Brian Vickers is scheduled to make one more start this year in Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 Toyota. Beyond that, he’s not sure where he will end up.
But unlike his outlook from a year ago, it appears Vickers will have a lot of good options.
Few get a second chance in NASCAR. Vickers got one with Waltrip’s team after imploding in the second half last season and he’s made the most of his opportunity.
“It’s been an enjoyable year, it really has,” Vickers said as he prepared for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at the Martinsville Speedway. “I’ve tried to make the most of it. It hasn’t been the easiest, the last two or three years.”
Vickers’ downfall started in 2010 when he was forced out of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota to recover from blood clots in his legs and lungs.
In 2012, his career veered out of control with several on-track incidents. He ran Tony Stewart off the track and on the top of a wall at Sonoma, Calif. He also had crashes with Marcos Ambrose at Richmond, Va., and Jamie McMurray at Martinsville.
Red Bull shut down at the end of the season, leaving him without a ride until Waltrip offered him the chance to fill in for eight races that Mark Martin didn’t want to drive. He responded with four top-10 finishes – three in the top five.
Vickers could have taken a job as a start-and-parker, but he decided a part-time schedule in a competitive car was a better way to revive his career – and his reputation.
“I tried to make the most of all my situations, including when I was sick,” Vickers said. “I got a great opportunity here at MWR. It wasn’t a full-time opportunity, but it was a good opportunity. It’s a great car, even for a limited schedule. We’ve made the most of it. It’s not what I would have chosen for 2012, to be only running eight races, but I’ve made the most of my off time. We’ve raced some, played some and done a little bit of everything.
“During my time off, I’ve tried to make the most of it, whether it be looking for a sponsor for opportunities next year, or racing other cars or racing in Europe, or just traveling to re-charge the batteries.”
It appears all that hard work will pay off. He’s on the short list to possibly replace Aric Almirola at Richard Petty Motorsports. He also may stay at MWR with another part-time schedule. A Nationwide Series ride or work in Grand Am Road Racing series also is possible.
“At this point, anything’s possible,” he said. “Nothing’s done yet. I will say this: I’m happy. I’ve found a home here. We’re running well and I’m happy in the (No.) 55.”
Most important, Vickers has been able to drive away from his past. He’s re-gained the respect of his competitors. For the first time in years, he can be optimistic about his future.
The secret, he said, was making the most, personally and professionally, of each moment.
“I don’t worry about it anymore. I think about it; I care, but I don’t worry about it,” he said. “I try to put myself in the best situation I can to position myself for the future, but I don’t stress about it. It doesn’t consume my life.
“The last two or three years of my life have been some of the most enjoyable. So, I’m just taking it as it comes and be appreciative.”
No matter where it leads him.