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Vickers keeps building case for a better future

August 27, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com



Vickers keeps building case for a better future
Part-time No. 55 driver for Michael Waltrip Racing has yet another strong finish

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Car owner Michael Waltrip had to wait a bit longer than usual to talk to the driver of his No. 55 Toyota following Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

"Every time [Vickers] does something like this, his phone will ring -- and if it isn't me, it will be someone else. ... If he ends up racing for a championship with Michael Waltrip Racing in '14 -- which is as soon as it could be for us -- we certainly would love to have him behind the wheel. "

--MICHAEL WALTRIP

Brian Vickers had several interviews to do. After nearly charging to the lead on Lap 446 of the 500-lap race, and then nearly wrecking, Vickers had registered a fourth-place finish that marked his third top-five in just six Sprint Cup starts this season. The sterling performance made Vickers a popular post-race man.

When there finally was a break in the action between Vickers and all the cameras and microphones, Waltrip charged forward and embraced Vickers.

"I thought you were doing a documentary," Waltrip joked. "[Shoot] ... you just wanted it so bad."

Vickers smelled a possible victory when he was stalking then-leader Carl Edwards with about 60 laps to go. Then, with 54 left, he attempted to slide in front of Edwards, nearly made it happen, and then suddenly had his car a little sideways and seemingly headed for a rude meeting with the outside wall. Somehow he saved it, falling from a fight for the lead to fifth in the process before rallying to pick up one of the lost positions before the finish.

"It was great race," Vickers said. "Man, I tried to put a slide-job on him. It just wasn't enough. I almost slid myself right into last place."

Vickers credited crew chief Rodney Childers and the entire No. 55 team with giving him a car that was fast enough to contend up front on the .533-mile short track where Vickers led 125 laps before finishing fifth in what was his first Cup race of the season back in March. He is driving the No. 55 in only eight races this season, while Mark Martin and Waltrip drive it for the remainder of the 36-race schedule.

"My guys did a great job," Vickers said. "The car was good all night. It was just tough to pass. It got better toward the end, once the top of the track got rubbered-in. Then you could slide-job guys, but it was tough."

Waltrip said he was impressed with every aspect of Vickers' Saturday-night run.

"What I love so much is his passion," Waltrip said. "He's trying so hard to make this team better, as is Mark Martin. But the job that Rodney does, to take these different drivers -- a couple of old guys and one young guy -- and run up front with the car is just amazing.

"I think if Brian raced every week, he would have won this race, because you could just see how much desire he had to go get Carl. It just got loose with him and he slipped back. But I couldn't be prouder of the organization for recruiting Brian and giving Rodney what he needs behind the wheel to go be a contender everywhere we go. I'm really thankful for Rodney's passion; I'm thankful for Brian's commitment and desire. We've got another shot at 'em in a couple weeks up in New Hampshire [when Vickers is in the car next]. So maybe we can go get a win there."

Waltrip said again that he would like to keep Vickers employed at Michael Waltrip Racing for the long haul, but admitted that the more runs Vickers has like Saturday, the more difficult that may become. That's because Vickers would have to wait for Martin's contract to expire after the 2013 season to have any hope of gaining the No. 55 Cup ride full time.

"Well, we're trying to figure out everything for next year and beyond. Every time he does something like this, his phone will ring -- and if it isn't me, it will be someone else," Waltrip said. " I think Brian can be very content with the fact that he didn't really have a good plan for '13 or '12, and we provided him with an option. And he's made the most of it.

"If he ends up racing for a championship with Michael Waltrip Racing in '14 -- which is as soon as it could be for us -- we certainly would love to have him behind the wheel. But next year it's Mark's ride, and mine a little bit, and then hopefully Brian will run the rest of them for us."

Vickers was still soaking it up Saturday night, leaving contemplation of his future for another night.

"It feels great to get another top-five here," Vickers said. "Everybody on our team did a great job. Rodney did an incredible job making this thing fast all weekend -- and making it better throughout the race. I took one big, wild swing at it at the end there with Carl, and I just didn't have enough grip. I took it kind of sideways and it was all I could do to keep it from spinning. But it was still a solid top-five for everybody that we can all appreciate.

"I think I closed my eyes and just held on tight and stood on the gas until it came back around. But, you know, the only reason I even had a chance to do a slide-job for the lead was because of the great car these guys gave me. I can't thank Rodney and all the guys at MWR enough for that."