Brian Vickers Can Make Coca-Cola 600 History
The 20-year-old Thomasville, N.C., native has the opportunity to dethrone his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, as the youngest driver to win NASCAR¿s longest race. Vickers will be 20 years, 7 months and 6 days when he competes in the Coca-Cola 600 for the first time. Gordon was 22 years, 9 months and 25 days when he captured his first 600 victory on May 29, 1994.
Just 19 years old when he was hired by Ricky Hendrick to drive in the NASCAR Busch Series last season, Vickers took full advantage of the opportunity, winning three races, a pole and the series championship.
By the end of the year, Vickers had earned a promotion and was introduced as the new driver of Hendrick Motorsports¿ No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet in the NEXTEL Cup Series.
Vickers¿ rapid rise to NASCAR¿s premier series turned many heads, but left little time for fans¿or even many in the racing community¿to get to know this young racer.
His parents, Clyde and Ramona, were involved in a racing business and Vickers grew up around race tracks and fast cars.
¿From day one, he loved everything that was fast,¿ Ramona Vickers said about her son. ¿We always said we would support him no matter what he did. If he wanted to play ball, I would have supported him. It is a little different when you are supporting someone while they are going 200 mph. But we are always there, and always will be.¿
From go-karts, Legacy cars and late models, to the Hooters Pro Cup series, Busch and now the Cup series, Vickers¿ parents have never been far away. In fact, he was driving a family-owned car in the NASCAR Busch Series when he was hired by Hendrick Motorsports.
¿We were tickled to death,¿ Ramona Vickers said about her son¿s opportunity to drive for Hendrick Motorsports. ¿We had run the year before and we were still in search of a sponsor for next year, and didn¿t know what we were going to do. Without sponsorship we were going to have to cut back.¿
Ramona Vickers hopes success won¿t change her son.
¿He is a pretty down-to-Earth guy. I think we¿ve tried to bring him up that way,¿ she said. ¿Besides, if he ever got the big head, momma would really get upset. I can put him back down where he belongs.
¿Right now we try to give him as much space as we can. We do like to come to the races. I try not to impose too much on him. I¿m sure there will be a time when he sees his parents here and goes, ¿Oh gosh¿.¿
Even though his career requires the highest level of professionalism, in many ways Vickers still acts his age.
His favorite restaurant remains McDonald¿s, but he admits, ¿I have to eat a lot healthier now.¿
He enjoys watching cartoons, but not the newer ones. ¿I like the old stuff, the classic ones like ¿Tom and Jerry,¿ ¿Scooby-Doo,¿ ¿Bugs Bunny,¿¿ he said.
Even though he already participates in a career many consider too risky, that hasn¿t taken away his youthful enthusiasm for staring into the face of danger.
Asked if there was one thing he hasn¿t done yet that he would like to try, Vickers replied: ¿Skydive. There¿s a good possibility of getting killed,¿ he said. ¿That is what makes it exciting.¿
If his racing career doesn¿t work out, Vickers said he would love to attend college.
¿I would probably have been interested in becoming a computer engineer or mechanical engineer. I always enjoyed math and computers,¿ Vickers noted.
His fast track to racing success hasn¿t come without a price.
¿I have missed out on a lot of things, but that doesn¿t mean I regret it. I was doing what I love and I still am,¿ Vickers said. ¿I¿m fortunate to be here at the age I am, and fortunate to be here period. I have had fun along the way. Sometimes it¿s all work, sometimes I get to play.
¿In any career, there are always sacrifices. It just depends on what your priorities are. So far, so good for me,¿ he concluded.
Tickets for the May 30 Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Lowe¿s Motor Speedway start at just $29. They can be obtained by calling 1-800-455-FANS or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.