Toyota driver will take a win wherever he can get it
Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s FSU National Championship Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing, talks about Daytona:
What is your outlook for the weekend at Daytona with the FSU National Championship on your Camry?
“Obviously it’s an honor to have FSU and the champions on the car this weekend. It’s pretty cool. We’ve had an opportunity -- Aaron's has presented an opportunity to have some national champions over the years. I’m glad to bring it home to Florida. It’s always great to have the home state -- at least where I live -- on the car and obviously here in Daytona. It always bodes well for the fan interaction. We usually get some pretty great cheers out of it, but it’s cool. What these guys and what this team accomplished is no small feat and the task we have ahead of us this weekend is no small feat. Putting this car in victory lane would obviously mean a lot to the FSU fans, but also to this Aaron’s Dream Machine team and a win at Daytona would be huge. That’s our goal this weekend and we’re going to do everything we can to make it happen.”
How does the July race at Daytona rank compared to other races?
“Besides that it’s really, really, really hot I think that a win at Daytona is a win at Daytona. And, this race has a tremendous amount of meaning. We always put a lot of emphasis on the Daytona 500, but to walk out of here with a trophy and to be in victory lane at Daytona I think still carries a lot of meaning regardless of which race it is.”
What does it say about Aaron’s commitment to work with different college champions and bring a different demographic to NASCAR?
“I think it’s a national emphasis they have on education period. A lot of it is honoring the national champions in this particular situation with FSU, but it also goes deeper than that. I spent this morning a couple hours with at the Boys & Girls Clubs from various regions in this area. We’ve done it a couple times this year. It’s something that they’ve spent a lot of time and energy on to help promote education all the way through to the college level, but also starting really young. We’ve spoken to kids and actually the whole team -- they bring the whole team out. Billy (Scott, crew chief), the engineers, Jeremy (Sharpley) on shocks and Kevin (White) on tires -- and speak to all of these kids about one particular emphasis is STEM. Science, technology, engineering and math program, so it’s something that’s important to them as a company and then obviously their involvement in the sport is important to them as a company and they have a huge fan base here and they try to kind of tie it all together. But, bringing the kids out here and showing them how important an education is into the workplace particularly in this sport is a big part of it. I think this college tie in is all kind of part of that national reach they have to promote education.”
What is your take on the Daytona Rising project after skydiving into Daytona a few years ago?
“It just seems like more things to hit now. Not that there weren’t plenty at the time that I jumped. That was one of the coolest experiences of my life. The opportunity to skydive period is something I’ve really enjoyed, but the opportunity to jump into Daytona was really, really, really cool. At that time we were pushing to actually do it for the race but NASCAR wasn’t a big fan of that one. They were just like, ‘We don’t need you like landing in the grandstands right before the race.’ So, we were able to do it a week or so before the race, but it was a cool experience. It’s a completely different perspective and feeling of the whole track. As far as more specifically your question about Daytona Rising and the upgrade to the facility it’s fantastic. I think it’s great. We’ve seen so many sports complexes around the country as they either get built new or get rebuilt, refurbished and just kind of continually step up the quality for the fans I guess you could say. The quality of entertainment or quality of seating -- like escalators for instance. Something you don’t really see at a lot of NASCAR tracks, but you see it everywhere else. I think it’s fantastic what ISC is doing here at Daytona and I can’t wait to see it at more facilities.”
Do you have a feel for if the teams who are behind this year are behind because of the ride-height rule?
“There’s a constant evolution of the sport of guys adapting to rule changes and pushing rules changes to the boundary and I think that it’s certainly played a lot into what’s going on this year. The ride-height rule change itself I think is good. There’s no reason the car needs to be floating through the air at six inches off the ground when you lose your downforce. I think it just makes it more difficult in traffic so I’m all for the change. I think it’s been a good change and the racing has proven that. As far as which teams tend to adapt to those changes the best, it’s probably the bigger teams. Hendrick is essentially an eight car team. I know there’s a rule that says they’re only supposed to have four but clearly that’s not the case. I mean, they share chassis, they share engineering, they share setups, they share engines, they share pretty much anything with Stewart-Haas so it makes them an eight car team. For that reason they adapt to changes the fastest. They have more tests, they have more time, they have more people working on one problem and if one person figures it out they can share that information among all of them and for that reason they tend to adapt the fastest and are able to push things the furthest.”
Does this race have any special meaning to you being around the Fourth of July?
“Yeah, of course. I mean, I think the Fourth of July race is always big for the sport. A lot of people in NASCAR kind of, I think, think of Daytona and the Daytona July Fourth race especially since it’s going to a night race and the fireworks and what not. There’s a huge contingency in our sport inside the garage and in the stands and even in this room that are very thankful for the freedoms we have as a country and what the July Fourth represents and the men and women that have served to provide that freedom. I know that’s always top of my mind. The reality is I think our sport has proven that it’s kind of top of our mind year round. There’s little events -- Memorial Day and July Fourth where we really emphasize it, but it’s something that me personally and I can speak for everyone in the sport are very appreciative of that and these moments are great to really dive into it and honor it and remember it even more so.”