAR. 2013 could be a storybook season for one of the real “good” guys in the sport.