Post race press conference highlights with '03 Busch Series Champion, Brian Vickers, No. 5 GMAC Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Team Owner, Ricky Hendrick: Note: There were six drivers contending for the Busch Series championship at the season finale.
Post race press conference highlights with '03 Busch Series Champion, Brian Vickers, No. 5 GMAC Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Team Owner, Ricky Hendrick:
Note: There were six drivers contending for the Busch Series championship at the season finale. At the age of 20, Brian Vickers is the youngest NASCAR Busch Series champion in series history, which also makes him the youngest champion in all three of NASCAR's touring divisions. This marks the 12th drivers championship for Chevrolet to date (1982 - present).
BRIAN VICKERS: "It was a great day for us. It was a year ago at this time that Ricky was fighting to get me in the car. I appreciate it and all the support from Hendrick Motorsports. This is the best organization out there and the support we got from GMAC and Chevrolet made all the difference. This team never gave up. We had some down times. We left Daytona 42nd in points and ended the year in first. I'm so proud of our team. I'm usually a very calm person and don't get nervous very often. But today was probably one of the most nerve-wracking races I've ever had.
"We got a lap down early on. I was obviously at the right place at the right time but it seemed like it was getting ready to be at the wrong place at the right time. We had people push us up into the marbles, we had wrecks in front of us left and right. The biggest thing today was that I kept to the simple goal we had all year long which was to be there at the end of the race, stay out of trouble and complete every lap of every race. We did that today."
Q: How hard was it to convince Ricky's father, Rick Hendrick, to go forward with this program?
RICKY HENDRICK: "It was tough. I thought Brian had the talent to get the job done and that he had the whole package for the organization. If you look at my stats and look at his stats, there was no comparison. My father already had somebody else on his mind and was getting pretty close to the contract.
"He and I had a conversation and I pretty much told him that these were my cars and my deal, and if he wanted me to be a part of it then this was what I wanted to do. If not, and you want to choose your own driver, then you can go ahead but it'll be your deal. And either I was going to get written out of the will and written out of my job, or he was going to go with it. And he went with it."
BRIAN VICKERS: "To me, that was the day that Ricky became the car owner. The day that he stood up to his father, which is probably the hardest thing that a man can ever do, and said that this is the way he wanted it was the day he became the car owner. I'm proud of Ricky and what he's accomplished this year as a car owner. I had a lot of respect for him when we raced together. I hated to see him leave the sport but in the long run, it has seemed to work out the best for both of us."
Q: Have you been to all the tracks yet?
BRIAN VICKERS: "Not the Cup tracks. Obviously, I've been to all the Busch tracks. Pocono, Indy, Martinsville, the two road courses are the ones I haven't been to."
Q: Did you know where you needed to finish in order to win the championship and did that affect your driving?
BRIAN VICKERS: "Yeah. It seemed like they wanted to race the point leader as hard as they could today. There were some guys who helped us out. And there were some that didn't. I understand that. We had a couple of close calls and the car was on the free side anyway. It got a lot better at the end. But any time somebody was on my outside or around me a lot - especially when they were really close on the outside - the car would get really loose. I definitely didn't want to lose this championship by making a mistake and getting sideways and losing it in the fence. At the end, we had people constantly figuring out where we needed to be and where David (Green) was. It was like cat and mouse to keep pace. When he passed a car, we had to pass a car just to stay in the point lead. We finally found our groove there and were both out of traffic and where we wanted to be just to stay away from all the mess."
Q: Did you have any timetable in mind for Brian Vickers considering his Cup possibilities?
RICKY HENDRICK: "At the time we signed the contract, we wanted consecutive top 10's and some top fives. We were praying for a win. But we didn't know he would come on that strong. By the third race we knew it was a different program than what we were expecting. Everybody stayed focused. We didn't expect to have this much success this early. He adapts to race cars and tracks quickly. We had our ups and downs and luckily we came out on top."
Q: Are you two good friends?
BRIAN VICKERS: "We've become real close friends and I'm proud of that. We grew up in a similar background. We've come to know each other very well. We have a good business relationship. We have a friendship similar to Mr. Hendrick and Jeff Gordon. But when it comes to business we can separate the two."
RICKY HENDRICK: "The friendship side helps out a lot. It takes more than just the driver to get in the car and drive around. You've got to keep everybody happy. Chemistry is key. When you get somebody with a good personality, that's half the battle right there in having a successful team."
Q: How do you plan to celebrate your victory?
BRIAN VICKERS: "I'm sure we can find something to do. We're in Miami, right?"
Q: With the wild Truck race yesterday, did that play on your mind today with what happened to Brendan Gaughan and Ted Musgrave?
BRIAN VICKERS: "Oh yeah, a lot. We watched the race yesterday and I thought that was the same thing that's been happening in the Busch Series. For the past two months, nobody has been able to keep the lead for more than one race. I'm a very superstitious guy and that makes it worse."
Q: Speaking of what happened to Musgrave yesterday, was the Texas race a turning point for you?
BRIAN VICKERS: "Yeah, it was. NASCAR made the call they felt they needed to make in Texas and they made it again yesterday. I didn't quite understand it or agree with it at the time, but I respected it. They were consistent with that rule. A lot of people told me that could turn around and be the best thing that ever happened to me and in a lot of ways it was. The support and respect I got from other drivers all played into a key role here at the end of the year. It was the turning point for everybody."
Q: What will you do with all your winnings?
BRIAN VICKERS: "Split it with my car owner - or rather he'll split it with me. I haven't looked at it but I'm sure it's much more than any 20 year old has had the opportunity to win and I'm very thankful for that. I've got a lot of things I want to do and contributing to the Victory Junction Gang Camp on behalf of Adam (Petty) is one of them."