Five Minutes With NASCAR Driver Brian Vickers
At age 20, Brian Vickers became the youngest racer to ever win one of NASCAR’s top three series when he clinched the Busch Series Championship in 2003. He’s driven Ferraris in some of Europe’s most prestigious races, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012, and he's recently taken up skydiving, you know, to break up the monotony of driving cars at 200 mph every few weeks. In 2014, Vickers, 30, raced six times with two top-10 finishes. You're definitely not alone if you secretly wish you live his life, even just for a day
But those are merely footnotes. In 2010, the young driver was diagnosed with an illness that threatened not just his career, but his life. Last week Supercompressor caught up with Mr. Vickers, and he was generous enough to discuss this, along with several race-related topics with our Rides editor, Aaron Miller. Gentlemen, start your engines.
Your thoughts on adding more road courses to the NASCAR Calendar?
They’re great, and I love road racing. But let’s look for new markets. Rather than doing a second race at the same track, let’s go to Shanghai and [Sao Paulo], Spa, or Bahrain. I’d absolutely love to drive a NASCAR around Spa. [Ed. note: most of these are F1 courses.]
You must consider all cars pretty boring compared to your race car...
Well, yeah. You can’t get in a street car and be thrilled when your race car reaches 200 or 210 mph.
Okay, you can only race in one series for the rest of your career other than NASCAR... what would it be?
The WEC (World Endurance Championship), which I just raced in. It’s a much more lax schedule and you get to travel the world and drive the tracks I just mentioned.
Let's look for new markets. Rather than doing a second race at the same track, let’s go to Shanghai and Sao Paulo.
Rain on non-ovals: what’s your opinion?
I’m good with it. Not racing in the rain isn’t a matter of interest, though. The cars just aren’t designed for it. Rain tires aren’t enough; the tire displaces the water, but then the water splashes off the fenders back onto the tread. Then the windshield fogs up and you can’t see anything. A car that’s good on an oval won’t be good in the rain, like a sports car. I’d love to race in the rain, but we’d need a different car in the wet-versus-dry.
What’s the worst crash you’ve ever been in?
I had a tire blow during testing in Kentucky a couple of weeks ago and hit the wall. Hard. That hurt. But let me tell you, my blood clots were worse [than any race crash].
When did this come about?
I was walking down the street and suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I had to go to the hospital. You don’t realize how important something like breathing is until you’re really worried that you can’t.
[Ed. note: After heart surgery in 2010, Vickers has since recovered, though he still takes medication. He currently endorses Aaron's.]
What’s the bigger rush: skydiving or driving at 200 mph?
Both are quite the rush. It depends on the circumstances, really. [Racing that fast] is a rush, but I’ll say skydiving because it’s different than my routine.
If you could race any driver in history, one on one, who would it be?
Dale Earnhardt. It’s always really rewarding to beat the best and I think he was one of the greatest of our sport. Win or lose, I think just racing against him one on one would be enjoyable.
I was walking down the street and suddenly I couldn’t breathe.
Who would you never want to race against? Why?
Someone who makes bad decisions, who I couldn’t trust on track.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever bought?
Nothing, really, but I think my iPhone is ridiculous. I love tech, and it’s elegant, glitzy and functional, but it’s crazy to think we spend $1,000 for this little device that fits in our hand.