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Nov 09, 2012 - 03:24 PM
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2012 Phoenix II Q&A: NASCAR Nationwide - Brian Vickers
Posted by: ASkyler on Nov 09, 2012 - 03:23 PM
2012 Phoenix II Q&A: NASCAR Nationwide - Brian Vickers

BRIAN VICKERS, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How did you decide to compete for a NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 2013? "This opportunity came up as a surprise and trying to figure out what was next and where I was going to head going into this season and subsequently same kind of philosophy going into next season -- wherever I ended up. I just wanted to be in a car, in an organization that I was happy, and I felt like I could show up to the race track and I had a chance to win every week. That's what led me to sign with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) again for those nine races. It went so well. I've obviously felt like I found a home within the Toyota camp in the last six years. They're only getting better and better and better. I see a bright future ahead there and then when J.D. (Gibbs, co-owner) called me with this opportunity to run full- time Nationwide for the championship, it kind of caught me out of a surprise at first, and then the more I thought about it I was really excited. They have -- no one can argue that the JGR Toyota group have one of the best Nationwide programs on the circuit and the chance to race for another championship I thought would be a lot of fun."


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Do you look at Elliott Sadler as a model for your 2013 plans? "I try not to compare myself to other drivers or my career to other careers. It's obviously been anything but normal. It's been very unique in itself for so many different reasons. For me, I kind of have things and goals that I want and the opportunity with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) in the Nationwide Series with Dollar General and Toyota, and then obviously the stuff with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) on the Cup side just fit all those -- it fit the list, it fit the criteria which was to be in cars that can win races and battle for championships if I was running a full-time series. And, obviously, Mark (Martin) and I and Michael (Waltrip) have a chance at the owner's championship on the Cup side, so we can't rule that out, but I just want to win. I want to have fun. I want to be with a group of people and companies I enjoy being around and I think that's when I perform my best when I show up to the race track and I'm enjoying it and, obviously, I'm in a car and group of guys that I feel like can win. I didn't really think about it as 10 years and Nationwide versus Cup. It's like going into this year, I didn't -- when I was getting in a Ferrari at 24 Hours of Le Mans, I didn't think about anything other than, 'Wow, this is amazing. I want to be in this car. It's fast. It's fun.' If I thought about anything, I thought about seeing how I could finagle Toyota to let me drive the LMP1 car they had parked next to us. I'm still working on that. I would love to drive that car. In general for me, I just wanted to be in fast cars and I didn't really think too much about what series it was in as much as being in fast cars. And I feel like at Gibbs and Toyota that's what I'm going to get."

How did you react to the Red Bull Racing Team leaving NASCAR? "When Red Bull pulled out, at that time a lot of the good rides in this series were kind of already taken, so for me it was just exploring all the possibilities and I had looked at everything from sports cars to prototype stuff and a lot of things kind of came and went. I even looked at running the Indy 500 and that was kind of headed down the path of happening, And then with the engine debacle over there and then the car stuff and they didn't have enough chassis, they didn't have enough engines and then when the engine manufacturers pulled out, so that limited the engines even more going into the 500, so that kind of didn't happen. I talked to some DTM (German Touring Car Masters) teams, sports car teams, LMP (Le Mans Prototype) teams -- I had an opportunity to drive an LMP1 car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which I was really excited about with the Dyson (Racing) guys and then they ended up not being able to run. They lost the sponsorship required to go run the race and then the opportunity came along with Rob (Kauffman, co-owner Michael Waltrip Racing) in the GT2 class, which was fantastic. A lot of things kind of come and went. A lot of things happened. A lot of things didn't this year, but I was open minded exploring all of them in anything I possibly could. I actually looked at a lot of different stuff. Not to go down the whole list, but the stuff in Europe was a blast. I had so much fun, but, honestly and obviously , I really enjoyed the stuff here too. The stuff in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with MWR and Aaron's was fantastic. We were fortunate to have a lot of good runs and had a lot of fun doing it and then obviously all the racing in Europe. It was tough, because a lot of the stuff by the time I got there and started meeting people and talking to folks it was kind of mid-season. It's hard to put stuff together in the middle of the year. If I was going to pursue that with a little more vigor and kind of get ahead of the game going into 2013 if a full-time NASCAR opportunity didn't present itself, I was going to spend a little bit more time and probably start a little bit sooner working on some opportunities in Europe. But, when everything came together with Gibbs and MWR it just made sense. It was an opportunity I couldn't turn down, so my focus is now back here in NASCAR. But, the difference in the two worlds -- there are some differences that are stark, but most of it is just racing. I mean it really is. The languages are different. The food is different -- driving for an Italian team you have amazing food every week. I love Italian, so I'm a little biased. We always had good food. It's interesting -- the mechanics and the team and the operations -- maybe the structure and the way the garage is laid out if different, but it's still racing. The guys are still racers. They love racing. They're passionate about their cars. You unload, you go as fast as you can and you work on the car for as long as you can and then you go race. I think there's more similarities than there are differences between American racing and European racing, but they are differences as well."

Are you upset with the way health 'issues' impacted your career? "Great question -- I'm very thankful for it actually. I learned so much going through that experience. It opened up so many doors in my life. I had amazing opportunities to explore other forms of racing, explore the world and do some amazing things. Honestly, I feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be and I'm very happy for it. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

What are your impressions of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car? "I've run a couple tests now with the 2013 car and we've tried a lot of things. Some of the stuff we tried didn't work at all -- it was horrible -- and some of the stuff we tried was amazing. The Charlotte test, we unloaded with kind of what we finished with at Kansas, which I thought was probably one of the best packages they had had on the car and I was really happy with it. The car drove good. It seemed to race well in traffic. We made some changes even at Charlotte that made the car even better. Honestly, the whole process -- it's been a pleasure driving the cars from Talladega to Kansas to Charlotte. It's exciting to see NASCAR and all the teams and the crew chiefs and engineers and manufacturers really working together to try to come up with the very best product they can."

How many cars have been on the track during the testing of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car? "I don't remember exactly how many cars were at Charlotte. It seemed like it was more than six, but maybe it was six. It was basically a car or two from every team and every manufacturer. I think that's enough cars. Maybe, it is a little different on a restart if your 15th in a pack of 43 on a restart. But, the reality is most of the racing you're going to do is going to be around three or four or five cars. Some of the stuff we did at the end of the Charlotte test -- getting the front down, changing how we could potentially inspect the car and different things and keeping the front down in traffic -- was really amazing. It was probably the best car I've ever driven -- a NASCAR car I've ever driven in traffic. So, I think there's a lot of potential there. Again, you're asking someone who has viewed the painting -- that's not painting the painting -- halfway through the painting what it looks like. I mean, I'm not really in charge of it and it's not even done yet. There's a lot of changes to come, but everything I've driven -- at least the direction they're headed -- is right. I think the car is better. But, we've tried some stuff that didn't work, for sure. That's part of trying a lot of different things. Where I left Charlotte, I thought the car was better than what we have now in traffic, which ultimately I think is the goal of everyone -- the teams, NASCAR, everybody."

How did you like driving a 2013 Sprint Cup Series car with less horsepower? "I'm open-minded doing anything that helps. I didn't have a chance to try the low horsepower stuff. I spoke to a few guys that did and they didn't like it. You know, of all the racing I've done, more power -- the better. The more mechanical grip -- the better. The grippier the tires are, they fall off -- the better. A lot of this is about building a car that allows Goodyear -- we've kind of put Goodyear in a little bit of a box sometimes with these new services and with the tires they kind of have to bring to the race track -- we want to give them a car that they can build some tires that have fall off, which I think makes for great racing. And part of having fall off -- part of a car starting out fast and getting slower every single lap -- is wearing the tires out. Adding horsepower does that. It puts more of it in the driver's hands. He has to manage the tires. He has to manage the throttle. Anytime that you increase horsepower, your mid-corner speed slows down which is only going to help the tires. And any time you decrease horsepower the mid-corner speeds go up. That's something that's kind of always been the case. We've seen it time and time again. They saw it at Charlotte when they reduced the power -- the mid-corners speed went up. Again, I want to preface this by saying they've tried a lot of things in the sake of let's try everything and let's see what works and let's see what doesn't work and I applaud them for that. We tried some splitter stuff. We tried some different configurations, some spoiler stuff that didn't work. But, ultimately they decided on what was best. I have no doubt they are going to do the same with the horsepower situation. Again, I didn't drive those cars, so I'm probably not the best person to ask. Some of the guys that were there on the second day it would probably be better to ask. Of all the racing I've done, I would think more power would be better."

How has your perspective changed from the driver who won the NASCAR Nationwide Series title in 2003? "I don't know if we have enough time to answer that. Obviously, my perspective on a lot of things in life and racing have changed over the years. Just 10 years in racing is going to do that. Throw in a few curve balls, a couple hospital visits, some time out of the car, some hard lessons learned -- all that's going to change. And, you're going to grow and mature and have a different perspective going into -- rewinding 10 years. The truth is, I'm sure or at least I hope, 10 years from now I would say the same thing about where I'm at today. You always want to try to grow and become wiser and smarter as you're aging. I feel the same way about where I'm at in life and motorsports and how I will approach next year. How I approach this season. But, I can only hope and pray I feel the same way 10 years from now. If I don't, I'm going the wrong way."

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