After Elliott Sadler pulled out of his deal with Michael Waltrip Racing to drive its no.55 for 6 races, Brian Vickers has been given the opportunity to make his racing return. Vickers, who lost his ride with Red Bull after the team folded in the off-season, will replace veteran Mark Martin, who has signed to drive for 24 races only. Team owner Michael Waltrip will run the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega, while an as-yet unnamed driver will take over for the road course races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Vickers was elated after tying up the deal, which sees him take over a car at Bristol next week which is currently locked into the top 35 in owner's points, meaning he does not have to qualify on speed.
“I am thrilled to get back behind the wheel of not just a racecar, but a very fast racecar,” the 28 year old said.
“I’m lucky to find a ride of this quality so early in the season. That Toyota won the pole last weekend in Phoenix and you saw it up front throughout the race. I know how good [crew chief] Rodney Childers and team are. I’ve known Rodney since I was eight years old.
“This car is tied for sixth in points right now. This is going to be fun. I appreciate the opportunity Michael and the entire MWR organisation are giving me.”
The youngest driver ever to win the Bush Series having won as a raw-edged 20 year old in 2003, Vickers has scored two Sprint Cup wins and made the Chase in 2009 in his Sprint Cup career so far. After a spell on the sidelines caused by blood clots in his legs and around his lungs curtailed his 2010 season, Vickers had a disappointing return to action in 2011, famously becoming involved in no less than 5 cautions at Martinsville in the fall, which typified a season littered with collisions. “After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem,” an irate Jimmie Johnson said afterwards.
Nevertheless, Waltrip considers Vickers a good fit for his young outfit, which has scored two wins so far with David Reutimann.
“Brian Vickers is a veteran driver with almost 10 years experience, but he hasn’t even turned 30 yet,” said Waltrip.
“He’s shown he can win at this level and we have every confidence he’ll run well with us. I believe in second chances and this is a great opportunity for us and Brian. He wants to show the world how good he really is and we believe in the equipment and people we’re putting him with in 2012.”