Friday, April 21, 2006

I Really Want To Like Brian Vickers

Brian Vickers has talent. Of course he does, he’s a Nextel Cup driver. In what has become a very difficult field, Vickers has managed to rack up 5 top tens in his three year Cup career. Aggressive and crafty, he has shown skills consistant with those of Greg Biffle, Jimmy Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon. In short, he is the type of driver who can be expected to be among the best of the top drivers.

But I don’t like him because:
He has a penchant for getting other drivers angry at him, but that has mostly been due to his own inexperience. He does not have a strong first part of the season--it usually takes him somewhere around ten races to get things going. He does not seem to have the level of natural talent of the Busch brothers or Denny Hamlin, so he tends to overdrive a good car and to be somewhat over-aggressive in execution of the Hendrick Motorsports trademark blocking tactics. In spite of his excellent commentary as a panalist on SpeedTV’s Inside Nextel Cup, he does not seem to be a popular subject of interviews, unless he causes a wreck.

Each season, Vickers seems to forget what he learned the previous season. In 2004, at Infineon, his actions on the road course angered Tony Stewart. After that race, Stewart approached Vickers’ car to explain to Vickers what he had been doing wrong. Brian laughed at him, and it was the wrong time to laugh at Smoke, resulting in an incident which netted Tony a large fine and probation. Brian should have listened to Tony, because for most of the 2004 season he aroused the ire of nearly every other Nextel Cup driver. It was only near the end of that season, after an ultimatum from HMS to perform or else, that he settled down and even netted a win. It may have been because of emotion associated with the untimely death of his friend and mentor, Ricky Hendrick, but we hope it doesn’t take that kind of tragedy to inspire any driver.

Then, at the beginning of 2005, he regressed, again being the target of anger from many drivers, including Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, and his own team mate, Jeff Gordon. (Comment from a poster on a forum: "Gordon needs a message on his car that says, 'Caution, team mates in mirror may be more aggressive than they appear.'") But, Vickers began to remember, and by the end of the season even had Tony Stewart apologizing to him, on an occasion in which Smoke accidently retaliated against Brian after the checkered flag.On another occasion, I believe it was at Talledega, Smoke patted him on the head, telling him "good job."

Could I be a fan?
I like Brian Vickers on Inside Nextel Cup. He seems to know what he is talking about, and he takes responsibility for his driving errors. He could be a great driver, if he learns from his mistakes. He should have learned a lot by now, because he has made plenty of mistakes. All good drivers are always in development, from Dale Jarrett to Reid Sorenson, and Vickers should remember that he is always developing. I don't know if Vickers has a long future with HMS, but I think he is too good a driver to be relegated back to the Busch series, unless he wants to do double duty to learn more, as Kevin Harvick is doing this year. At any rate, the HMS style of aggressive racing does not seem to suit Vickers well.

I would like to see what Brian Vickers could do on a different team. Perhaps he could try his luck with another team sometime in the future. I would nominate him for the Team Toyota, or maybe even to take the seat in the #88 car in 2009, after Dale Jarrett's planned retirement. If he gets away from HMS, and shows what he is capable of, I may become a fan.

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