On the strength of a successful run at Bristol Motor Speedway, Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip Racing team owner Michael Waltrip announced to the media on Friday morning that MWR has extended their part-time ride basis for Vickers from six races to eight.
"He made a statement," said Waltrip. In Vickers' inaugural race with MWR at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, Vickers finished in the top five after leading over 100 laps early, pleasantly stunning the NASCAR world.
Going into the 2012 season, Vickers wasn't even sure he would have a ride in NASCAR. When his team former team Red Bull Racing closed their doors at the end of the 2011 season, Vickers was left without a ride and a hopeless feeling for 2012. To his dismay, Vickers did not end the 2011 season on a good note, making it that much difficult for teams to consider him for their teams. MWR is the team that gave Vickers that chance and believed he could get the job done when other teams doubted him.
"I've had that conversation with myself many times," Vickers said when asked if he feels validated enough in this sport. Vickers' road in NASCAR has been a rough one. He's endured swapping teams as well as a medical condition that kept him out of the race car for the majority of the 2010 season.
"You can fade away quickly," he said, following up on his validation in NASCAR. "There's so much more to the puzzle that fans don't see."
Vickers explained that the process of getting his part-time ride with MWR didn't just happen at Bristol; he's been working towards his validation for the past 5 years of his Cup career, saying "the validation has to come every week." Vickers will continue his effort to validate himself, gaining two more races with MWR, including both of the road course races.
Waltrip explained that Vickers is taking this gig to heart and is taking the time to make MWR not just a ride, but a home. Vickers took time out of his weekly schedule to take the No. 55 pit crew to a white water rafting center in Charlotte for a team bonding experience, to help gain chemistry and friendship among team members. During his time speaking to the media, Vickers conveyed how gracious he was for the opportunity to race with MWR and thanked his team owner Waltrip, along with Rob Kauffman, for believing in him and giving him the chance to prove himself.
Of course, when Vickers comes to Martinsville, the unavoidable elephant in the room comes around. Last season during the fall race at Martinsville there were some on-track disagreements between Matt Kenseth and Vickers, involving multiple instances of the two drivers wrecking each other, giving Vickers a bad name going into the off season.
On Friday, Vickers wasn't too concerned about last season and was still running off his high of having a top-five finish at Bristol.
"Did I have a crazy weekend last time I was here?" Vickers joked when asked about his last Martinsville experience. Waltrip was quick to defend his driver – "Things happen at Martinsville that lead to contact," he said, but went on to explain that it is a driver's job to put this bad races in the rear view mirror and "keep digging."
On a positive note, Vickers has had positive experiences in his past with Martinsville Speedway. Vickers' first race ever in his racing career was at Martinsville Speedway in the Allison series when he was 13 years old. He also competed at the track at 14 and 15 years old in the late model series. He joked that the record at Martinsville showed that he was 16 years old at the time of the late model races. "It's always been there," Vickers said, speaking of his competitive fire at Martinsville speedway and racing in general.
Vickers will run his next race with MWR at Martinsville this weekend, and the driver will attempt to make a better impression than he did during his last visit to the track.