Michael Waltrip Racing has confirmed the long-expected news that Brian Vickers will once more be a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver again in 2014, with MWR and sponsors Aaron's announcing a full 36-race deal for the 29-year-old driver next season.
"This is a big announcement today because it shows a tremendous vote of confidence in the sport of NASCAR and the entire Michael Waltrip Racing organisation,” said the eponymous team co-owner and driver, Michael Waltrip.
Vickers won the 2003 Nationwide Series championship before moving to full-time Cup competition with Hendrick Motorsports. He subsequently accepted an offer to join the newly-formed Red Bull Racing team in 2007, but in May 2010 was forced to pull out of that year's competition after being diagnosed with a serious medical condition that left him with blood clots in his lungs and legs.
After responding to treatment which included heart surgery, Vickers returned to RBR in 2011 only to be rocked to learn that the team was to completely pull out of US stock car competition at the end of that season. That left him without a full time ride, although he accepted an offer from Michael Waltrip to drive the team's #55 car for ten Cup races per year as relief for veteran driver Mark Martin who was moving to a part-time schedule.
That set Vickers up as heir apparent to the wheel of the #55 once Martin's contract with MWR came to an end, and last month Vickers pressed home that claim to the seat by winning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, after 75 races between visits to victory lane. That win seemed to be enough to reassure retail chain Aaron's that Vickers was the right man to carry their colours full time in 2014.
"The victory in New Hampshire certainly helped," said Aaron's director of sports marketing Rich Lamprey when asked. "Brian was a true competitor there. He really got up on the wheel and drove his heart out. It proved something to us, and that was a big moment."
“We at Aaron's are thrilled about this partnership," said Ronald W Allen, chairman, president and CEO of the home appliance, furniture and electronics, retail chain. "We're building a championship organization – and we know that Brian Vickers and the #55 team, under Michael Waltrip's tradition of winning, are focused on building a championship calibre team.
"So many of our customers are enthusiastic and loyal NASCAR fans and we are proud to be a part of a sport they are passionate about," Allen added. "We are looking forward to continued success with Brian Vickers both on and off the track."
Vickers said that he was delighted to be back in full time Cup competition, after filling out his 2013 schedule with a return to the Nationwide Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.