Born and raised in NASCAR’s native state (yes, the ownership and the Daytona International Speedway may call “The Sunshine State” home, but virtually everything else - the drivers, the teams and the upcoming NASCAR Hall of Fame - reside in “The NC”), 23-year-old Brian Vickers is one of the hottest up-and-coming drivers in motorsports. That’s precisely why he’ll be racing a Team Red Bull Toyota Camry starting with the 2007 season of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
FROM BACK YARD KARTING TO BIG-LEAGUE ROUNDY-ROUND
At age 8, young Brian purchased his first yard-kart with saved allowance money. Not long after, a friend of the family suggested he move up to a real racing go-kart and start competing in World Karting Association (WKA)-sanctioned races. The kid was a natural: Between 1994 and 1997, Brian won more than 80 races across the country on both dirt and asphalt and garnered three WKA national championships.
Next up were the 3/4-scale stock cars of the Allison Legacy Cars Series. In 1998, Brian and his new BLV Motorsports team earned five wins. “Some of our primary goals to help gain experience were to race at different tracks all of the time and not stay in any one series longer than necessary. But I had to prove that I could be competitive, earn the respect of competitors twice my age and win, before we ever considered moving up.”
True to his word, Brian moved on to campaign Late Model Stock racing in NASCAR’s Weekly Racing Series in 1999. Six wins, eleven poles and Motorsports Magazine’s “Rising Star of the Year” award meant his hard work nearly every Friday and Saturday night was beginning to pay off. Another career highlight was becoming the youngest feature winner at the historic Hickory Motor Speedway.
It was off to the USAR Hooters ProCup Series for Brian and his team in 2000. He loved racing stock cars almost identical to those in the NASCAR Busch Series. “In the USAR, I was only 16 years old and had the opportunity to race against some of the best veteran short-track racers in the country,” Vickers says. He scored Rookie-of-the-Year honors, becoming the youngest event winner in the series’ history with two wins, and finished a very impressive third in the championship at season’s end.
Vickers and company returned for a sophomore season of USAR competition in 2001, finishing second in the title chase while collecting two more victories. The 17-year-old made his NASCAR Busch Series debut that year in July at the Milwaukee Mile event and ran three more races later that year.
In 2002, Brian and his team competed in 21 NASCAR Busch Series races as the only independent team with a rookie driver. “Balancing the travel and racing with my schoolwork was always challenging growing up,” he says, “but my education came first. My parents and I had rules in place to ensure that and it’s something I still believe strongly in today.” Mission accomplished: Brian graduated with honors a full semester early from Trinity (NC) High School in May of 2002. On the very same evening of his graduation, he found himself the highest-qualifying NASCAR Busch Series rookie at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Despite positive on- and off-track performances, he and his team took a turn for the worse as the 2002 season wound down when a sure-thing sponsor disappeared. Fortunately, his excellent late-season form caught the eye of Ricky Hendrick. “Ricky and I struck up a dialogue and eventually he decided he wanted me to drive his racecars,” Vickers says. Now it was up to the duo to convince Ricky’s daddy, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, that Brian was the right man to pilot one of the mega-team’s competitive rides.
Vickers was named the driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Busch Series machine for 2003. Father and son looked mighty sharp with their selection — the 20-year-old became the youngest Busch Series champion in NASCAR history, delivering Hendrick Motorsport’s first-ever championship in the category.
This Busch Series success earned Brian a full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ride in the No. 25 car for the Hendrick team starting in 2004. Since then, the young driver from Thomasville, North Carolina, earned a race win in the non-points-paying NEXTEL Open, four poles and the best points finish for the 25 team in a decade. But the big breakthrough came last fall when he scored his first Cup points win at Talladega in dramatic fashion. Needless to say, Brian’s swagger changed that day, all the better in Red Bull’s eyes.
While competing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is Brian’s all-consuming passion, he does have a life away from the track. Hanging out with family and friends is his number one leisure activity. “I’ve had great family, friends and staff help support and develop my career all the way,” he says.
Vickers battled his way through a traumatic debut season with Red Bull Racing to set the first-year performance benchmark for the all-new team and manufacturer partner Toyota, earning their first Top 10 finish in his 1st-ever start for RBR, their first Top 5 later that season and leading the most laps of any Toyota team during the 2007 season. Both driver and team will have significantly higher performance expectations and goals for the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season.
AWAY FROM THE OVAL OFFICE
When not bouncing between races, his business office in Thomasville and residences in Charlotte and New York City, Brian also likes to partake in the typical and mundane activities you’d expect from a Red Bull athlete - mountain biking, scuba diving, golf and his most recent venture - skydiving. And attending Charlotte Bobcats basketball games are always a good time. He also likes to take in the occasional Carolina Panthers game, but that’s a tough assignment - both the Charlotte-based football team and Vickers usually work on Sundays!
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