Editor’s note: Eighteen drivers are guaranteed to start in the May 22 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, which will be televised live on SPEED, starting at 7 pm Eastern. Following is the sixth of 18 profiles of those drivers locked into the field.
Brian Vickers has participated in the event now known as the Sprint All-Star Race in three of his six previous NASCAR Cup seasons.
He’ll make it No. 4 on May 22, but it’ll be the Thomasville, N.C., native’s first appearance in the prestigious exhibition race since 2007.
Three years feel like a long time to Vickers.
“It definitely makes you appreciate it more,” he said. “A year like this, you can really go into it. You don’t have to worry about getting in the race, which is kind of nice.”
When Vickers made his last All-Star appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he was a newcomer to a fledgling Red Bull Racing organization that endured a rough inaugural Cup campaign with Vickers failing to qualify for 13 of 36 races.
Both driver and team have since made tremendous strides, qualifying for the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup when few outsiders expected it, and winning their first race last August at Michigan.
But 2010 has been a struggle, with Vickers scoring no top-fives and just two top-10s in the first nine races. A win in a regular points-paying race or the non-points-paying All-Star race would be a boost after a slow start.
“I think they’d both be pretty cool,” Vickers said. “A points win would obviously be toward the championship but a win at the All-Star race would still be very special. You’re still racing against the same guys on the same teams, the best of the best. It’s still a significant win.”
Vickers brings a history of strong runs to Charlotte but has little to show for them. Despite leading 332 laps over 12 points-paying starts at CMS, he has just three top-10s. His best finish is fifth – in spring 2007 and 2009.
It seems the native North Carolinian has been snake-bitten by all manner of misfortune at the mile-and-a-half track where he grew up attending races.
“We’ve had some really good cars there and it just hasn’t worked out,” Vickers said. “I’ve led a lot of laps at that race track and we’ve had tires come off, we’ve had loose wheels but you know what: At the end of the day – I mean, I’d love to blame it on back luck – but at the end of the day, a lot of them were mistakes. … I’d love to blame it on Charlotte hating me but ultimately we made the mistakes.”
Vickers’ best All-Star outing was a third-place run back in 2005 while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. Vickers raced his way into the main event that year by winning the preliminary race now known as the Sprint Showdown.
He finished 12th in 2004 and was 13th in 2007. If Vickers has learned anything from his past All-Star experience, it’s that “you have to push the whole time.”
This year’s race is 100 laps, well under half the laps of any points race on the Cup schedule.
The All-Star event was only 80 laps when Vickers made his last start.
“This is a race where you really have to just go as hard as you can as long as you can,” Vickers said. “Other races – I think 500-mile races – you have to push the whole time but it’s really all for a build-up towards the last fifty or hundred miles. You can take chances. You can say, ‘Hey, we don’t think our car’s as good as it needs to be right now to win, so let’s make an extra pit stop and work on it. We’re going to lose some track position, but we’ve got 400 miles to make it up,’ with the idea that the last 100 miles is what’s most important.
“In the All-Star race, you can’t really afford to do that. You’ve just got to go. You don’t have much time.”
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Grand Opening is set for May 11, 2010. Outdoor Opening Ceremonies are May 11th from 9 to 10 am ET free of charge, open to the public. Outdoor festivities including driver appearances and concerts May 11th from 10 am until 8 pm ET open to the public, free of charge. Tickets to enter the NASCAR Hall of Fame are on sale now at www.NASCARHall.com or by calling 877-231-2010. The countdown to the NASCAR Hall of Fame is on! Visit www.NASCARHall.com/50days for daily updates about the NASCAR Hall of Fame.