As a result of heart surgery in December, it was announced that Brian Vickers would miss the first two races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
This isn’t the first time that health has affected Vickers, with blood clots popping up in the season’s prior, resulting in removal from behind the wheel. As a result, a lot of people have questions about Vickers’ health and how things are going to be moving forward.
Vickers couldn’t offer an definite answer during the media tour, stating, “I won’t know until I turn into Turn 1 at 200 miles per hour at Las Vegas. What do I think? I think I will.” Vickers added that the doctors believe that he will be “as strong or better” than he was before, as a result of how they did went about the surgery.
“The way the patch was replaced, it’s actually a better way to do it because it’s using your own natural skin to patch the hole as opposed to an artificial device, which is always better,” Vickers continued. “It’s just that the surgery is a lot higher risk and that’s the reason they don’t do that to begin with. They feel really good about my heart, that I’m actually better off than before and as far as my sternum — obviously cracking my sternum open — again they keep telling me that when that bone grows back, it will grow back stronger than before. Actually where it grows back together will not be the weakest link anymore — it will be somewhere else. Not to mention it’s like wired together. It’s about the size of a coat hanger making loops around my sternum.
“Don’t punch me in the chest yet. It’s not there yet, but it’s getting there. I think from a health standpoint, my doctors have insisted on giving me enough confidence that I’ll be healthy and ready to go and strong as ever.”
Despite missing two races, Vickers will still be “chase eligible” as NASCAR has granted him a by-pass. If he is able to be within the top 30 in points and win a race, he would essentially qualify.
“To be able to be back in the car in time and be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is huge. It’s the reason I’m coming back,” he said. “There’s two reasons I’m coming back — I’m coming back because I love to race and I love to just go fast and I love to race cars, I love the competition and I love being in a car at 200 miles per hour, but mostly the reason I’m coming back here to race full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is because I want to win a championship.
“Being eligible for that is a big piece of it and I’m very thankful and thrilled that I was able to be back in time for that. I think there’s a lot of people that didn’t think that was going to be the case, even at times including myself. It’s huge. It’s huge for me.”
There’s also the small possibility of making it via points if less than 16 drivers score victories and Vickers is in position. Vickers emphasizing that earlier this week, looking at that possibility as well.
“I think we blew — we had four or five races last year where we either lost an engine or blew a tire and collected one or two points where we finished 43rd or 42nd or 41st and we still almost made it in on points,” he commented. “I think we’re in a position where we can still — our goal is to get in with not only a win, but multiple wins, but we’re still in a position where we can get in on points too.”
The quick return for Vickers is something that has his teammate Clint Bowyer happy, as it doesn’t leave Michael Waltrip Racing focusing on finding the right fill-in driver.
“This is a rebuilding year for me and it’s crucial for 5-hour ENERGY and all these partners for Michael and Ron and everybody involved at MWR because this is a rebound year, a rebuilding year and we get back to our winning ways and back where we once were,” Bowyer emphasized. “It’s very, very crucial that happens and focusing on not replacing Brian Vickers, but focusing on the task at hand so we can make our cars better so we can compete is definitely beneficially.”