Brian Vickers to drive MWR No. 55 car full-time beginning in 2014

Jared Wickerham

With inclusive sponsorship from Aaron’s, Brian Vickers will drive the No. 55 car full-time the next two years for Michael Waltrip racing.

Aaron's likes to call the No. 55 car it sponsors the "Dream Machine," but for Brian Vickers the opportunity to return to the Sprint Cup Series full-time is no longer just a dream, it has become a reality.

Beginning with the 2014 season, Vickers will no longer rideshare the No. 55 Toyota fielded by Michael Waltrip Racing. He will now be the car's exclusive driver having signed a two-year contract with MWR.

The news gives Vickers the stability he was looking for after a tumultuous few years.

"This is, for me, a very special moment, something I wasn't sure would happen again," Vickers said Tuesday during the press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

"This is, for me, a very special moment, something I wasn't sure would happen again," Vickers said

One year removed from qualifying for the Chase for the first time in his career, Vickers was diagnosed with blood clots in May 2010. He was sidelined for the remaining 25 races and there was question whether he would ever race again.

Following heart surgery, Vickers was given a clean bill of health and returned the subsequent season. But more adversity was ahead, as his Red Bull Racing team shutdown at the end of 2011.

With few rides available, Vickers' once promising career had seemingly stalled.

A call from Michael Waltrip, however, provided a lifeline as MWR needed a driver to fill-in the gaps when Mark Martin wanted a weekend off.

It wasn't much, but it was something, and Vickers seized the moment. And whenever called upon he continually produced, including a victory last month at New Hampshire when he snapped a drought of 139 races without a win.

Although that victory alone didn't convince Aaron's to extend its association, it did play a part. In the end, the company upped its financial commitment and will be the sole primary sponsor on the 55 car in all 36 races for the next two years.

Signing Aaron's and bringing on Vickers full-time were the first two steps for MWR. The next is securing the services of crew chief Rodney Childers, who has been rumored to be in demand elsewhere in the garage. But Waltrip said Tuesday the team is "really close" to signing Childers to an extension, ensuring the 55 team will remain intact.

If the organization can keep Childers, and with Vickers already proven he's capable of taking the 55 car to Victory Lane, this has the makings of a formidable team that should contend for a Chase spot in 2014.

As for what happens to the guy Vickers is replacing remains to be seen. Even at age 54, Martin has remained adamant that he isn't retiring and would like to continue to run Cup part-time.

Waltrip's preference is to keep Martin within the organization in an undefined capacity. The co-owner of MWR gives Martin large credit for taking the team to new heights.

For now, though, Martin's future role with the team remains up in the air.

"We've talked a lot and we haven't made any formal decision," Waltrip said. "He certainly has put his footprint all over our company with the role he has played the last two years.

"He's just been a huge part of who we are today."

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