By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Brian Vickers wanted to run at least one Nationwide Series race this season, but he needed the approval of his Red Bull Racing Sprint Cup team to do so.
For one thing, Vickers wanted to preserve his past champion's status. NASCAR rules state that, in order to retain eligibility for a past champion's provisional starting position, a driver must participate in the series in the preceding year. Vickers won the Nationwide title in 2003 but has not raced in the series this year.
His prospects changed markedly on Tuesday, when Turner Motorsports called Vickers and asked him to run the next two races in the No. 32 Chevrolet, at Kansas and Charlotte. Vickers will replace Reed Sorenson, who was released from his ride on Tuesday despite holding third place in the championship standings.
Vickers, who missed the last six months of the 2010 season while recovering from blood clots in his legs and lungs, had to get approval from Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
"It was completely sudden," Vickers told Sporting News on Tuesday, during a break in Sprint Cup testing at Phoenix International Raceway. "I wanted to run a Nationwide race before the year was over. Red Bull hadn't been letting me run Nationwide this season, for whatever reason.
"A week or two ago, I asked Dietrich - first time I'd asked him; I'd been dealing with middle management - if I could run a Nationwide race, because I wanted to have past champion's for next year. He was like, ‘Yeah, of course, no problem.'"
Though Kansas and Charlotte are the only confirmed races on Vickers' schedule now, he'd like to run more than two Nationwide events. With the Red Bull team up for sale and its future uncertain, Vickers is keeping his options open for next year.
Turner was a logical fit, because Vickers raced 41 times for the organization in its Braun Racing incarnation (before Steve Turner assumed ownership from Todd Braun).
"I reached out to a lot of owners, ones I knew, and the ones that had Nationwide programs," Vickers said. "Obviously, driving for Turner all the years at Braun, I reached out and said, ‘Hey, I'd love to run a race before the end of the year, if anything comes up. ...
"I was thinking like maybe they'd add a fourth car for the last race, and then (Turner Motorsports general manager) T.J. (Puchyr) called me yesterday afternoon and said, ‘Would you consider running sooner than Homestead?' I said, ‘Yeah, of course.' And they let me know this morning. They asked me if I'd run the next couple of races, and I said ‘Sure.' So it was kind of a last-minute deal.