With three Top-10 finishes in his first four races of the season, including a fifth place finish in the Kobalt Tools 500 last Sunday, NASCAR driver Brian Vickers is enjoying life in the fast lane.SI Kids chatted with Vickers about what it takes to win a race, his goals for the season, and how he keeps his fans happy.
You already have three top tens this season, so you’re setting yourself a pretty fast pace.What do you think your chances are for making the Sprint Cup [the “postseason” of racing] this year?
Well I think we’re definitely capable of it and I think it’s very possible.You know in this sport you never know until you’re there.There are so many things that are out of your control.But I think we’ve established ourselves and I think this team is capable of it.
What are some specific things that you’ll need to do to get there?
Well I think we’ve got to not beat ourselves.We can’t continue to make the mistakes that we’ve made over the past couple years. We can’t make the same mistakes we’ve made this year.You know we’ve had some bad pit stops that put us a lap down, we’ve blown several engines, we had to start last in California [at the Auto Club 500] when we were on the pole.You know, but fortunately we didn’t blow them in the race and that’s really what saved us.And we’ve recovered from those problems we’ve had, you know we lost an alternator belt in Vegas and had to pit in the back and then we came back to the front.So we recovered from that.But those are the kinds of mistakes that can take you out of an event.You know they took us out of event races last year and they have in the past. So we’ve got to get a handle on that.I think we’ve got good speed in our cars and we just need to be there at the end of the races and race smart.
How do you mentally recover from something like the crash [with Dale Earnhardt Jr.]? you had at the Daytona 500
Pretty easily, actually.I mean stuff like that doesn’t bother me a whole lot.I can move on from those things.I think it’s part of my personality. I mean some people can, some people can’t.But it’s never been a big issue for me to just, you know to move on.I mean it does bother me. I mean of course being in a wreck upsets me, especially when you have a good car.But I try not to let those things affect my daily life.I mean you can’t just stomp around mad the rest of the day, the rest of the week because of a wreck.There’s no reason to get mad.If it bothers you that much, get even.But don’t get mad about it.Emotionally I think you just have to move on and focus on what’s at hand.The best way to move on is to go run well and that’s what we did in California [at the Auto Club 500, where Vickers finished fifth]. That’s the easiest way to move on.
Do you think your level-headedness and your ability to overcome tough situations are two of your biggest strengths as a racer?
I those are some of my strengths for sure, in life and racing.But there’s definitely times when being more emotional wouldn’t be a bad thing, where I do get fired up and just overdrive the car.I mean you sometimes overdrive the car and go faster.Now if I had to choose between the two I’d rather be the way I am because I think most of the time when you get mad and you overdrive the car you just end up wrecking it or you make a mistake.
This year has been pretty unpredictable.Jimmie Johnson [who has won the Sprint Cup for the past three years in a row] is in 19th place in the Sprint Cup standings [as of March 9th he is now in 13th place]. Carl Edwards hasn’t won yet.How do you think the season will pan out?
That’s a great question.I don’t know.It has been unpredictable, but at the same time it’s been predictable too.I feel like the good cars are still running good, although they haven’t finished great.I mean Jimmie Johnson was obviously the dominant car in Vegas.You know they made some mistakes as a team and they didn’t finish where they should have.
You have a new social networking site [www.clubvickers.com].How did you come up with the idea and how comfortable are you with sharing personal information with your fans?
Well, I mean there’s obviously a lot of personal information I don’t put on there.But, I mean I try to offer as much personal information as I possibly can in a comfortable manner.I think Clubvickers.com is very similar to MySpace and Facebook.You can chat, post photos, things like that. It’s just turned out great.It’s just different forms of communication with the fans and building that relationship on a racing level, and on more of a personal level.It really started out as wanting to offer something more creative to the fans and wanting to build a close relationship with them.So we decided to open up already existing Facebook and MySpace pages, you know to not just friends, but fans.It’s great, it’s a good problem to have but my office has had to help me with it now.It’s still me, it’s still my pictures and thoughts and expressions, but we get one hundred “friend requests” a day on each site.That’s two hundred combined between the two sites.Obviously when I’m going 200 miles an hour on the track in Atlanta I’m not going to be able to respond to 200 friend requests.Which is a good thing.I’m not complaining.I want the fans to continue, but the office is doing a great job of helping me out and I’m trying to be as involved as I can be.It’s been a great experience and I hope the fans enjoy it just as much.
Did you create your site in response to requests from the fans on message boards, or was this just your idea?
No, I think it was just an idea.I don’t really think there was anything like it.We were brainstorming about how to make the website better and at the time these websites [Facebook and MySpace] were really exploding and taking off and we said why not utilize it?
Are you one of the few racers that have this type of site?Do any others have sites like yours?
I’m not aware, but there very well could be.I don’t know.
And lastly, I read that you were a “tech-geek.” What other gadgets and technology are you into?
I mean computers, first and foremost. Just any kind of technology, gadgetry.I’m a fan of Microsoft and I respect them for all the things they’ve accomplished, but I really have become an Apple lover.I’ve fallen in love with their product design, its simplicity and quality.But I feel just as comfortable on a Microsoft system as well.
Has that been a lifelong passion or is it something recent?
No, I’d say it’s a lifelong passion.When I was in elementary school, I enjoyed computers and I liked to watch the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.But that’s not all my passion.That’s just one thing.I love to get as far away from technology sometimes as well.I love to read a book.I love to be outdoors and mountain bike.I like to be outdoors as much as possible.I think you’ve got to find a balance in life and you’ve got to be cautious not to get caught up in a fake world and computers. MySpace and these things are great, but you’ve got to go outside and meet real people and interact with them.You can’t just live on a computer.As much as I love technology, I love nothing more than interacting with people, and traveling, and being outdoors.