Vickers Inks New Deal with MWR
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 13, 2013 | 10:30 A.M. EST
Brian Vickers, celebrating his New Hampshire win last month, got to celebrate a new contract with Michael Waltrip Racing on Tuesday. (Photo: Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Michael Waltrip got his wish. So did Brian Vickers.
Waltrip announced Tuesday that Vickers will drive the team’s No. 55 Sprint Cup car full-time in 2014. Waltrip had said for weeks that he wanted Vickers as the next driver of that car. Mark Martin had previously said he was not driving it after his contract expires this season. Vickers has signed a multi-year contract.
Michael Waltrip Racing also announced Tuesday that Aaron’s has signed a two-year extension and will sponsor all of the car’s races. Waltrip added that the team is "really close" to ensuring that crew chief Rodney Childers will remain and work with Vickers "for many years to come."
With the move to Sprint Cup next season, Vickers said he won’t run full-time in the Nationwide Series. Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Vickers is fifth in the Nationwide points heading into Saturday’s race at Mid-Ohio.
Ron Allen, chief executive officer at Aaron’s, said that Vickers’ Cup win last month at New Hampshire didn’t seal the deal, but admits "it didn’t hurt."
Vickers’ return to Cup full-time completes a journey begun two years after Red Bull Racing closed its shop and left Vickers without a ride. He joined Michael Waltrip Racing last year, driving select races Mark Martin chose to skip.
"This is, for me, a very special moment, something I wasn’t sure would happen again," Vickers said Tuesday after the announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "The hard work is still ahead of us. We’ve still got to go out and perform. I think the win in Loudon gave all of us some confidence in ourselves and the team ... as to what we can accomplish in a full-time role."
Vickers admits it hasn’t seemed like two years in his quest to return to a full-time Cup ride.
"I feel like its gone by so fast," he said. "I’ve had some incredible opportunities to not only race with this team for the last two years part-time but to race all over the world," Vickers said. "I had a blast. That said, this was ultimately the goal."
Vickers said he had other options the past two years, but said Michael Waltrip Racing was the best fit.
"When this opportunity first came up there was one other reasonable option at the time that was full-time, but it wasn’t a winning race team," Vickers said. "At that time, I decided I’d rather be in a proven winning car for six races than the other way around.
"Going into this year, kind of the same dilemma. The other options were probably a little bit better than the year before, but still not comparable to this. I don’t think it was just about what MWR can deliver. I think some of it was the chemistry with the team itself, a lot of it was the chemistry I had with (crew chief) Rodney (Childers)."
In nine races this season, Vickers has one win and three top-10 finishes. He placed 32nd at Watkins Glen after being collected in a late-race crash.
With this deal done, the team’s focus turns to securing sponsorship for Clint Bowyer. Waltrip said that Bowyer has 10 races to sell for next year. The team also is looking to package those 10 races with having Waltrip drive a fourth car in next year’s Daytona 500.