Race Weekend Central

2011 NASCAR Driver Review: Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers

2011 Ride: No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota
2011 Primary Sponsor: Red Bull Energy Drink
2011 Owner: Dietrich Mateschitz
2011 Crew Chief: Ryan Pemberton
2011 Stats: 36 starts, 0 wins, 3 top fives, 7 top 10s, 2 DNFs, 25th in points

High Point: Vickers’s best race of 2011 was easily the Chase race at Loudon. He turned in his best qualifying effort of the season, slotting in with a third-place start. He then proceeded to lead four of the seven laps he led the entire season en route to a fifth-place result. With the uncertainty of the future swirling around the Red Bull team as the season wound down, Vickers turned in two of his three top-five finishes in the final 10 races as he attempted to impress potential owners with rides to fill in 2012.

Low Point: Vickers’s season was not marked by a victory, but did include a couple of run-ins on the track with former Cup champions. The worst of those occurred in the season’s penultimate race, at Phoenix where Vickers drove into the back of the car of Matt Kenseth and wrecked him intentionally. Vickers and Kenseth had previously had issues at Martinsville, when Kenseth dumped Vickers and Vickers wrecked himself as he attempted to retaliate later in the race.

With Kenseth all but eliminated from championship contention and having a brake problem at Phoenix, he tried to get out of Vickers’s way on the back straight, but Vickers latched onto Kenseth’s back bumper and drove him into the turn 3 wall. While Vickers attempted to play it off as a racing incident, not retaliation, the visual evidence may have sealed Vickers’s fate for the 2012 season.

Summary: Vickers has been the poster child for Red Bull Racing since they came into the Cup Series in 2007. He embodies the Red Bull lifestyle with his off-track activities including skydiving, wakeboarding and other extreme types of sports. This past year, after coming back from health issues in 2010 that included open heart surgery, Vickers lost his spot as the number one driver when Kasey Kahne moved over for the year and the pressure may have gotten to him by the end of the season.

After Vickers had his on-track skirmishes with Tony Stewart and Kenseth, he may have prevented himself from securing another ride in the Cup Series for 2012. While the “Boys, Have At It” edict has certainly allowed for drivers to settle differences on the track without much fear of retribution, it hasn’t allowed them to lose their minds and repeatedly wreck other competitors.

After Vickers wrecked himself at Martinsville trying to take out Kenseth, his intentional punt of the 2003 Cup champ looked like the act of a driver who was out of control and may have soured potential owners on his prospects for 2012. Sadly for Vickers, the parent company of Red Bull has decided to get out of Cup racing and the end result is that he is going to be out of a job.

Team Ranking: Second out of two. Vickers went from being the team centerpiece to team second fiddle when Kahne came over for his one-year stint with Red Bull Racing. While Kahne wound up in victory lane once, logging eight top fives and 15 top 10s, Vickers struggled to find the feeling and success that had put him in the Chase in 2009 before he was sidelined by health issues in 2010.

Off-Track News: After Vickers was given a clean bill of health from his blood clot issues of 2010, he resumed his adventurous lifestyle in 2011, which included skydiving into Daytona International Speedway. Vickers became the first driver to skydive into the historic speedway as part of the build up to the Pepsi 400 in July. In addition to his sporting lifestyle, Vickers appeared in an episode of The Glades with fellow drivers Carl Edwards, Stewart and Joey Logano.

2012 Outlook: While Vickers maintains that he has several opportunities that he is considering, ones which will keep him in the Cup Series in 2012, nothing is signed at this point in time. He is only 28 years old and has won twice in the Cup Series, along with being a Nationwide Series champion. Unfortunately, there aren’t many open seats in quality rides, so Vickers may be forced to follow the Sam Hornish Jr. plan and revert back to the Nationwide Series for a year or two until another Cup ride becomes available.

2006 Frontstretch Grade: B
2007 Grade: C-
2008 Grade: B+
2009 Grade: A-
2010 Grade: Incomplete
2011 Grade: C

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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