So here he is at age 20, living life at 200 mph, bouncing from place to place and interview to interview, driving for one of the top stock car teams in the land, and doing, really, what he's been programmed to do since the day as a youngster when he took his old yard kart to a dirt track near his home in Thomasville, North Carolina, and became hooked on racing, at the ripe old age of eight.
There was never any doubt about Brian Vickers ending up where he is now-defending Busch Series champion, driving in Nextel Cup for a top team like Hendrick Motorsports, and tackling the world of big-time stock car racing. After all, the kid won at every turn, in karts, in Late Models, and in Hooters ProCup, where at age 16 he became the youngest driver ever to win a race in that series.
What his accomplishments-and his obvious natural ability-mask, though, is the sacrifice and focus and dedication that went into getting to the top. The years of chasing go-kart races all over the East Coast, the missed school functions, the homework finished in the seat of an airplane or by motel lamplight.
The Vickers family packed it all into a 10-year cycle, backing Brian at every turn, all the way to the Busch Series where he drove for a family-owned team in 2002 before signing with Hendrick and winning the 2003
"You just slowly go one day from racing go-karts and hanging out with your buddies to all of a sudden one day making a living doing it and running 200 mph," says Vickers. "It seems like it happens overnight but it takes 10 years. I guess over the years you just realize, hey, I may be able to do this. It's possible. I've just got to work hard at it and never give up and stay the same person I am now that it's got me here."
The Spice of Life
It would be easy, and natural, to assume that the 20-year-old who emerged from that climb up racing's ladder is a one dimensional racer boy whose focus on racing has defined his very being. The assumption would be wrong, because it's as if Vickers determined along the way that he would soak it all in, the people he met, the places he visited, the life he experienced while becoming a bona fide race car driver.
"I don't know what would be the perfect word for this, but I consider myself a variety person," he says. "There's not one of any one thing that I like all of. I like a little bit of everything. Like with my music, I don't like just one genre. I don't like just rap. I don't like just country. I don't like just classic. I like the best of all of them."
Variety defines Brian Vickers because for 10 years, variety shaped his life-from Maine to Florida chasing races, from series to series, from town to town, from new situation to new situation. But it wasn't just life on the road that shaped young Brian. His parents, Clyde and Ramona Vickers, instilled well-grounded principles in Brian. You work hard. You do things right. You take responsibility.
"We raised him to understand that you've got to learn to stand on your own two feet, [and] you've got to learn to be responsible for whatever you do or don't do," says Ramona.