CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Brian Vickers is ready to go racing again.
Vickers said Thursday he is off blood thinners and plans to run the entire Sprint Cup schedule this season, beginning with next month’s Daytona 500. Vickers still must be medically cleared by NASCAR before the race.
The 30-year-old Vickers missed the final five races last season after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right calf in October. He also missed the final 25 races of 2010 because of blood clots and heart surgery. Aaron’s will be his full-time sponsor for the No. 55 Toyota car for the season.
"I’m ready," Vickers said. "I’ve never been more excited to get back in a car."
Vickers has run 22 races with Michael Waltrip Racing and has 10 top-10 finishes. He won last July at New Hampshire, snapping a 75-race winless streak.
"It’s been tough, but I look back at the whole experience and I’m thankful for it," Vickers said. "Certainly there were a lot of moments when I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a next time for anything. Once that was behind us it was, ‘Will I ever be back in a Sprint Cup car again?’"
Vickers credits the support of his family and friends for helping him get back to where he is today. Vickers said the entire experience has taught him patience, something he said he’s lacked.
"I’ve learned a lot that you just can’t force things," he said. "As much as you want things to happen faster, you just can’t force that. You have to be patient and wait."
Vickers knows there is always a chance the clots could return. If that’s the case, he will go back on blood thinners.
"There is risk that you can get clot, or I can get another clot," Vickers said. "But it’s a very low percentage if unprovoked. There is a big distinction between provoked and unprovoked when it comes to clotting."
Vickers said the most recent clotting incident came after he had his foot immobilized for a month in a protective boot.
"If I were to break my leg and go into a cast, my odds would increase a lot," he said.
Vickers is focused on Daytona, where he hasn’t raced since 2011. In 14 Sprint Cup races at Daytona, Vickers’ best career finish is seventh.
"It’s been a long time," Vickers said. "To get back down there is always special. I’m curious to see if that energy and excitement and that love is going to feel the same this year as it did the first time I went to Daytona. I have a feeling it will, especially having gone through as much as I did to get back there."