A lot of people would love to lose 16 pounds. But not Brian Vickers. And certainly not in one day.
It happened at Dover a few years ago, Vickers says, but the memory greets him just about every time he prepares for a race. The driver of the #83 Red Bull Toyota calls what led to his drastic dehydration and weight loss "the perfect storm."
"It was over 100 degrees outside and my air and water bottle weren’t working," Vickers says.
He's not talking about air conditioning. There's no such thing in NASCAR. Vickers has a hose that goes into his helmet to help circulate fresh air. "It cools a few degrees," he says, "but it gets really hot in the cockpit."
Vickers regularly loses about five pounds during any given race, and that's with strict attention to nutrition and hydration. His preparation begins 48 hours in advance with plenty of water and electrolytes. Then he stops drinking two to three hours before a race so he doesn't have to use the bathroom while on the track.
"Once I start sweating during the race," he says, "I can start drinking more."
Vickers is part of a new generation of NASCAR drivers who take preparation to another level. He stays in top shape through adventure sports like surfing, kayaking, snowboarding and rock climbing. His sponsor, Red Bull, also has a training program. But one of his favorite ways to prepare is yoga.
"I love Bikram yoga," he says. "You're in this steamy room that’s 105 degrees. It’s an intense workout."
Proper exercise and nutrition are more important than ever to Vickers since he had his season cut short last year by blood clots in his legs and lungs. He prefers organic produce and often eats vegetarian meals. One of his favorite pre-race foods is sweet potatoes because of the long lasting energy they provide.
But despite all the improvements in safety and the lengths the drivers go to prepare these days, there’s simply nothing they can do about the heat.
"The engine runs at 240 degrees, and there’s nothing but a thin piece of sheet metal between it and me," Vickers says. "I've actually burned my feet pretty badly before."
Vickers is healthy again and back to his normal weight of 160 lbs. He hopes to stay there this season.