For most people, freefalling into the infield at Daytona International Speedway would be a terrifying feat in its own right. But for Red Bull driver Brian Vickers, it's simply a statement of intent to show that he's well and truly back to business as normal.
"This was supposed to happen last season, but since I wasn't able to, it feels great to know I'm healthy enough to jump this year," he said. "I think that's what increases the significance of it for me is that we had this planned last year ... To be able to come back and finish what we started was pretty special."
Vickers was sidelined early last year after doctors found serious blood clots in his left leg, and a heart condition that required surgery. He had to step down from his NASCAR driving for the rest of the 2010 season, and has been taking some time to ease himself back into stockcar racing his year.
The freefall dive into Daytona, then, is a statement asserting that things are finally back to normal and that he's fully back on the top of his game again. "I'm more excited than anything to skydive into Daytona," he said. "I've always wanted to skydive into a track."
The stunt was to help Daytona's PR build up to the Coke Zero 400 on July 2, as track officials are concerned
that the spiralling cost of petrol will put fans off travelling all the day to the race.
"Speedways are pushing to promote events more than they ever have, and drivers are kicking in more, too," said the 27-year-old Vickers, who is unsurprisingly the first NASCAR driver in history to arrive at Daytona this way. "It's a group effort from everyone involved in the sport right now." Brian Keselowski and Ryan Newman are also scheduled to make pre-race publicity appearances to help out the Daytona ticket sales push between now and the race.
However, you strongly suspect that Vickers would do the jump anyway, even without any PR reason to justify it. "I've made about 75 jumps, always solo," he admitted, having been into skydiving since 2007. He'd been hoping to have his team mate Kasey Kahne along for the jump, but Kahne is still recovering from knee surgery.
"It's a rush. I mean, it's equal to driving a race car. It's the only thing I've ever found that's close to driving a race car. The adrenaline, the rush, the excitement. Everything about it," he told NASCAR.com
Managing to pull off the pinpoint accuracy needed to land in an area like the Speedway is no mean feat, either. "It looked tiny, I can assure you ... And not only is it small but there's a lot of stuff to hit around it," he said. "Most drop zones are about that size but there's nothing around them. Here there's grandstands, buildings, light poles, towers, scoring towers, a lot of stuff."