Championship season for Vickers
Every driver dreams of having the chance I've been given -- to have the equipment, the knowledge and the support of a first-class organization like Hendrick Motorsports. What more could I possibly ask for?
At the beginning of the year, we went to Daytona confident but realistic. After all, this was my first full season with the team and none of us really knew what to expect -- especially me. We finished 42nd in the race and left with more questions than answers, but all of us on the GMAC team were still optimistic.
Looking back, on the bright side of it all, we didn't have anywhere to go but up. I think the way we rebounded from that really set the tone for the remainder of the season.
From the beginning, our goals were simple -- finish every lap and try to stay out of trouble. If we did those things, we knew everything else would take care of itself.
The race at Texas in March was really a turning point for us as a team. Regardless of the outcome, we came away knowing we could win. To be that close just made us more hungry and more determined.
Race after race, we built more confidence and started to really establish some consistency during the summer months that helped put us in a position to contend for the NASCAR Busch Series championship. After finishing second a couple of times, we eventually broke through to win our first race at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Coming so close earlier in the season made winning that much more special.
After that victory, I think people started taking us seriously as championship contenders, but we never really paid attention, maybe because we didn't know better. Through it all we never changed our goals and eventually won two more races (Darlington and Dover) before the season ended.
With that in mind, our group of guys performed like a true championship team during the remaining months of the season. We had our fair share of ups and downs -- just like everyone else -- but we never gave up. Who would've thought we would be a part of one of the closest point battles in Busch Series history, let alone go on to win the championship?
To have a half-dozen drivers in contention for the title going into the last race at Homestead was unbelievable. In a way, the points race helped relieve some of the pressure because the spotlight was focused on six of us, instead of just one or two.
I've competed in some big races and typically handle pressure pretty well, but I have to admit, I was more nervous before the start of the Homestead race than any other race I have ever competed in. The entire event was like a game of cat and mouse. My spotter and crew chief did a great job of letting me know what was going on behind me and in front of me. Toward the end, I was focused on David Green and tried to mirror his every move, knowing the championship was hanging in the balance.
When that checkered flag dropped, it was a huge relief knowing we had just won the 2003 Busch Series title. It was a lot of fun and nervewracking at the same time. I'm just so proud of everyone who helped contribute to the championship -- the great folks at GMAC, everyone at Hendrick Motorsports, my friends and family. The list goes on.
With all of the trophies that Hendrick Motorsports has earned over the years, being able to deliver Hendrick Motorsports its first Busch Series championships will always rank as one of the highlights of my life. It was truly a team effort from top to bottom.
2003 was an amazing year, but I'm looking forward to taking some time to catch my breath and visit with friends and family before it all starts over again. And when it does, I guarantee you I'll be ready to tackle the challenge of competing in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2004.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my season with you this year. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday season!
Brian Vickers drove the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series this year and the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. He provided a diary to ESPN.com throughout the 2003 NASCAR season. Vickers' personal Web site can be found at www.brianvickers.com or go to www.hendrickmotorsports.com for team information