Vickers Sets Return After Heart Surgery

by Monte Dutton

Brian Vickers, who made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009, competed in only 11 races this season. After a 10 th place finish at Darlington Raceway on May 8, he fell ill.

Doctors discovered that Vickers, 26, had developed blood clots in his left leg, left finger and lungs. A regimen of blood thinners made it impossible for him to compete in his No. 83 Team Red Bull Toyota.

Recently, Vickers underwent successful surgery to repair a small hole between the two atriums of his heart. He also was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome, in which blood flow is restricted because a vein and/or artery are pinched. After surgery, a stent was placed in a vein on July 13 to open it.

Now, however, Vickers expects to return to full-time competition next year.

“Not only did we figure out what the problem was,” said Vickers, “but we were able to fix it…. I’m going to be back in the No. 83 and very excited to be back with Red Bull.”

Vickers, who has mostly stayed away from the track, has spent off time traveling and working out.

“My main priority is getting back to racing next year,” he said. “I’ve been given a gift. Things happen for a reason. I’ve had some time to think back and look at my career, both personally and professionally. I don’t think I’ll change a lot when I come back, but I do think I will change some. I’m probably going to tolerate a lot less, but at the same time there will be areas I will tolerate a lot more — just depends on what it is. I have a new appreciation for life. I’m looking forward to it. I feel great and can’t wait to race.”

Vickers, from Thomasville, expects to be off blood thinners by January, at which point he will get back in a race car and begin testing to prepare for the 2011 season.

“What I love to do is race,” he said. “It is not only my job, but my passion. I’ve been missing that need for speed, the competition, my people and friends in the industry, but at the same time, it has been nice to take a break.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

Brian Vickers, center, fell ill in May and had to cut his season short. Now, the driver plans to be back in 2011 after heart surgery. (John Clark/NASCAR This Week photo)