NASCAR: Vickers returns to track after medical scare
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After eight months away from racing, Brian Vickers was unsure what to expect when he got behind the wheel again.
He thought his seat, belts and helmet might feel a little different.
Instead, they fit perfectly. He’s hoping the rest of his return will be equally smooth.
Vickers stepped away from 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.
“In the end what brought me back was just my love for racing, just being in a car going 200 miles an hour,” Vickers said during a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway. “Whether I win or lose, I’m happy to be back.”
Vickers got back in his No. 83 Toyota for the first time during a private test in Orlando last week. He turned more laps at NASCAR’s open test at Daytona — and was near the top of the speed chart Friday.
“You look for all these words and ways to describe your emotions, your feelings, and sometimes there’s just nothing to say,” Vickers said. “I don’t know how else to put it. Everyone keeps asking me how does it feel to be back. I guess it feels damn good.”
Vickers was hospitalized with chest pain in May, leading to the discovery of the clots. He didn’t drive the rest of the season while undergoing treatment. A third clot developed in his finger, and doctors believed it moved through a hole in his heart.
He had surgery in July to close the passageway, then had a procedure to insert the stent the next day. Vickers said without the heart surgery he would have run the risk of having a stroke.
He was diagnosed with May-Thurner syndrome, a clotting disorder that increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis. But doctors believe sitting in a race car for extended periods also could have helped caused the clots. They also say dehydration and the location of tight belts may have been contributing factors.
Regardless, they put him on blood thinners for six months. Vickers finished treatment in November and has been cleared to return to a full-time racing schedule without limitations.
“There was a point in time there where I didn’t know if I was ever coming back, not just because of the doctors, but I questioned if I wanted to come back,” said Vickers, who has two wins in eight Sprint Cup seasons. “Maybe it was time to just start a new chapter in my life. Is it worth going back and trying again? What would happen to me emotionally?”
Vickers mostly stayed away from tracks during his medical leave, choosing to travel, spend time with family and friends, “chase dreams outside of racing” and do some “soul searching.”
When he returned in August to watch a race at Bristol, it was more emotional than he expected.
“Just sitting there on the (pit) box trying to be supportive for the team, but it was just tearing me apart inside,” he said. “I was just a wreck, a complete wreck. My stress was out of the roof, my medicines weren’t working, they were all over the place, and that was probably when it hit me.
“There were a lot of emotional states that I went through, pretty much the full range, everything you can imagine. When things are their worst, right in the midst of the battle, is typically where I guess you learn a lot about yourself going through these situations.”
Vickers learned he wanted to race again.
“I realized that I couldn’t not give it another shot,” he said.
The Associated Press
Vickers back afer medical scare