After a medical condition kept him out of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for eight months last season, Brian Vickers has never been more “ready to go kick butt.”
And it showed with Vickers finishing third overall in his first official NASCAR session after coming back from his lay-off as the Sprint Cup teams gathered at the Daytona International Speedway for testing this week.
Brian Vickers Feels 'Damn Good'
How did it feel to be back after missing 25 of 36 races in 2010?
“Damn good! You look for all of these words and ways to describe your emotions and your feelings and sometimes there's just nothing to say,” said Vickers, who was third quickest on Thursday and sixth best on Friday.
“I wasn't sure if I would ever be back up here talking to you guys about being in the car again and here I sit. I'm really happy about it. Last year was a very long year. I'm very excited for 2011. I'm probably at the best place I've ever been personally, professionally, emotionally.”
'I'm probably in the best place I've ever been'
But it wasn’t always that way. Vickers spent eight months on an emotional rollercoaster as he dealt with a serious blood-clotting condition.
He admitted struggling with the reality when he returned to the team to watch from the sidelines and finally needed to get away from the NASCAR scene to clear his head. And that led to Vickers pondering his future away from the sport.
“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,” he said.
“Once they told me I could go back racing... it was funny, for a long time, I just kind of went down this path and I assumed it was a clear-cut decision for me when I had the approval, but, as some time went on, I started thinking to myself 'maybe it is time to start a new chapter.'”
Last May, the 27-year-old found himself in a Washington, D.C. hospital with blood clots in his leg and lungs. He was diagnosed with May-Thurner Syndrome (MTS), a condition where the iliac artery in the leg puts pressure on the corresponding vein and causes clotting. In July, he underwent two procedures, one to close a hole in his heart and a second to install a mesh tube called a stent in his iliac vein to support the blood vessel and help prevent future clots.
Vickers did some travelling and tons of soul searching, and, in the end, he realised that he needed to give racing another shot.
'Just being in a car going 200 miles per hour... I'm happy to be back!'
“I felt like I had unfinished business: there was something that I left on the table that I always wanted to do which was to win a championship,” he said. “At first, that was kind of my drive to come back and in a lot of ways it still is, but in the end what brought me
back was just my love for racing. Just being in a car going 200 miles per hour, whether I win or lose, I'm happy to be back.”
Vickers Back Behind the Wheel
The Daytona test marked Vickers' second time behind the wheel of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota since his lay-off. He returned to the cockpit earlier this month at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida, in a private test session with the Red Bull team, where he worked with new team-mate Kasey Kahne for the first time.
Kahne took over the team’s second car, now sporting the No. 4 instead of 82, after signing a one-year deal with the Red Bull squad for 2011. Kahne joined the team for the last five races of 2010, taking one pole and delivering a best finish of sixth.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship, even as competitors, so I can't imagine that our partnership, even as team-mates is not going to go well,” Vickers said. “If you can get along as enemies, you ought to be able to get along as brothers, right? Kasey's a talented driver and we worked on some stuff and the drafting [on Thursday] went really well and hopefully that will show in the Daytona 500 when it really matters.”
When the Great American Race gets going, Vickers will need to keep his emotions in check and make sure that he doesn’t try too hard just to prove a point. But, he’ll also be racing with a little different outlook as he starts his 11th Cup season, something that he hopes will prevent him getting caught up in all the distractions of a comeback story.
'I'm going to treat every day as if it is the last'
“I feel like I truly appreciate living in the moment more than I ever have, I always tried to do that, but probably more so now than ever. And I think the key to being successful for me is to just do that,” he said.
“I think if I just do that every single day, I go on the race track and I have fun and I go out there with one intention and that is to win and nothing else matters. Just treat every day as if it is the last.”
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