DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A racy profile in Maxim magazine portrayed Brian Vickers as a hard-partying playboy with a voracious appetite for life in the fast lane.
It raised more than a few eyebrows in NASCAR's garage area at Daytona International Speedway, particularly a line that claimed Vickers is the greatest driver never to win a Sprint Cup championship. Although the line was written by the author, the general tone of the article had rival drivers giggling at his bravado.
``He has never lacked confidence,'' five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson said Wednesday. ``I felt like that came through in the article, too.''
Vickers, who is sponsored by energy drink Red Bull, was forced out of NASCAR last season after doctors found clots in his leg and lungs. Treatment included blood thinners, two procedures to close a hole in his heart and the insertion of a stent into his left leg. He considered quitting, but ultimately decided to return for the 2011 season.
According to Maxim, he also took up a hard-living lifestyle. In the article, he calls four-time series champion Jeff Gordon - a married father of two - to come out and party in New York City and complains that Gordon is no longer fun.
``All I can say is that's not for me,'' Gordon said. ``I've had great times over the years, but I'm a family guy and I try to represent my sponsors in the way they want to be represented. And it is different for him. He's young, single, he's got Red Bull as his sponsor. I don't know how (NASCAR) would perceive it.
``What I was going to say to him is the next time he's out with a writer from Maxim magazine and he's having a good time, he can forget my phone number or about calling me to join them.''
Vickers, a one-time champion on NASCAR's second-tier series, had two career Cup victories and a career-best finish of 12th in points (2009).
Gordon and Johnson are both former teammates of Vickers, who now drives for Red Bull Racing.
FIXED FUSS: ESPN's motorsports division distanced itself from commentator Tony Kornheiser's suggestion that NASCAR is fixed because Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole for the Daytona 500.
``I can tell you for sure that ESPN doesn't agree with his opinion,'' said Rich Feinberg, the network's vice president of motorsports. ``But that's the nature of commentary, and not all the time are we going to get a rosy picture when people are offering their opinions.''
Three-time Daytona 500 champion Dale Jarrett was angered by the insinuation, which Kornheiser made Tuesday when he said, ``there are people in and around the NASCAR world, not just drivers but people who cover the sport as well, who are winking at this one.''
Jarrett insisted it's far too difficult for NASCAR to rig its races, and intimating otherwise is an insult to the teams that work so hard for NASCAR's biggest race of the season.
``To set something up, there's too many people that would have to be involved,'' said Jarrett, now an ESPN analyst. ``You couldn't keep something like that quiet. It's unfair to the competitors and to the people who work their tails off to put a quality product out there. We have a very good sport with a lot of integrity out there and to have it questioned is unfortunate.''
ESPN broadcasts the entire second-tier Nationwide Series, and the second half of the elite Sprint Cup Series. It's contract includes nine of the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship races.
The network struggled with ratings last season, particularly during its 1 p.m. Chase races, which squared off against the NFL. Asked if it was counterproductive for ESPN to have programming that lampooned NASCAR, Feinberg acknowledged it makes motorsports' job more difficult.
``It presents challenges for us, and we have to work our way through that,'' he said.
THE NEXT ELLIOTT: Hendrick Motorsports has signed the 15-year-old son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott to a driver development deal.
Chase Elliott, a high school freshman, will receive support from Hendrick Motorsports as he races Chevrolets for Bill Elliott Racing. His schedule this year is expected to be a combination of super late model, pro late model and NASCAR regional touring series events this season.
Last week, NASCAR lowered the age limit to 15 for its regional touring series events. Drivers must be 18 to compete in NASCAR's national series.
``The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree with Chase,'' Rick Hendrick said of the son of NASCAR's 1988 champion.
``I've always admired Bill's ability in a race car and how he handled himself with the fans. I see those same traits in Chase, with his natural driving talent and an awareness of what he needs to do away from the track to be successful. He comes from a great racing family, and it shows. We think it's a terrific situation.''
Chase Elliott won 13 late model races last year and had 37 top-10 finishes in 40 starts. He's already 2 for 2 in 2011 after sweeping the Speedfest late-model features last month at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga.
SUPER GUEST: Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packers fan Travis Kvapil will have safety Nick Collins as his guest for the Daytona 500.
Collins is a Florida native and attended Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. He worked at times on the cleanup crew at the speedway.
``It's a privilege to be invited to the Daytona 500, and it will be cool to go back home where I spent my college years,'' Collins said. ``My son loves NASCAR, so this will be a big deal for him, too. We'll be rooting for Travis. It was cool of him to invite us.''
Kvapil attended the Super Bowl.

Recent NASCAR Discussions


Driver Odds
2018 Championship - Odds to Win
Kyle Busch +400
Kyle Larson +600
Kevin Harvick +600
Martin Truex, Jr. +600
Chase Elliott +900

Nascar Top Stories