[media-credit name=”Ed Coombs” align=”alignright” width=”263″][/media-credit]Race car drivers often tell you there’s nothing worse than seeing someone else drive their car. Comparing it to seeing their wives or girlfriends date another man.
For Brian Vickers he knows all too well how that feels. But he didn’t just have to watch another man drive his car for one week; Vickers sat on the sideline for almost all of the 2010 season because of health problems.
Just 10 races into the season Vickers was diagnosed with blood clots and forced to sit out the remainder of the year. Casey Mears drove the No. 83 Red Bull machine as Vickers healed and readied himself for 2011.
But 2011 was nothing to write home about, he had just three top fives and finished 25th in points. In the process he found out he would again be out of a ride when Red Bull closed up shop at the end of the season.
Vickers, just 28, was suddenly in jeopardy of being out of the sport faster than it took to win his first race. Speedweeks in Daytona came and went, Vickers still at home. Then came Phoenix and Las Vegas, with no sign of the North Carolina native.
That’s when Michael Waltrip Racing entered the picture and handed Vickers the keys to the No. 55 Aarons Toyota starting at Bristol this weekend. Vickers is all too ready to see the green flag.
“I just want to go racing,” said Vickers on Friday. “Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? I’m not going to have a job? For me, it’s just go out there and have fun and just enjoy the experience. I’ve been through this a couple times now where I don’t know if I’m going to race again.
“I think I’m going to. Through all these experiences I’ve always felt in my heart that I was going to race again, but the fact is you never now for sure, so I’m just grateful for this opportunity. I can’t thank Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman and everyone on this team, the 55.”
It’s a six-race deal with MWR but you won’t find Vickers complaining. His return comes with a competitive team and paired with a man he’s known for 20 years, crew chief Rodney Childers.
It leaves them with a simple goal: go out and win. Vickers isn’t viewing this as an audition or a time to prove himself, it’s just another chapter in book of life that he’s been writing.
“I’m sure that’s who some people are maybe viewing the situation,” Vickers said when asked if he had to prove himself all over again.
“For me, it’s just to go out there and have fun and try to win. Some people have called it my second chance, but it’s really my third or more. When I really think about it, with how I am with all the experiences that have happened in my life – racing with a couple good teams to Red Bull winning and being in the Chase and being in the hospital the next year and not knowing if I was ever going to race again.
“Then getting a second chance ride there and now getting really a third chance. Very grateful for all those chances and opportunities.”
Vickers also revealed that when the 2012 season started in Daytona he wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t landed a job. Didn’t make it any less emotional though, it was the first time in a long time that he wasn’t in Daytona for the season’s biggest race.
Except, Vickers had been presented opportunities to race. None of which he thought were right and he stayed committed to waiting until one came along. MWR is one he feels really good about and says he feels right at home.
While some might say that his reputation from the end of 2011 hurt him in his job search, Vickers says that’s not so. The feedback he received from the individuals he talked to told him the incidents he was involved in last year with drivers like Matt Kenseth, weren’t an issue.
If blame is to be placed, it should be placed on the economy. There were plenty of times Vickers had plans on paper with owners, everything was coming together, the excitement was there but when sponsorship didn’t appear they all fell through.
So, Vickers waited and weighed his options. He reflected and watched the season start without him. And tried not to get all too comfortable with being a couch driver.
“It was a different feeling,” said Vickers on watching the races on TV. “It was a mostly similar experience. To a small extent, different because one was completely out of my control [blood clots] and one was somewhat in my control. There was definitely some factors that were out of my control coming into this year and there were some choices that I made where I could have been here or chose not to , but it jut wasn’t the right feel.”
Now however, he has that good feeling again and he’s ready for whatever it throws his way.