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Another Opportunity Knocks On Vickers’ Door

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 18 2012

Brian Vickers is getting another shot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series today at Bristol Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Allman)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ever since May 2010 when Brian Vickers was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, the Thomasville, N.C., native’s NASCAR career hasn’t gone quite as he envisioned.

That’s why Vickers’ six-race stint with Michael Waltrip Racing that begins Sunday in Bristol Motor Speedway’s Food City 500 is a welcomed blip on his career radar.

“Some people have called it my second chance, but it’s really third or more,” said Vickers, who qualified 25th for Sunday’s race but was 14th quickest in Saturday’s final practice. “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. (I’m) very grateful for all those chances and opportunities.”

In May 2010, Vickers’ world turned upside down when the then 26-year-old driver was diagnosed with blood clots in his veins and his lungs. That year he had a hole in his heart repaired and was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome, a condition where the iliac artery in the leg puts pressure on a

Brian Vickers will be in the No. 55 MWR car today. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

corresponding vein and causes clots. Those medical conditions and treatments sidelined Vickers for the rest of the 2010 season.

Vickers returned to Red Bull Racing full time in 2011and finished 25th in the driver standings with three top 5s, seven top 10s and only two DNFs. However, in December it was announced that Red Bull Racing in Mooresville, N.C., was closing its doors. That announcement came on the heels of a race skirmish with Chase contender Matt Kenseth at Martinsville. The incident was instrumental in eliminating Kenseth from championship contention. But did it also damage Vickers’ reputation?

“I don’t know,” Vickers responds. “I guess it’s really a better question for them [other drivers]. That didn’t seem to be … 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.”

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon said he didn’t think Martinsville was the “brightest part” of Vickers’ racing career but noted he had a “lot of other great moments to be able to back up.”

“I think now that he has another shot at it, he’s humble and appreciative of the opportunity, and he’s looking forward to getting that second chance,” Gordon added.

Vickers believes the nation’s sluggish economy has been a factor in his current situation.

Brian Vickers returns to Bristol with a new team and a new chance. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

“There’s been a lot of opportunities where I’ve worked with owners and we’ve been really close to putting something together and there’s been a lot of interest and they’ve been very excited, but the sponsorship hasn’t come through,” explained Vickers, who at one point had a letter-of-intent signed on two sponsorships that faltered. “That’s probably been the biggest factor was really the sponsorship side more than anything.”

Vickers notes the Red Bull lifestyle also isn’t always appealing to other sponsors.

“It was enjoyable at times for me, but there was a lot of things and the way they presented the drivers that was maybe less appealing to corporate sponsors,” he said. “I had to start over again or reinvent myself from a sponsorship standpoint. I’ve been working hard on that for the last three months.”

During the six-race deal in MWR’s No. 55 Toyota, Rodney Childers, whom Vickers has known for 20 years, will be his crew chief.

“I’ve spent some time at the shop the last couple of weeks,” Vickers noted. “I really feel at home here.”

Vickers believes some people may view his current situation as one in which he has to prove himself. The 28-year-old driver disagrees.

“For me, it’s just to go out there and have fun and try to win,” he said.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 18 2012
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