HEIGHT: 5’11 WEIGHT: 160
HOMETOWN: Thomasville, NC
RESIDENCE: Miami & NYC
RANK: 36 POINTS: 136
CORNELIUS, N.C. – Few NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers did more in less races than Brian Vickers in 2012 driving Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota.
Under the team leadership of longtime friend and former go-kart competitor Rodney Childers, Vickers turned an eight-race schedule into an impressive display of driving talent. The No. 55 team posted three top-five and five top-10 finishes. In his first race with MWR he led 125 laps at Bristol and nearly won at the Tennessee half-mile track when the series returned in August.
The part-time schedule in 2012 reignited Vickers’ NASCAR career. It even gave him opportunities to fulfill lifelong dreams like racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France as well as sports car races in Belgium and Dubai with MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman.
Vickers returns to the No. 55 seat in 2013 with a nine-race schedule sharing the No. 55 driving duties with future Hall of Famer Mark Martin and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip. It will mark Vickers 11th season in the Sprint Cup Series in a career highlighted by success and battles with adversity.
The 29-year-old Thomasville, N.C., native has stood in victory lane twice in his career, but also endured watching races on television from a hospital bed when health issues forced him to the sidelines in 2010.
Through it all Vickers never gave up, and his career resurrection should take another step forward in 2013. He’ll not only drive a part-time schedule for MWR in the Sprint Cup Series, but also a Toyota fulltime in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
When not bouncing between races, you’ll find Vickers at his business office and residence in Miami Florida, as well as getaway spots in Charlotte and New York City. Vickers also likes to partake in many activities – mountain biking, scuba diving, golf and his most recent venture – skydiving. He also spends time at Charlotte Bobcats basketball games, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants football, as well as Yankees baseball games.
At age 8, Vickers purchased his first yard-kart with saved allowance money. Not long after, a friend of the family suggested he move up to a real racing go-kart and start competing in World Karting Association (WKA)-sanctioned races. He was a natural: Between 1994 and 1997, Vickers won more than 80 races across the country and garnered three WKA national championships.
He moved on to the 3/4-scale stock cars of the Allison Legacy Cars Series in 1998 earning five wins despite racing against competitors twice his age.
Vickers entered Late Model Stock racing in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series in 1999. Six wins, eleven poles, becoming the youngest feature winner at historic Hickory Motor Speedway plus Motorsports Magazine’s “Rising Star of the Year” award predicted a bright future.
In 2000, the 16-year-old raced in the USAR Hooters ProCup Series where he scored Rookie of the Year honors also becoming the series’ youngest winner. In 2001 he finished runner up in the title chase and embarked on a four-race Nationwide Series schedule.
In 2002, Vickers competed in 21 Nationwide races. He graduated with honors a full semester early from Trinity N.C. High School in May of 2002. On the evening of his graduation, Vickers was the highest-qualifying rookie at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
His performance caught the eye of the late Ricky Hendrick who convinced his father Rick Hendrick to hire the 20-year-old to drive the No. 5 Nationwide entry for Hendrick Motorsports in 2003. Vickers didn’t disappoint winning three races and becoming Hendrick Motorsport’s first-ever Nationwide champion.
That success earned Vickers a full-time Sprint Cup ride in the No. 25 car for the Hendrick team in 2004. Again, he lived up to expectations winning two poles his rookie season and posting five top-five finishes in 2005 and 2006. He won the non-points-paying Open race at Charlotte in 2005 and in 2006 scored his first Cup victory at Talladega.
Vickers battled his way through a traumatic debut season with Red Bull Racing to set the first-year performance benchmark for the all-new team and manufacturer partner Toyota. He earned Toyota its first top-10 finish in his first-ever start, their first top 5 later that season and led the most laps of any Toyota team during the 2007 season. In 2008 Vickers scored seven top-ten finishes and finished runner-up in Pocono.
The 2009 season saw Vickers notch the first win for the Red Bull Racing Team and the second of his career in August at Michigan. That win along with the mid-season charge and a fantastic performance at Richmond put Vickers in the Chase for the first time in his career.
The 2010 season presented Vickers a new series of challenges on and off the track. In May the 26-year-old was hospitalized with blood clots in his leg, lungs, and finger. He competed in only eleven races. He made a full recovery and competed in every race in 2011 posting three top-five finishes, but that season his team announced it was closing its doors.
Vickers agreed to the partial schedule at MWR sharing the driving duties with Martin and Waltrip. In eight races with MWR in 2012, Vickers led 158 laps and averaged a 13th place finish as the No. 55 finished 15th in owner points.