Brian Vickers to drive No. 55 car
Vickers officially was introduced on Tuesday as the driver of the No. 55 in 2014 with primary sponsor Aaron's signed to a new two-year deal.
Although driver's contracts typically run concurrent with the sponsor, MWR general manager Ty Norris said Vickers is expected to be with the organization for a "long, long time.''
Team owner Michael Waltrip said crew chief Rodney Childers, a big part of the No. 55 team's emergence with Vickers and veteran Mark Martin splitting the ride the past two seasons, also is close to a long-term deal.
"Brian and Rodney have a great relationship,'' Waltrip said during the announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "They have a lot of harmony and confidence in each other. We plan on the whole team being back together.'' Waltrip made it clear early in the process that the 29-year-old Vickers was his choice for the 55. But with Ronald W. Allen taking over as the new chief executive officer of Aaron's, the company had to evaluate its place in NASCAR.
In the end, Allen was all-in with Vickers.
"As Michael said, he's a real competitor,'' Allen said. "He wants to win races.''
Did Vickers' win at New Hampshire, his third career win on the Sprint Cup level, seal the deal?
"That wasn't necessary for him to win that race, but it didn't hurt,'' Allen said.
The deal completes a full comeback for Vickers, whose career was in jeopardy in 2010 when doctors discovered blood clots in one of his legs and lungs that sidelined him for the rest of that season.
"There was a time when I wondered if I would ever race again, much less win a race,'' said Vickers, who was with now-defunct Red Bull Racing at the time.
Vickers turned down a chance to drive full-time for a less competitive team in 2013 hoping for this opportunity. He said the offers for 2014 were even better.
There was speculation the longer MWR waited to announce its deal that Joe Gibbs Racing, which employs Vickers full-time in the Nationwide Series and put him in the No. 11 Cup car for three races while Denny Hamlin recovered from an early-season back injury, might come into play with a fourth team.
Vickers wouldn't comment, saying only there were "some really good options that you had to consider.'' But Vickers said he never really considered any options as long as he knew the opportunity to stay with Childers and the 55 team was there.
"Ultimately, my heart was here,'' he said.
He would like to find a sponsor that would fill the 15 and sponsor him for the Daytona 500 that he has won twice. While Waltrip was unsure whether Martin would play a role with the organization next year, he made it clear the organization wouldn't be where it is today had the 54-year-old driver not come on board part-time two years ago.
"He certainly has put his footprint on the company,'' Waltrip said. "He's been a huge part of who we are today.''
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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