|It's been a long road back for Brian Vickers as he makes his return to NASCAR at|
Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Sidelined since Red Bull Racing shut their doors, Vickers returns in a six-race deal with Michael Waltrip Racing starting this weekend at Bristol. Not only is this a return to the track for Vickers, but it is also a reunion with crew chief Rodney Childers.
Childers' and Vickers' history goes back so far that Vickers himself cannot remember the details, he was so young.
“He probably remembers more than I do — that’s how early it started. I was so young, but Rodney (Childers, crew chief) was part of a group that we all kind of worked together, raced together with manufacturers that we all drove for in karting. Details are a little fuzzy. I remember the big picture stuff, but I was like nine, 10, 11 years old so it was a long time ago for me. ”
The familiarity seems to be clicking for Vickers. Qualifying in 25th, Vickers and Childers are entering the race with the expectation to go out and win it. In Saturday’s first morning practice, Vickers finished in 13th with a lap time of 15.708 seconds. Just to compare, the top 40 cars had laps between 15.64 and 15.98 seconds. Bristol produces times that close.
Many may be looking at Vickers' stint with MWR as his second chance following his dustups in 2011, but Vickers sees it differently.
“Some people have called it my second chance, but it’s really my third or more,” Vickers said.
The term "second chance" is relative when you think of all Brian Vickers has been through in the past couple of years. Surviving life-threatening blood clots and heart surgery — that is truly the definition of a second chance story. What comes after is merely a gift.
“When I really think about it, with how thankful 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 said in a press briefing while in Bristol.
Martinsville 2011 created lots of drama for Vickers. His name was in the headlines for numerous on-track incidents and perhaps that contributed to his inability to find a ride this season, but that is all in the past.
“…the people I spoke to, it wasn’t a factor, but maybe to some people it was. For me, that was 2011 and this is 2012.”
Moving on, Vickers' focus right now is his six races with MWR. Both Bristol races and also both races at Martinsville and New Hampshire have Vickers focusing on the fun and enjoyment of the racing.
“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 had — I’ve always felt in my heart that I was going to race again, but the fact is you never know for sure, so I’m just grateful for this opportunity. I can’t thank Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman (team owners) and everyone on this team — the 55.”
Vickers also made sure to thank the man who made this all possible, "I’ve got to thank Mark Martin for choosing not to run the whole year and I’m truly, truly blessed and excited to have this opportunity to be in a winning car with a group of people that I get to know..."
The excitement is obvious in Vickers. After sitting home for months without the prospect of a ride, Michael Waltrip has given him a chance to prove himself. Six races to show his skills, and all eyes will be on Vickers to see if he can prove himself in a car that has already been running well this season.