So here's something that Richard Petty probably never did: On Thursday afternoon, Brian Vickers decided to kill a little time before the Bristol race by swinging through Atlanta and swimming with the sharks (and rays, and fish, and whatnot) at the Georgia Aquarium.
Vickers, a noted action sports enthusiast, skydived into Daytona International Speedway earlier this year, so swimming with beasts the size of Sprint Cup cars wasn't exactly out of character.
"One thing that made it really special," Vickers said, was "the thought of doing this with sharks and all these incredible fish in this beautiful, almost ocean-like experience in downtown Atlanta kind of makes it a cool experience. You can scuba dive over and swim to the glass and wave to the people and it's actually one of the best diving experiences I've ever had."
He conceded to a bit of nervousness at being around the sharks — "fortunately, I didn't have a stick to go poke them with, because I may have tried" — but ended up with one hell of a swim.
Of course, this wasn't just a dip for the sake of a dip; Vickers was in town to promote next weekend's Advocare 500. And he has high praise for Atlanta Motor Speedway: "I love coming to Atlanta at night and just being in night races. There's just something about the sparks flying in the lights and everything that make night racing good in my opinion."
But AMS requires preparation: "Getting around Atlanta in a fast way is a bit of a challenge because not only is the surface old, it's worn out," he said. "There's bumps, there's jumps at times it feels like, but it's a very fast race track. You have to really have the car prepared properly and really set up well and handle well and comfortable so that you can push and hustle a car at Atlanta, because you pretty much almost have to drive off the right rear, especially when you get along the wall as the tires start to fall off [in performance]."
Of course, there's an issue even larger than those whale sharks looming over Vickers right now: where he'll race next year. When asked by a particularly nosy reporter — yep, right here — if he has any possible info to report on a 2012 ride, Vickers looked for a moment as if he'd like to toss said reporter in with the sharks. But he recovered and simply said, "Nope."
Vickers noted the importance of sponsorship in today's NASCAR: "Obviously, any good team needs good funding," he said. "Sponsorship is a huge part of it. We're fortunate to be in a sport where they get a lot of return. Unfortunately, we're not in a good environment, I think economically the business environment to attract sponsors. But the return on investment still far outweighs the cost in my opinion."
Vickers is, by all accounts, the best available free agent remaining aside from Clint Bowyer, but there's still much to be done before we know exactly where he'll end up. At least we know that if he ever puts a car into Lake Lloyd at Daytona International Speedway, he'll be just fine.
For more info on the Atlanta race, hit atlantamotorspeedway.com.