Brian Vickers, driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota, took a break from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and paid a visit Wednesday to the Blackwater training centre near Norfolk, Va.
In the seventh installment of his Chase diary, Vickers talks about the weapons and evasive driving training he received at Blackwater, a tactical training and security company; his strong eleventh-place run last Sunday at 0.526-mile Martinsville (which left him twelfth in the standings, 530 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson); and his approach to Sunday's Amp Energy 500 at 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, where he hopes to avoid the seemingly inevitable multicar accident by racing at the front of the field.
Vickers claimed the first of his two Sprint Cup victories at Talladega in 2006.
“Blackwater has a U.S. training centre here where they actually train a lot of military, they train law enforcement and they just opened it up to private citizens. You have to have a background check, security checks, things like that to make sure they don't train the wrong guys.
“A friend (of mine) knows the owner, and we all went up there — a group of us — and they gave us some handgun and rifle training, safety training … made us better and safer with them. They gave us some highway evasive manoeuvre training, which was pretty cool, pretty fun. We were in these cars just learning how to be more safe on the road — if kids jump out in front of your vehicles, if you get run off the road, avoiding accidents, all kinds of good stuff …
“I threw a couple of thoughts in here and there. What I do and what they do are two different things, but from a driving standpoint, it was a lot of fun. The whole group learned a lot about car management and how to avoid situations back on the road.
“We got back on track (at Martinsville). On Sunday, we had a good car, we were quick in the race, and we ran up front most of the day, and it was good. I think we're starting to get our mojo back. We didn't get the finish I felt like we deserved — we had a top-five car and we finished eleventh — but there at the end we pitted, and a lot of guys stayed out, and we didn't have time to get back up to the front with all the cautions. But we still ran good, and I was proud of that.
“Tyres were (important), and I think that's great. That makes for great racing. It really dices things up. The past several years, the guys who stayed out seemed to be able to hold position, and track position was more important than tires, but this year, tires were more important, and I think it made a great race.
“Going from Martinsville to Talladega, from a half-mile to a 2-mile, I think is kind of cool. I like the variety. I like the changeup, going from one extreme to the other, and, obviously, I love Talladega. It's one of the tracks I've always enjoyed.
“Talladega's always tough because of the lack of control of the (racing) environment, but that's really true everywhere. I think the difference between Talladega and most other racetracks is that (when) people make mistakes at Talladega it's just bigger, because everybody's in a pack. We've wrecked just as much, if not more, at other racetracks, but at Talladega, we're so bunched up and going so fast that it's just a bigger crash. That's what makes it more out of control, because it's easier to get caught up in someone else's mistake.
“I think leading's the best way (to stay out of trouble). There's really not much you can do. You can drive back behind the field, like half the racetrack, and you'll avoid some problems, but you'll also go a lap down, and you're not going to win the race. The best way I've found is just be in the lead. That's easier said than done — it's almost impossible to lead at Talladega the whole race, but there's not a lot you can do. Being in the back of the pack — if you're going to stay up with the pack and not lose the draft — if you're staying close enough to keep the draft, you're just putting yourself more at risk, because now you're behind the wreck instead of in front of it.”
As told to Reid Spencer