News & Media


Vickers remains optimistic amid Red Bull rumors

June 25, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

SONOMA, Calif. -- In last year of contract with organization, driver searching for future employment

Brian Vickers had just ripped off a pretty decent qualifying lap Friday that, for the moment, had him on top of board at Infineon Raceway.

It was good, but not good enough to last -- sort of like his run with Red Bull Racing. In the mood to talk following his qualifying lap that placed him 10th on the starting grid for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350, Vickers expounded at length on the recent decision of Red Bull to eliminate their funding of the organization that fielded his No. 83 Toyota race team and the No. 4 car driven by Kasey Kahne at season's end.

"It's not that we're going down the wrong path now, but we hope to keep going in the right direction and keep building this team that we've worked so hard on for the last five years."

--BRIAN VICKERS

"Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say it was on my mind," Vickers said. "But the reality of it is, stuff like that is always on your mind. I don't think you ever come to the race track 100-percent clear-headed. There's always something that you always have to be able to manage and deal with."

Vickers stressed that he believes Red Bull will remain involved in NASCAR in some capacity, even though it's now clear that they no longer will provide the funding that kept his No. 83 Toyota and the No. 4 Toyota currently driven by Kasey Kahne on the race track full-time and competitive.

"Red Bull has been a huge asset to this industry for five years now, and I hope they remain that -- but their decision to step out as an owner was an internal decision," Vickers said. "They're an incredible beverage company, but they didn't want to own a NASCAR team any longer. Fair enough. They still haven't decided whether or not they're going to be in the sport in some capacity next year. They're looking at all that. Honestly, I think they will. This is a huge market for them.

"I think everything's up in the air at this point. When the time is right, I'm going to sit down and talk to them. For me personally, I'm keeping all my options open. I've found a home here at Red Bull Racing the last five years."

Vickers indicated that Red Bull is actively seeking a new owner and sponsorship that can help keep the current stable of employees in the organization mostly intact for 2012 and beyond. But he said it's all up in the air right now.

"Hopefully they find the right owner. I know there are a couple of good ones out there, and hopefully they find the right owner, decide on the right one, and it makes the team stronger and we continue down the right path," Vickers said. "It's not that we're going down the wrong path now, but we hope to keep going in the right direction and keep building this team that we've worked so hard on for the last five years."

Vickers is in the last year of his contract with Red Bull Racing and admitted that he has been looking around for other possible future employment opportunities. He said he understands and expects all current Red Bull employees to do the same -- while at the same time working toward keeping the 2011 Red Bull race teams as competitive as possible.

Heading into Sunday's race, Vickers was 24th in points and Kahne was 19th. Vickers, who missed much of last season because of a medical condition involving blood clots, registered his second Cup win at Michigan in 2009 -- the same year he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup -- and it appeared the Red Bull program was on the rise.

"I'm going to keep all my options open. Like I said, I built a home here for five years," Vickers said. "I'm really happy here. There are a lot of great people at Red Bull Racing, and it's special to me. I feel a part of the team. I was one of the first employees and I've watched it grow from the beginning, and I think I've contributed to that process.

"So yeah, there's a huge part of me that wants to stay. But there are so many other dominoes that have to fall first. Like I said, I'm going to keep all my options open, look at every opportunity. Hopefully the right thing will come along here and it will all work out, because I do feel at home here."

Meanwhile, fellow competitors expressed regret at the news that the Red Bull Racing organization as it is now structured is going away at the end of the season.

"I hate to hear that news," five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said. "When I think about it from the sports vantage point and the big sponsor leaving, two seats going away -- I really hate to hear that news.

"Granted it's a competitive beverage sponsor to what we deal with [at Hendrick Motorsports], but still the more corporate or international involvement -- the more Fortune 500 companies and the more Fortune 50 companies we have involved in our sport, the better our sport is going to be. Competition is good on the race track as we all know and it's also good amongst the corporate environment that exists in the garage area. I hate to see it and hopefully the team can find funding and still exist and operate at the high level like they have been."

Driver Kyle Busch added: "Well, to us right now it means two less Toyota teams, which kind of hurts us a little bit. It hurts [Research and Development] work, hurts a little bit of what we like to work on throughout the year.

"It hurts the sport a little bit just because it keeps falling back into that demographic that we seem to not be able to hit -- which is the 18 to 34. It's challenging. It's challenging for anybody out there. Ticket sales for major league baseball games are down and football games were down a little bit last year and stuff like that, too. You can argue it all you want, but it's just the way it is."