Imagine just doing your normal day to day job when suddenly you’re hit with the news that you’ve got a life-threatening medical condition that could kill you if you continue that job. Well that’s just what happened to Brian Vickers back in May of 2010 when he was hospitalized with blood clots that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. After complaining of chest pains, he headed to the hospital to find out he had several clots around his lungs and in one of his legs.
Just two months later, the then-driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota had heart surgery to repair a hole that was found between the right and left atrium in his heart. Despite the risks the operation posed, Vickers’ only other choice would have been “not to close it and run he risk of having a stroke” “he told ESPN.”:http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/news/story?id=5481873
And apparently the surgery was just what he needed as Vickers was cleared to return to NASCAR to run the full 2011 season with a whole new outlook on his career: “I feel like I’ve gained some edge. Sometimes you get so busy and caught up in life that you lose appreciation for what’s around you, you lose drive, a lot of things,” Vickers told ESPN of his time off. “This has given me an opportunity to step back and take a look inwards, a look at what’s around me and a look inside you. Sometimes you don’t find out how much you really love something until you don’t have it.”
But after just one season back with Team Red Bull, Vickers found himself sidelined once again when the team suspended operations after failing to find an investor to keep the organization running and sold their equipment to BK Racing. Fast forward to 2012 where the 29-year-old has shared Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 with Mark Martin and team owner Michael Waltrip. In just eight starts, he has three top 5s and five top 10s, and while that may not sound like much, it’s nearly what he managed in 36 starts with Red Bull the year before (three top 5s and seven top 10s).
With those results in mind, you’d think several teams would want to snatch up the young driver to add to their full-time stable. But Vickers chose not to settle for anything less than what he really wanted–his ability to remain competitive when he’s on track. Once again, he’ll share the No. 55 with Waltrip and Martin next year. He’ll run nine events alongside the duo that he’s worked with throughout 2012: Bristol (both events), Martinsville (both events), Sonoma in June, Kentucky in June, both New Hampshire events, and Watkins Glen in August.
“For me, staying with MWR was a conscious decision to try to be in the best position to win races and be with the best team that I though I could do that with,” Vickers said. “There’s a lot of factors that are involved in that–from the manufacturer to the team to the owner to the sponsors to the crew chief and just blatant chemistry.”
On the surface, you’d almost want to question the logic in giving up a shot at a full-time ride to run just a quarter of the season next year, but the reality is so much deeper than that. In the end, Vickers would love to win a championship, and while it’s not going to happen next season unless the trio of drivers can snag the owner’s trophy, perhaps some day this part-time gig will lead to something full-time with MWR.
But in the meantime, he’s perfectly content right where he is.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me because I’ve had a blast,” Vickers said of his 2012 season. “I feel like I’ve been very blessed to race all over the world at some of the most amazing tracks in history and still come home to NASCAR and perform.”