Sadly, It’s Time For Brian Vickers To Step Down

Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers

It’s a sad and regretful opinion that I feel compelled to deliver, but Brian Vickers has two choices: Leave the sport and deal heavily with his medical issues or remain in the sport and lose his ride or his life.

In my opinion, it’s time for one of the sports best to step down.

Brian Vickers is one of the most talented, gracious and humble drivers that NASCAR has and it would be a shame to lose him. But it’s better we lose him in the sport than lose him in his life.

Does racing cars have anything to do with the reoccurrence of blood clots in his body? I’m not a Doctor, but if you think about it and have ever driven a racing car, they vibrate and I mean vibrate a lot. There are no rubber mounts for anything such as the engine or drivetrain.

Racing cars produce high g-forces and high heart rates, both of which would seem detrimental to me. But, that may have absolutely nothing to do with Brian’s plight.

Three times since 2010 Vickers has had blood clots form in different parts of his body and this is after open heart surgery to repair a hole in his heart and then re-opened to repair that same patch on his heart that his body was rejecting.

Leaving the driving duties and taking on another role would not be out of the realm of possibility. Vickers has the intellect for it if only he can deal with not being in the drivers seat.

Finally, Vickers had a solid ride with no team conflicts. Sadly it may need to end.

Finally, Vickers had a solid ride with no team conflicts. Sadly it may need to end.

Vickers has been professionally driving for over a decade and, but for his medical problems, seemed very close to finally breaking out with the proper ride and proper funding. If he’s cleared after several races it would be folly to get back in. A simple crash, too much heat or a myriad of situations that could arise could cause a repeat of the announcement today.

He’s an accomplished road racer, having driven for Waltrip and MWR’s business partner in Europe piloting a Ferrari 458, he’s driven Xfinity, Cup Cars, sports cars and prototypes. He is an accomplished and complete driver, but the time may have come to hang it up and reassess what he want’s to do in the sport.

When circumstances beyond someone’s control arise, you have to take stock of what is truly important to you. It appears as if Vickers family means a great deal to him and if so, he must take that into consideration. He’s erudite and well traveled, having had a very cosmopolitan stint at living in New York City.

This is a hard decision for someone to make. It would be one thing if he didn’t have talent, but he does.

What is NASCAR going to think? Surely they’re drawing their own conclusions as to whether or not racing is contributing to Brian’s condition. It can’t be helping it.

In no way, shape or form does NASCAR want to be seen as having let a driver race at the zenith of their sport only to discover later that it may have contributed to a further health issue for Vickers.

This has happened several times now since 2010 and that is not a good record. It is time for Brian Vickers to step down and find another place in motorsports that can help ease the obvious mental anguish of no longer being able to compete.

The sport will lose a great ambassador, but sadly, I believe it’s time.

NASCAR: More Professional And Personal Changes For 2015

Brian Vickers will not race early in 2015 because he is recuperating from heart surgery. Vickers has overcome medical problems in the past, can he do it again?

Brian Vickers will not race early in 2015 because he is recuperating from heart surgery. Vickers has overcome medical problems in the past, can he do it again?

Change in NASCAR is inevitable. From technological alterations enforced by the sanctioning body to the numerous driver-crew chief-team-sponsor shifts that are often so prominent in the off-season, nothing much stays the same.

So it is with the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. When it begins there will be plenty of new developments that will create the year’s new character – and make it quite different from 2014.

I’ve mentioned some of them – professional and personal – already. How will NASCAR rule changes affect competition? (Truthfully, that question can be asked during every off-season).

On the personal side among the inquiries were, how will health and legal issues affect Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch? Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. be successful with new crew chief Greg Ives?

Let’s talk some more about personal issues.

What has happened to Brian Vickers is more than a mere shame. It’s a condition that could not only affect his career, but also his very life.

Vickers, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing, will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 season. His body is rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in his heart.

He’s had corrective surgery to repair the hole and he’s begun the recovery process. He’ll need plenty of time, rest and rehab.

How much more can Vickers endure? You remember that a series of blood clots put him out of action just a very few years ago. By 2012, Vickers had joined MWR on a part-time basis and then became a full-time driver for the team in 2014.

Danica Patrick is in her third year with Stewart Haas. It's very likely her 2015 performances must improve if she wants a contract extension when the season is over.

Danica Patrick is in her third year with Stewart Haas. It’s very likely her 2015 performances must improve if she wants a contract extension when the season is over.

Vickers was the 2003 Xfinity Series champion and in 58 races with MWR he’s finished among the top five eight times and 19 among the top 10. For his career, he has three wins and 12 poles in 316 starts.

The obvious question is what will MWR do during Vickers absence? Who will be selected as his relief driver – and how long will that driver remain with MWR? We don’t know the amount of time that Vickers will be on the sidelines.

But we have to ask the question, will Vickers be back at all? He’s dealt with blood clots – which can be deadly – and now the hole in his heart, which, I’m sure, any doctor will call very serious and, just perhaps, life-threatening.

I think nearly every fan will be pulling for Vickers. It’s clear that he has the determination needed to come back. After all, he’s done it before.

Vickers has already said the setback will not stop him from pursuing his dream of a Sprint Cup title.

That’s just the attitude he needs.

Carl Edwards has moved to Joe Gibbs Racing after 10 years with Roush Fenway Racing. The question is, can he be as successful as Matt Kenseth, who signed with JGR in 2013 following his long tenure with Roush.

As you remember, Kenseth won seven races with Gibbs in his first year. Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often at all with a new driver-team association.

But I think it’s logical to assume Edwards may be a multiple winner in 2015. And the implementation of the new Chase format has made it more feasible for a new driver-team to achieve consistency.

Frankly, I think Edwards has a better chance to be successful in 2015 simply because the Gibbs team has been significantly more competitive than the Roush organization.

NASCAR has announced new eligibility requirements for the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. Among the entries will be all 16 drivers who participated in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

There are other eligibility rules, such as 2014 pole winners, former Sprint Unlimited winners, past Daytona 500 pole winners who competed on the full schedule last year, etc., etc.

It practically takes your breath away. At present there are 25 Sprint Unlimited entries.

There’s been some grousing that these new eligibility rules were created for the sole purpose of putting Danica Patrick, a former Daytona 500 pole winner, into the field.

Well, so what? The Sprint Unlimited means nothing as far as the 2015 season goes. It awards no points. It’s an exhibition race and as such, who cares which drivers – and how many of them – compete?

Ask me, the more the merrier.

As for Patrick, she’s in her third year with Stewart Haas Racing. She will be expected to show progress. She has to finish among the top 10 with regularity and not crash as frequently.

To do so will bode well for her when her contract expires at the end of 2015.



Once Dormant Vickers Has New Opportunities

Brian Vickers was hired by Michael Waltrip (left) to run a limited schedule in 2012 and Vickers is back with Waltrip this year – and more.

MARTINSVILLE, VA. – Brian Vickers has had a very peculiar racing career. Well, it certainly hasn’t been routine.

He has experienced things few other drivers have. He has been at the top of his game. He’s been unemployed. He’s had his team pulled right out from under him. And he’s experienced a physical malady that could have easily put an end to his driving days.

But Vickers presses on.

This year he will see plenty of action on the track. He has a full-time Nationwide Series ride with Joe Gibbs Racing.

He’s slated to drive in nine Sprint Cup races for Michael Waltrip Racing, swapping the seat with Waltrip and Mark Martin.

And there’s more. Vickers will substitute for the injured Denny Hamlin at JGR for four races, starting next week at Texas. Martin is in the No. 11 at Martinsville.

Vickers is all over the place.

Yes, he’s at Martinsville. He’ll compete in the No. 55 Toyota for Martin, who, as said, will race with JGR.

Are you keeping up?

“We had a good run here last year,” Vickers said. “Working with these guys has always been a pleasure and I’ve always liked Martinsville.  This is the first place that I ran in a stock car -Allison Legacy car to be exact. It’s a fun track.

“Next week I’m going to be in the 11 car, which I’m obviously excited about, but I’m sad how the opportunity came about.

“I know what it’s like to be pulled out of your car for health reasons – I’ve been in that boat before – and wish Denny a speedy recovery.  I will do the best job I can for him and everyone at Gibbs and Toyota until he returns.”

Vickers ran for Red Bull Racing for several years, but lost his job when the team folded.

Vickers’ racing career took off in 2003 when he was hired to replace Ricky Hendrick in a Chevrolet owned by Hendrick Motorsports.

Vickers won three races and the championship by 14 points over David Green; thus becoming the youngest champion in the history of the Nationwide Series at age 20.

Vickers made his Cup debut in the 2003 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte, qualifying 20th and finishing 33rd in the #60 Haas Automation Chevy. He ran four more races that season in Hendrick’s Chevy, qualifying in the top five each time, but posting only one top 20 finish.

Vickers moved on to Red Bull Racing in 2007 and did well, winning numerous pole positions.

And in 2009, Vickers won at Michigan to give Toyota its first win there. Afterward, he signed a contract extension with Red Bull.

But things began to change for the worse.

On May 13, 2010, it was announced that Vickers, who had earned three top 10s in the first 11 races, would not be participating in the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway due to an undisclosed medical condition, later revealed to be blood clots in his legs and around his lungs.

Casey Mears was announced as his replacement. This ended a streak of 87 consecutive starts, which dated back to Atlanta in 2007.

On May 21, 2010, six days after being released from a hospital for the aforementioned blood clot issue, it was announced that Vickers would miss the remainder of the season.

It was obvious doctors did not want Vickers to do any strenuous activity. Blood clots can move through the body and ultimately cause a stroke – or worse.

“For me, not being in my car was very tough,” Vickers said. “The first time I saw my car go around the track, I wasn’t sure if I would ever again be in it.

“You grow up watching lots of races that you’re not in. But to watch the ones you are supposed to be in with your car going around the race track – well it’s not an easy thing to do.”

Vickers was cleared to race in 2011, but didn’t have a particularly good season. He finished 25th in the point standings.

At the end of the year Red Bull announced it was pulling the plug on its NASCAR program, which left Vickers on the outside looking in – again.

Vickers started the 2012 season without a ride, but it was announced in early March that he would drive the No. 55 Toyota for MWR at both races at Bristol, Martinsville, and Loudon, sharing the ride with Martin and Waltrip.

In his first race in the No. 55, at Bristol, Vickers dominated the first half of the race, leading for 125 laps. He would eventually finish 5th.

MWR later announced that Vickers would drive at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, expanding his schedule to eight races for 2012.

Of course, now that he’s been tapped by JGR for a full tilt on the Nationwide Series, has four races slated in Gibb’s Cup Toyota and remains on a nine-race schedule with MWR, Vickers is busier than ever.

He’s come a long way since Red Bull’s departure in 2011.

“This is all a huge opportunity for me,” said the 29-year-old Vickers, from Thomasville, N.C. “I feel like I’m very fortunate to have both these opportunities. I’m with two great teams and two great cars. Needless to say, things like that don’t happen very often.

“Again, I reiterate it’s very sad how all of this has happened. Again, I know how Denny is feeling because I’ve been on the receiving end of this.

“I’m just happy to jump in and do the best I can.”



To Be Sure, Talladega Race Lived Up To Its Billing

Clint Bowyer won for the first time this season in a typical, unpredictable Talladega race. The win was especially rewarding for Bowyer, whose six-season tenure with Richard Childress Racing comes to an end after this season. Bowyer presented Childress with his 100th victory as a team owner.

The Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the sixth race in the 10-event Chase, was characterized as the “wild card” event of the “playoffs.”

That’s because of the typical unpredictability of the race. With high speeds and two-car “dance partner” drafting that is a part of the 2.66-mile Talladega track and its sister, Daytona, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint what is going to happen – much less an outcome.

Championship contenders could have poor finishes, or fall by the wayside, for many reasons – all related to the complexities of restrictor-plate racing. A driver in the lead on the last lap could very well find himself outside the top 10 by the time he got to the finish line. An unheralded, even unknown, competitor could find the means to win – consider young Trevor Bayne, who took the victory in the Daytona 500.

The Good Sam Club 500 lived up to its billing. It was indeed a “wild card” race.

The winner was certainly not unheralded or unknown. But he was unexpected. It’s very likely few, in any, predicted he would triumph at Talladega.

But that’s exactly what Clint Bowyer did. He won for the first time this season – his last victory came in this race in 2010 – he became the first Chase non-qualifier to win in the “playoff.” He earned the distinction of providing the 100th Cup series victory for Richard Childress Racing.

Ironically, it came five races before Bowyer’s tenure with Childress comes to an end. Largely because of a lack of sponsorship, Bowyer will move over to Michael Waltrip Racing next season and RCR may well be reduced from four teams to three.

As for the Chase contenders, overall, they fared worse at Talladega than in any other race since the title hunt began at Chicagoland on Sept. 19.

Only three of them finished among the top 10. Two placed 11th-20th and a whopping seven were 25th or worse.

Replacing them at the head of the pack were such drivers as Jeff Burton (second), Dave Blaney (third, his best finish of the season), Brian Vickers (5th), Kasey Kahne (6th), Waltrip (9th) and Martin Truex Jr. (10th).

Really, now, who could have predicted that?

And who could have predicted that the Chase leaders, those drivers atop the standings when the Talladega event began, would experience mediocre to dismal results?

Carl Edwards, No. 1 in the standings, finished 11th, his first run outside the top 10 since the Chase began. Kevin Harvick, who was hot on Edwards’ heels prior to the race, experienced on-track misfortune and wound up 32nd. Matt Kenseth, third when the green flag fell, could do no better than 18th.

Resurgence for Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch came to an end as they saw momentum die with finishes of 26th and 33rd, respectively.

For all of that, Edwards not only retains his lead in the point standings, he now has largest margin in the first six races of the Chase – largely because he finished ahead of all but two of his rivals.

Edwards now has a 14-point margin over the new runnerup, Kenseth. He’s 18 points ahead of Brad Keselowski, who ran fourth at Talladega, and 19 over Tony Stewart, who finished seventh and was a victory contender for a large portion of the race.

Harvick came into Talladega No. 2 in points, just five behind Edwards with steady Chase performances. But he was involved in a multicar accident after 107 of 188 laps and was forced to report to the garage area for repairs, including a broken oil line. He finished nine laps down and is now fifth in points, 26 in arrears.

Kyle Busch, 33rd at Talladega after his involvement in a multicar wreck, is presently sixth in points, 40 behind Edwards. Johnson’s bid to win a sixth consecutive title took a serious hit with his 26th-place finish, which puts him seventh in points and 50 out of the lead. Kurt Busch wound up 36th at Talladega, also the victim of a wreck, and he’s eighth in points, 52 down.

The remainder of the top 12 in points has, for the most part, been removed from championship consideration. They are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.

“I don’t know that I have ever been so excited about 11th place,” said a relieved Edwards. “This race was one that was nerve-racking for everyone but we came in here with a small points lead and so it was a huge day for us.

“I cannot believe how much Greg (Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing teammate) helped us today. I owe him a lot. Greg stuck with me all day. On the last lap he was driving my car from back there. It is good to get a good finish and even though it is not a win, it is a big battle in the war and a huge day for us.”

Edwards wisely added that although he’s boosted his points lead, competitively, he couldn’t let up.

“We’d have to have a 100-point lead to take a breath,” he said. “Anything can happen. I’m proud of our team, where we’ve come from, how far we’ve come in the last 18 months. We’re doing well.

“But I’m a little nervous about Matt, honestly, because I know how good he is and how good his team is. Having him in second doesn’t make me breathe easier, competitive-wise.”

Despite Edwards’ surge in the Chase, the most compelling Talladega tale was Bowyer’s victory.

The Emporia, Kan., native, who has spent all of his six full Sprint Cup seasons with Childress, finished among the top 10 in points in three of the last four seasons.

But he was 14th when the Chase began this year. And as the season wound down, it became clear that all attempts to secure a sponsorship package that would allow him to remain with Childress were going to fail.

Some lame duck drivers waddle toward the end of a season. Bowyer has clearly not done that.

To win at Talladega, Bowyer hooked up in the draft behind leader and teammate Burton when the race restarted from its ninth, and final, caution period with just two laps to go.

The two were well ahead of the pack when Bowyer made his move, pulling to the inside of Burton on the last lap. Burton retaliated, the two bumped, but Bowyer held on to win by a half-car length in yet another Talladega race decided by a last-lap pass.

“Trust me, I was prepared to push Jeff to the win no matter what the cost was if we would have had people breathing down or necks,” Bowyer said. “It just wasn’t meant to be for him. He’s been a great teammate and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s already won a lot of races. I think he’s won like 20 or so. I’ve only won five.

“You owe it to your team and to your sponsors to go out and win the race.”

Bowyer quickly admitted he wanted to win to reward the efforts of his team and to indicate he wasn’t going to be the typical lame duck.

“It’s just so important to me to be able to cap off such a good relationship with Richard,” he said. “Everybody at RCR, it’s like family over there. It meant a lot for me to be able to win before we end this deal.

“The stars were lined up today with having the hundredth anniversary of Chevrolet on my race car. If I won the race, it was going to be Richard’s hundredth win.

“I’m excited that it was.”


Coke Zero 400: Let’s Be Friends

After last weekends Sonoma Sprint Cup race you’d think that retaliation would be on everyones mind. Nope, not at Daytona, there’s too much to lose in a plate race. Points are paramount and payback can wait.

Opinion: Why Red Bull Left NASCAR

Michele Rahal has an opinion as to why Red Bull unceremoniously announced it is leaving NASCAR. The Cup team is Toyota, Renaul-Nissan sponsors Red Bull F1. Why would Nissan allow it’s infinity brand to be diminished with the Cup team driving Toyota’s?

Ruling Could Return Nationwide Series To Its Old Self

Although it has neither confirmed nor denied it, NASCAR’s latest ruling, when announced, is not intended to bring something new; rather, it is to return to the old.

It is anticipated, and already reported by some competitors, that NASCAR will require before the season starts, drivers must claim the circuit – be it Sprint Cup, Nationwide or Camping World Trucks – for which they desire to run for a championship. This intended to achieve a few goals.

Among them is one that appears obvious. It is to end Cup driver dominance of the Nationwide Series, and in so doing, perhaps re-establish a true identity for that circuit.

If the legislation is enacted, it would seem Cup driver rule over the Nationwide Series is finished, at least when it comes to championships. And for many of the series’ fans, that’s a good thing. They have long complained about the omnipotence of the competitors once known as “Buschwhackers.”

Cup drivers can compete in as many Nationwide races as they wish – Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski plan to run the full schedule – they just can’t win a championship unless they choose to run for it. Do you really think any would do so?
That means the title will be won by a Nationwide regular.
But, given they can enter as many Nationwide races as they wish, Cup drivers may well garner the majority of victories. It’s
possible – but not likely – that the Nationwide champion could be winless in 2011. He may not even have the highest number of points.

That is not going to sit well with everyone. There will be controversy. Many have already expressed their doubts.
Nevertheless, the champ will be a driver on a team dedicated to the Nationwide Series. That’s how it used to be and that’s the way – the old way – NASCAR wants it.

The series has always been considered a “feeder” circuit, one that breeds future Cup drivers while standing on its own. It has most often been compared to Triple-A baseball.

It evolved from the Late Model Sportsman circuit, the precursor to the Busch Series and later the Nationwide Series.
In the past, for the most part, the circuit did exactly what it was supposed to do – it served as a training ground for future Cup stars, among them Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Brian Vickers, all champions by the way.

However, in the past there were several drivers who made their careers in today’s Nationwide Series and really never made any serious forays into Cup competition. Many of them simply were not interested for various reasons.

Drivers like Jack Ingram, Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Tommy Houston, Tommy Ellis, Chuck Bown, L.D. Ottinger and several others became stars, fan favorites and champions in their own right.

Sure, they raced against Cup drivers who made regular forays into their series. The intruders won a lot of races – Mark Martin holds the record with 48 – but they never fretted losing a championship to any of them.

That’s because Cup drivers never followed the full schedule and thus didn’t go after a title.
But, as you know, that has changed over the years.
I think some Cup teams – and drivers who formed their own Nationwide organizations – realized that there was money to be made. Also, a little more track time under racing conditions was appealing. And a championship would be an excellent return on a sponsor’s investment, not to mention a boost to a career and reputation.

Since a title is not possible now it might be more difficult to attract a sponsor.
It might be easier for Nationwide regulars to acquire financial backing as sponsors realize they are going to be the only championship contenders.

Although Cup drivers will still compete in Nationwide races the chances are good they won’t do so in as many as they once did. This may mean more young, aspiring drivers could get opportunities – Cup drivers aren’t hogging the seats.

Where the Cup teams once dominated the under funded Nationwide groups, now, perhaps, they may be forced to use a junior series regular – or another promising competitor – which also affords more opportunity.

A powerful Cup organization might well run a full Nationwide schedule with a developmental driver. It’s been done before and might be more prevalent this year. That’s good for the circuit.

All said, the Nationwide Series is supposed to be a feeder circuit that stands on its own and produces its own stars. In recent years it has gotten away from that.

But now that its champion will be one who is a regular, not an intruder – and the tour will have its own “pony” cars – it has a real chance to return to what it was. It can develop its own identity.

Given that, NASCAR has done something new to return to something old.
You know, it seems it’s done a lot of that recently.

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NASCAR’s Brian Vickers: Welcome Back

Brian Vickers sat out most of the 2010 Sprint Cup season due to blood clots found in his lung,
legs and one arm. After 7 months of treatment and recuperation he’s ready to return to Red
Bull Racing. He has unfinished business. Michele Rahal of,
breaks it down.

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