Charlotte, NC – Michael Waltrip Racing on Tuesday formally introduced Brian Vickers as the full-time driver of the No. 55 Toyota for the 2014 Sprint Cup Series season.
MWR also announced that Aaron's has signed a new two-year agreement to sponsor the No. 55 team. Aaron's will serve as primary sponsor for the team in all 36 Sprint Cup races next year.
The announcements were made at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Vickers has driven the No. 55 car for MWR on a part-time basis in 2012 and this year. The 29-year-old driver is currently a full-time competitor in the Nationwide Series. Vickers, who is behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, is just 18 points behind leader Austin Dillon in the Nationwide championship standings.
"I feel like I've finally found a home," Vickers said of his full-time ride in Sprint Cup next year. "I've know Michael now for longer than either of us probably want to remember, but it's been great. We've raced together, and now we work together. He's created an incredible culture at MWR.
"I think Aaron's being a part of it for as long as they have is representative of that. (MWR co-owner) Rob Kauffman coming in and being a phenomenal partner is a part of that. (MWR vice president and general manager) Ty (Norris) and all of the leadership at MWR are building something that I think is going to be very special for a long time to come. I'm honored and thankful to be a part of it. This is a dream come true for me."
One month ago, Vickers completed his remarkable comeback in NASCAR's premier series when he won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, ending his 75-race winless streak.
Vickers' racing career was in doubt three years ago when he suffered blood clots in his legs and lungs and later had heart surgery as part of his treatment. After sitting out most of the 2010 season, Vickers returned healthy to his Red Bull Racing team at the start of 2011. But Red Bull shut down after the season concluded, leaving Vickers without a ride.
Team owner Michael Waltrip came to Vickers' rescue last year when he offered him the role as part-time driver of the No. 55 car. Mark Martin drove it in 24 races last season, while Vickers was behind the wheel in eight events and Waltrip in four.
"The job that Brian and the (No. 55) Aaron's team did up in Loudon (N.H.) and to be a part-time guy and come in here and win one of these races was an amazing accomplishment and a celebration of a lot of hard work by Brian Vickers to be back in the Sprint Cup Series after a tough couple of years," Waltrip said. "We're going to have party for you, and we're starting that party (Tuesday) by announcing that you're going to be the driver of No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for the next few years and hopefully 10 or 15 (years)."
Vickers drove the car this past weekend at Watkins Glen International. He finished 32nd after being involved in an accident with Marcos Ambrose and Max Papis with six laps to go.
He is scheduled for three more Sprint Cup races this season: Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 24), New Hampshire (Sept. 22) and Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 27).
Vickers' win at New Hampshire made a strong case that he was worthy of a full- time opportunity in the No. 55 car next year. Martin is in his final season with Waltrip's team.
"We wouldn't be sitting here today, I don't believe, if Mark hadn't joined us last year," Waltrip said. "He really gave us a chance to grow our team. And with Mark's schedule, I got to run a few races which meant the world to me. But we needed a guy to fill in a few other ones, and that guy was Brian Vickers. We loved Brian's enthusiasm, and we loved how he wanted to race that car no matter what. It wasn't about money from day one, and it isn't about money today. It's about showing people that he's a championship driver. He's getting that opportunity now."