Can Brian Vickers Win in ’09?

“Brian Vickers has already gone through a lot in his Cup career. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 25.
NASCAR racer Brian Vickers
He has gone from being a Young Gun with one of the top organizations in racing to driving for an upstart team that was instantly dismissed by some as a career-killer. In his third season with Red Bull Racing, Vickers is the one grinning and looks ready for bigger things yet.

When Brian Vickers was 19 he had already won a Busch Series championship.

The Next Hendrick Superstar?

He became a full time Cup driver the following year in 2004 with Hendrick Motorsports and was considered on the fast track to stardom. Unfortunately 2004 was a trying year filled with crashes, glimpses of promise and the tragic death of friend and Busch owner Ricky Hendrick.

Vickers toiled for two more seasons, picking up 1 Cup win and ten top fives over the three years in the #25 car. His one win at Talladega was shrouded in controversy when Vickers hooked teammate Jimmie Johnson and spun him into leader Dale Earnhardt Jr on the final lap while Vickers sailed by for the win.

Moving to Team Red Bull

After the season he moved to Red Bull, a team with zero Cup experience and deep pockets.

The quick conclusion was that Vickers left Hendrick for a big payday. Some even questioned whether Vickers’ career was a disappointment. While Vickers definitely got a nice pay raise, it’s also clear now that Vickers relished the chance to mature outside of the spotlight at Hendrick and building something from scratch.

As expected year one was rough, but was expected from not only a new team but a brand new manufacturer with a brand new engine package. Vickers missed 13 races and suffered 5 DNF’s and was never inside the top 35. Despite the nightmare, Vickers still had several high points as the top Toyota driver. He scored one top five and five top tens in 23 races. While far from dazzling numbers, they were still impressive considering the obstacles Red Bull faced in their first season.

Last season Vickers easily secured a place in the the top 35, finished 19th and scored 3 top 5’s and 6 top 10’s. He also led 232 laps which was more than several higher profile drivers like Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton. The reason this didn’t garner more attention was because Vickers and the #83 team lacked consistency and too often had pit road mistakes spoil any chance at wins. The progress was definitely evident and showed that Vickers is closer to joining NASCAR’s upper echeolon than many realized.

Vickers in 2009

So far in 2009 Vickers has two top tens, a pole win (Fontana) and a role in a large wreck at Daytona.

Vickers has always enjoyed success at intermediate tracks like California, Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte. There is also Pocono where he has four career top 5’s including a 2nd place effort last year. It’s not impossible to see Vickers scoring a win at one of these tracks this year. While a win would be monumental, there is still a lot of work to be done for the #83 team.

Vickers still struggles on short tracks must find a way to avoid bad results. Turning sub-35 (9 in 2008) runs into top 20’s or 25’s can save a lot of points.

The Chase might be too far out of reach for this year, but Vickers would definitely turn heads if he could find his way to Victory Lane.”