Racing is No. 1 for teen

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

CONCORD, N.C. -- Brian Vickers didn't go to his senior prom, and he didn't partake in a yearbook-signing party. About the only ritual for high school seniors that he plans to join is graduation if there's no traffic.

His biggest priority is his No. 40 Engineered Machined Pro ducts/U.S. Army Dodge and the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

If everything goes as planned, Vickers will drive his car during a final practice session Friday afternoon, then drive 55 miles to participate in graduation ceremonies for Trinity High.

His presence is requested: He's an honor student with a 4.43 grade point average.

At 18, Vickers barely escaped NASCAR's new minimum age requirement. But to race 24 times on the Busch Series this year, his father established a tough guide line: a 3.0 grade point average.

''It's been difficult, going to school and racing," Vickers said. "It took a lot of scheduling to get the whole thing balanced. And probably, having to do both took a little bit from both.''

The final week of high school has been hectic. Not only has Vick ers completed final exams, but he also has practiced for Sat urday's main event. But he knows Saturday, when the command is given to start the en gines, his sole focus will be racing.

''This whole growing-up thing has hit me (quickly),'' he said. ''A lot of people get 15 years to do what I've had to do in just one or two years, as far as figuring it all out. It took a lot of hard work, but I had to stay with it.''

MOTOR MOUTH: Nobody thought much about Kurt Busch's fourth-place finish at last week's The Winston all-star race until the 23-year-old driver started talking. Now everyone's listening, particularly NASCAR.

The driver admitted he spun Robby Gordon during the final 20-lap segment so he would have a better chance at catching race leader Ryan Newman.

Bumping and grinding is part of the game, especially in a non-point all-star race, but the admission of causing a crash is something else.

''It was just a good learning deal for us, and we had a shot at the win and hated to use Robby Gordon as a yellow, but I think we needed a yellow there at the end,'' Busch said after the race. ''Cars were checking up. (Tony) Stewart got a little loose in the middle of one, Robby Gordon got underneath him. When two cars race side by side, that third car picks up the draft. He got loose right before I hit him. I bumped him. That's part of it. I think we needed a yellow so we could put on a good show there at the end.''

Said NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter after hearing the confession: ''It's safe to say we're looking into it.''

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