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Like most Nextel Cup drivers, Brian Vickers likes the comforts of home on the road--which in his case means accommodations for poker and barbecues. The 22-year-old Vickers, who races the number 25 GMAC Chevy Monte Carlo, bought and customized a $700,000, 400-square-foot motor coach shortly before breaking into NASCAR's top circuit in 2003. He stays in it three or four nights a week, while his driver, 51-year-old former trucker Cotton Crouse, logs about 50,000 miles a year traveling among the circuit's 36 races and 22 racetracks. ( Vickers, who has won more than $3 million this season, flies to races from his immobile home in downtown Charlotte.) "I came up through the ranks and survived just fine without [a motor coach]," Vickers says. "I used to stay in hotels. But at this level, having [a coach] is a huge benefit. It helps you get more rest, and [because it's right at the track] it gives you more time." A look inside:
THE VIEW FROM WITHIN
LIVING AND DINING ROOM The red-and-black decor is pure bachelor chic and highlights the racer's passion for card playing. Vickers keeps a framed 12-by-18-inch picture of a three of diamonds and a three of clubs ("Just random cards," he says) in the four-person booth that serves as the poker--and the dining--table. "We play Texas hold 'em," Vickers says. " Jeff Gordon and I are the best in our group."
A seven-foot-long black leather sofa lines the passenger side of the living room--it opens into a queen-sized bed for guests--and is accented by red-and-gray suede pillows. A 19-foot mirror covers the length of the ceiling. The largest of the coach's three plasma HDTVs, a 50-incher (below), hangs at the front of the living room and folds up into the roof. Small speakers dot the area, providing surround sound. When Vickers isn't watching FuelTV, he's often playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 on his XBox 360 with visitors such as Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
BED A king-sized bed (below) fills up almost all of Vickers's sleeping nook near the rear of the coach. Next to a 42-inch plasma at the foot of the bed is a six-foot-high, five-foot-wide closet stocked with the jeans and polo shirts (covered in sponsors' logos) that Vickers favors.
KITCHEN Vickers has been getting cooking lessons from Crouse, and he likes to prepare chicken breasts in a pepper marinade. He's set up with a two-burner gas range and convection microwave oven. His 14-cubic-foot fridge is flush with bottled water, Gatorade and Mountain Dew. No booze. "Cristal and beer? That's at home," says Vickers. He also keeps fruit (he likes watermelon and grapes), vegetables and chocolate candies. When Vickers goes for a midnight snack (say, the mint chocolate chip ice cream he always has in his freezer), he won't get cold feet: The black-and-white checkered porcelain tile floor is heated.
BATHS The master bath (above right), located off the bedroom, has a full-sized shower and a cabinet-with-cat-door, which houses a litter box for Vickers's four-year-old Siamese, Caesar. There's also a small powder room outside the bedroom. "If you have guests over and it's early, they don't have to disturb you," says Vickers, who sleeps as late as 11 a.m.
BEYOND The third plasma TV is stashed in a cargo bay that opens to the outside of the coach. Another bay holds an electric grill (right) and a cooler, which get heavy use during the meals that Vickers--under the shade of two 18-foot awnings--hosts for his 10 team members. All these custom touches add up to a 46,500-pound rig that uses gas at a rate of less than seven miles per gallon and needs nearly 15 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. But once it gets up to speed, says Crouse, "it rides like a Cadillac."