News & Media


Rodman: Vickers says he's just waiting for right 2012 option

February 21, 2012, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Wallace also on sideline; Junior a fan of Kyle, and Kahne of Hendrick's people

Speedweeks 2012 at Daytona International Speedway is a third of the way complete and maybe the most significant face that hasn't been seen is that of Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers.

Vickers, who most recently drove for the former Red Bull Racing Team, posted a video update on his Facebook page in which he thanked his fans, the media and the entire NASCAR industry for its support and concern -- "not only for the last couple weeks, but the last couple years, quite frankly," Vickers said.

"I'm sticking to my guns. I'm sitting at home but I've got some great ideas that I'm very excited about. We're talking to a number of sponsors and exploring a lot of options. "

--BRIAN VICKERS

He also made a point to thank Red Bull for its five years of support, which began when the Austrian energy drink company entered the sport.

And in a familiar tone of everyone in racing who isn't at a particular event with a racing vehicle -- or with a racing vehicle covered with a sponsor's logos -- he said he had a lot of irons in the fire.

"We went from sitting on poles and winning races and contending in the Chase [for the Sprint Cup] to rushing to the hospital and being out of the race car, to being back in the car -- and now, unfortunately sitting at home," Vickers said on the video, before reiterating something he made perfectly clear last year when he returned from his medical-induced hiatus.

"I learned that I love to compete at a high level and race for wins," Vickers said. "Myself and some other people and some other groups tried to buy those [Red Bull] assets and continue that team and what we started building five years ago. Unfortunately we were not able to do that and towards the end of 2011 that left me exploring other options.

"I had options... But unfortunately for me, none of them were the right fit."

Vickers called the situation "a two-way street" and said the most important thing to him was that he was happy while competing for race wins and championships.

"Unfortunately I was not able to find that fit that made sense for me," Vickers said. "So I'm sticking to my guns. I'm sitting at home but I've got some great ideas that I'm very excited about. We're talking to a number of sponsors and exploring a lot of options. I'm not going to fill you all in yet, but some options that I'm pretty excited about if we can get them to come together."

Vickers said the bottom line was he planned to be in a race car in 2012, "hopefully in a car I can win with and contend for championships." Vickers said he hoped to be able to announce something soon. He also said he planned to be in Daytona some time in the upcoming weekend.

Junior a member of Kyle Busch Fan Club

Count Dale Earnhardt Jr. as an open member of the Kyle Busch Fan Club. That's based on the two saves Busch made during Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout capped by Busch winning the race by making a move that Junior's dad, 35-time Daytona race winner Dale Earnhardt, would have been proud of.

"I enjoyed the [Budweiser Shootout] but I didn't see any replays aside from the job that Kyle did -- That was amazing, some of the saves he did," Earnhardt said, breaking into a grin. "He ought to go back there and give his track bar a high-five, because his track-bar mount saved his tail on a few of those deals.

"But it was pretty awesome what he did, and to come back after all the things he went through, to win the race was pretty spectacular. But I thought it was a great race, because of the way Kyle won it but also because of the style of racing we had in there. It was a lot of fun."

Kahne loves Hendrick Motorsports

Kasey Kahne has found out, like many people before him in racing have, that people are the bottom line when it comes to creating a difference between race teams and racing organizations. He might be biased, but he placed his latest home, Hendrick Motorsports, at the top of the list.

"I think it's the people and it's the owner," Kahne said. "Everywhere I've been -- I mean, Red Bull spent a ton of money, but that didn't make them the best team or even close to it. I think it is the management, the people, the owner and how badly you want to work for certain people. You want to work for them because they are good to you and they make you feel like you are part of it and that is the biggest thing [at HMS].

"Everybody loves what they are doing and they want to make Mr. Hendrick happy. The atmosphere is good and you feel good about what you are doing. I think a lot of that has to do with stability also, having a stable place that has great sponsorship and has a great owner."

Kahne had a chance to feel a different mood in 2011, when Red Bull Racing was a lame duck outfit that knew it was probably going out of business at the end of the year. Still, Kahne won at Phoenix with the team and they contended weekly.

"I never thought [a bad attitude could affect a driver], but you get in situations where I think it does a little bit," Kahne said. "I never really thought it did then you do something good and you feel like, 'Man, maybe I was down a little bit or maybe I wasn't at my highest level.' But when people are uncertain about their future, it is an attitude adjuster. You have to be in a good strong steady environment for people to really perform and I think that is what Hendrick Motorsports gives you."

Young Wallace on sidelines for now

Rusty Wallace's youngest son, Steve, also took to Facebook this week to provide an update on his situation.

"I want to thank everyone for their questions about my plans for 2012," Wallace said in his written update. "I'll tell you what, it's definitely hard watching everyone get ready for Daytona -- this time last year we had just qualified for my first Daytona 500 and were getting ready to run both the Nationwide and Cup races.

"I'm definitely planning on being in a race car this year, but want to make sure that it's the right opportunity with a team that's competitive and can win races. I'm very grateful to have had a lot of teams call -- everyone from some of the top Cup-affiliated teams, to Truck Series teams. There are some really great opportunities out there for me if we can put together sponsorship.

"In the meantime, my friend Blake Bainbridge and I are building a couple of really nice Super Late Model cars that we're planning on running for fun this year. You'll see us at a lot of the big races for those cars, like the Snowball Derby and the Winchester 400.

"I'll be in Daytona later this week and am just going to keep working hard to put together the right opportunity for me to race in 2012."

Sunoco rookie classes announced

Earlier than they have been in recent memory, the classes of Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders for NASCAR's three national series have been set, for the time being.

In the Sprint Cup Series, two drivers have registered for the program, though neither is entered for the Daytona 500. Timmy Hill will attempt to win his second consecutive rookie of the year award for Rick Ware Racing after grabbing the Nationwide Series honor in 2011. At this point his competition is Josh Wise, who recently has dabbled in all three national series --- with 91 starts since 2007. Owner Larry Gunselman, who is fielding a car for superspeedway ace Mike Wallace at Daytona, had said over the winter he wanted to run Wise for rookie of the year, depending on sponsorship.

The Nationwide Series has five contenders, including Jason Bowles who's driving for MacDonald Motorsports. The other four contenders are Joey Gase, 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion Austin Dillon, Cole Whitt and Johanna Long, who plans a partial schedule of about 20 races for ML Motorsports.

As has been the case for the past few years, the Truck Series rookie class is the largest, with 11 contenders, nine of whom are entered at Daytona. The list includes Dakoda Armstrong, Ross Chastain, Dusty Davis, 2011 ARCA Racing Series champion Ty Dillon (Austin's brother), Cale Gale, Max Gresham, Paulie Harraka, Caleb Holman, John King, Bryan Silas and John Wes Townley, who is currently under suspension by RAB Racing after a DUI arrest earlier this month in Georgia. Holman is the other driver not entered at Daytona.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.