A skydive into Daytona International Speedway has been a year in the making for Brian Vickers.
The plan was for Vickers to perform a solo skydive into the tri-oval of Daytona — the first NASCAR driver to do so — to help promote Daytona’s Independence Day race in 2010.
The vision finally came to fruition Wednesday when Vickers, after overcoming a blood-clot condition that ended his 2010 season early, made a solo skydive into the track from 5,000 feet.
“This has been a long time coming,” Vickers said. “It increases the significance of the jump for me personally. We had this planned last year and had to cancel due to my health issues, so to come back and finish what we started is really special. There were times last year when I didn’t know if I would ever be able to race cars or go skydiving again. This was a huge accomplishment.”
And jumping into 2.5-mile Daytona is no easy feat, even for a skydive enthusiast such as Vickers, who has performed 75-plus solo jumps.
"This was definitely the toughest jump I have done. It’s a hard landing, it’s a tight drop zone."
“This was definitely the toughest jump I have done,” he said. “It’s a hard landing, it’s a tight drop zone. The first time I got under canopy and looked around to see the drop zone, I looked to the left and right and I saw grandstands, buildings, light poles, scoring towers — there is a lot of stuff to hit around here. I’m very proud I did it.”
To add to the difficulty of the task — cue the rain.
“I’d never jumped in the rain before, but the weather wasn’t getting any better, so we decided to go for it,” Vickers said. “Once you get under canopy the rain isn’t bad at all. The only problem is sticking the landing when you are sliding through water and mud and grass — and tarps. It was like a slip and slide. It was fun.”
Since his first skydive in 2007, Vickers always wondered what it would be like to jump into a race track — to see a different perspective after all the miles spent going in circles inside the facility.
"Daytona was incredible from the air. Absolutely beautiful."
“Daytona was incredible from the air. Absolutely beautiful,” Vickers said. “This is an amazing, impressive facility when you are standing here on the ground, but at 5,000 feet, it’s gorgeous.”
Always the thrill-seeker, Vickers seeks the same rush from skydiving as he does from racing cars.
“There are a lot of similarities. That anticipation, that rush when you get suited up and put your harness on to get ready for a jump is similar to the anticipation before a race,” Vickers said. “When that green flag drops, it’s like when you jump out of an airplane. What a rush and the butterflies you get in the pit of your stomach.”
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