News & Media

Aumann: Despite unknown, Vickers 'just happy to be alive'

October 01, 2011, Mark Aumann,

DOVER, Del. -- Brian Vickers has every right to shake his fist and scream at the sky over the most recent hand he's been dealt by life. Through little fault of his own, it appears he'll be looking for work when the final checkered flag of the season flies at Homestead in November.

Not since 2006, when he asked for an early release from his Hendrick Motorsports contract to sign with a new team owned and sponsored by Red Bull, has Vickers faced this kind of uncertainty on the track. Over five years, Vickers has helped build a Cup team basically from scratch.

"I've had more desire than I've ever had in my life. But I also understand that there's more to life than just racing."


Vickers can look at his time with Red Bull with pride: a win at Michigan in 2009 and seven poles. But now there are strong indications the team will close its doors at the end of the season unless a white knight appears with a large-sized checkbook.

If Vickers is feeling any additional stress -- any pressure to perform -- as the season winds down because of his situation, he isn't showing it. He is as calm and collected as if he had made the Chase, which he did before doctors found a hole in his heart last May, a discovery that changed everything.

"The unknown of next year is obviously tough," Vickers said. "But it's not even a comparison to what I went through last year. Maybe that's why I'm dealing so well with it."

Brian Vickers can divide his life B.H.S. and A.H.S.: before heart surgery and after heart surgery. And even if he doesn't show it on a race-by-race basis, his brush with mortality permanently changed the way he looks at life.

"Obviously, I love racing and I'm very passionate about it," Vickers said. "I want to be in a car next year, a good car. I feel like I'm at the peak of my career. But in the bigger picture of stuff, I'm just happy to be racing at all, just happy to be alive."

Seventeen months ago, Vickers wasn't certain of that. Coming off a Chase berth, Vickers started the 2010 season with three top-10 finishes in 11 races. But when the series visited Dover that May, Vickers wasn't there. He was in the hospital, undergoing tests after blood clots were found in his legs and lungs.

Vickers missed the rest of the season while recovering from heart surgery, but his enthusiasm for the sport never waned. At Bristol, when he revealed his medical condition to the world, Vickers said he believed he'd always get back behind the wheel.

And for all his trouble, Vickers is facing more uncertainty. He's at Dover this weekend but isn't sure where he'll be when the series returns next spring.

"What I went through last year really puts things in perspective," Vickers said. "It doesn't mean I don't have the drive. I have more drive than I've ever had in my life. I've had more desire than I've ever had in my life. But I also understand that there's more to life than just racing.

Even now, when he has every right to just throw his hands up in frustration, Vickers remains focused on the most important things. Live life to the fullest. Get the most out of every day. Do the things that make you happy.

He's thankful for having been given another chance at life. Continuing to chase his goals and dreams, that's icing on the cake.

"It doesn't change the effort I'm going to put into finding something next year, but it changes my perspective on it," Vickers said.

And for Brian Vickers, that's driving a race car to its limits.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.