Brian Vickers at Talladega Getty Images

Seven months, four weeks, and five days after blood clots sent him to the hospital and forced him onto the sidelines for most of the 2010 NASCAR season, Brian Vickers is finally back where he belongs: behind the wheel of his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.

Vickers spent a few hours this week reacquainting himself with his crew and getting back into the swing of driving the 5.8-litre, 850-horsepower Sprint Cup racer.

And he couldn’t be happier.

Brian Vickers' 2010 NASCAR Season

  • Started eleven races. Best finish: 6th in Martinsville
  • Hospitalized in May with blood clots
  • Doctors prescribe blood thinners, ending his season
  • Revealed in August he had undergone open heart surgery
  • Also announced in August that he’d return to racing in 2011

“It felt damn good to get back in the car,” he said. “Everything fit, everything felt right, everything was just the way I left it last May.

“Just to fire the car back up was awesome, and then to punch it for the first time was such a great feeling,” he said after his first laps in the car on Monday.

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“We are here to get more seat time for me and so I can back in groove with the road crew. I don’t think we are going to learn anything ground-breaking today, but it's really just a great chance for us all to work together. The bottom line for me is just to get back in a race car and log some laps.”

Vickers put the No. 83 through its paces with new Red Bull Racing teammate Kasey Kahne for a two-day test session at the one-mile, triangle-shaped Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida, that ended on Tuesday.

While the test was more about getting comfortable in the car again rather than working on anything specific, Vickers still breathed a huge sigh of relief after the test.

“It was just a huge weight off of my shoulders, and not only for myself, but for the guys on the team,” he said. “There were so many rumors, assumptions and speculations about my health and status for 2011, but today hopefully put all of them to rest.”

Long Road to Recovery

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The 27-year-old shocked the NASCAR paddock in late May last year when he announced that blood clots in his lungs and left leg would keep him out of the car for the rest of the season. He started only 11 races last year before ending up in a Washington, D.C., emergency room after suffering chest pains during a visit to the U.S. capital. He spent a few days in a local hospital before returning to North Carolina for further treatment.

In the end, Vickers 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. The blood thinner treatment for the condition made it too dangerous for him to compete and he reluctantly stepped away from racing.

In August, Vickers added to the shock by revealing that he underwent open heart surgery to seal a hole between his left and right atria — the two upper chambers of the heart — and to install a tiny mesh tube called a stent to help support the iliac vein and prevent future clots.

All along, he vowed to return better than ever in 2011 and took a successful first step on the road back this week. He’ll be back in the car late next week for three days of testing at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida with the rest of the Sprint Cup teams. The Red Bull outfit will use the track time to prepare for the season-opening Daytona 500 on February 20 and to test the newly resurfaced 2.5-mile tri-oval.

Follow @redbull on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and information.

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