Jul 25, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brian Vickers (55) during practice for the Crown Royal Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
When the green flag waves on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard, it’ll mark the 300th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start for Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.
The road to 300-career starts has been a long one that began at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2003. Vickers finished 33rd in that first race.
“Wow, 300 starts already? That’s pretty hard to believe. I would have never guessed it’s been that many,” Vickers said. “I just feel extremely blessed. I’ve been with good teams and great people over the years. There are a lot of people who played a role in getting me to where I am today and I’m very appreciative for everyone’s hard work over the years. Making it to 300 starts in this sport is certainly a big milestone and I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
Vickers has been sidelined by health issues twice in his career, specifically by blood clots, in 2010 and 2013. Each time, he missed significant chunks of the race season.
Vickers’ national level NASCAR career began with his family’s team. He made the move to Hendrick Motorsports to compete in the Busch (now-Nationwide) Series in 2003. He went on to claim the championship that year.
In 2004, car owner Rick Hendrick moved Vickers up to the Cup level full-time. He won two poles and posted four top-10s in his rookie year.
A couple years later, Vickers posted his first-career Sprint Cup win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, still while driving for Hendrick Motorsports. But at the end of the 2006 season, he departed HMS for Red Bull Racing, then a new team in the series.
While at Red Bull, Vickers accomplished firsts for Toyota in NASCAR, including the manufacturer’s first top-10, first top-five and first lap led at NASCAR’s top level. In 2009, Vickers scored Red Bull Racing’s first Sprint Cup win at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.
Vickers missed more than half of the 2010 season because of his first issue with blood clots. He returned to Red Bull Racing for 2011, only to see the organization shutter its operations at the end of the year.
After Red Bull Racing closed its doors, Vickers returned to the Nationwide Series to race full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing. Meanwhile, he also got a part-time Sprint Cup ride with Michael Waltrip Racing. While driving for MWR on a part-time basis, Vickers claimed his third-career Cup win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon in 2013.
MWR was then set to put Vickers in its No. 55 Cup car full-time near the end of the 2013 stages, but another blood clot issue for the driver, put a wrinkle in those plans. Vickers was cleared to race before the start of the current season, and he’s been behind the wheel of the No. 55 for MWR ever since.
Vickers will start fifth for his 300th race on Sunday.
“Obviously, we would have loved to sit on the pole, but I think I’m pleased from the standpoint that I feel like everyone on this Aaron’s Dream Machine Camry team, we maximized our opportunity in qualifying today, and that’s always a good feeling,” Vickers said after qualifying on Saturday. “I feel like we got the most out of our potential of what we showed up with in the car and the speed and everything.”