News & Media


2013 plans for No. 55 car revealed

October 26, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Brian Vickers is excited about staying with Michael Waltrip Racing -- even in a part-time role -- for the 2013 Cup Series season (Getty Images).

Vickers agrees to nine-race Cup schedule instead of full-time ride elsewhere

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- It may only be a part-time job, but boy, does Brian Vickers love coming to work.

Given the choice of accepting a full-time ride somewhere else or sticking with the nine-race Cup schedule offered to him by Michael Waltrip Racing in 2013, Vickers opted for the rideshare program.

MWR announced its 2013 plans for the No. 55 Toyota on Friday at Martinsville Speedway, which mirror what the team did with the car this season. Mark Martin will continue to be the primary driver, running 24 of the 36 points races -- plus the Budweiser Shootout and All-Star Race.

Vickers' nine races include both races at Bristol, Martinsville and New Hampshire, plus Kentucky and the road course events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Michael Waltrip will be behind the wheel at both Talladega races and Daytona in July.

Even though Sunday will be Vickers' last time in the Cup car in 2012, the opportunity to keep doing it again next season was too good to pass up.

"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 thought 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.

Brian Vickers

2012 Cup Series results
RaceStartFinish
Goody's Relief 500618
Toyota/Save Mart 350214
LENOX Industrial 3011515
Finger Lakes 3553343
IRWIN Tools Race224
Sylvania 30049

"Obviously it's more than just building fast race cars. ... The chemistry I have with [crew chief Rodney Childers] is unprecedented for me in my career. I've never had anything like it and that's the kind of results that I want to continue having."

Whatever Vickers is doing, it's working. In seven starts this season, he has three top-five finishes -- a fourth and fifth at Bristol, and a fourth-place run at Sonoma. That equals the number of top-fives he recorded in all of 2011, the final season for Red Bull Racing before it shuttered its doors.

Vickers was fast at Martinsville in the spring, starting sixth. And the No. 55 was fast right off the hauler again Friday, as he qualified just a hair slower than pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson, putting Vickers on the front row for Sunday's 500-lapper.

Right now, Vickers is guaranteed sponsorship for three races, but needs to find someone to pay for the other six. And if that company wants to expand its program, Vickers is certain MWR would be more than accommodating.

Until then, Vickers is content to play vacation relief for the ageless Martin, "the glue that's kind of built this team." Perhaps understudy is a better description, since Vickers said he's waiting in the wings for more opportunities with the organization.

But Vickers promises there's no planned coup d'etat to force Martin into giving up the No. 55. When asked if he had any guarantees for a job when Martin retires, Vickers said, "Good luck with that."

"I don't think he'll ever retire," Vickers said of Martin. "My focus is that I am really happy with the team that I'm at with MWR and Toyota. There are three good cars there. I don't know what Mark's plans are. My job is not to get Mark out of the car. My job is just to get in a car.

"Nothing would make me happier than to continue to have Mark Martin as a teammate in some form, fashion or another. His experience and his generosity as a mentor this year has been tremendous for me and I feel like long-term for my career and I can't thank Mark enough for that."

Vickers may have only driven in eight Cup races this season, but he wasn't sitting around the house, waiting for the phone to ring. On the contrary. Vickers pocketed more than his share of frequent-flier miles, jet-setting back and forth from America to Europe, where he competed in several sports car endurance races.

Even though NASCAR is still his first love, Vickers is willing to drive "anything else that races fast."

"Sports cars are welcome," Vickers said. "Indy cars are welcome. Europe, America, Nationwide, you name it. I'm open-minded to anything. I want to race. Ideally, my No. 1 criteria is to be in a winning car and wherever and whatever it is, that's my goal."

And that's precisely why Vickers said he shunned opportunities to return full-time in cars that may not have been as competitive as MWR has shown to be. He has a goal in mind, and the only way to get there is to run up front.

"The question I'm asking myself is, 'Where do you really want to be? What is your goal and how do you get there?' Vickers said. "My goal is to win a championship. Clearly that's not going to happen next year, with the exception of maybe an owner's championship with Mark and Michael.

"But to win a driver's championship and an owner's championship, you've got to be with a good team, you've got to have the chemistry and you've got to be with a good manufacturer."

It may be a part-time ride right now, but Brian Vickers is convinced the best way to reach that goal is staying right where he is. And he's happy to share the driver's seat.

"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."