In his first press conference since announcing he was diagnosed with blood clots and forced to sit out the remainder of the 2010 season, Brian Vickers met with the media Saturday in Bristol to update his condition and announce he would drive the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota in 2011.
“A lot has happened since the last time I saw you,” Vickers said. “I had heart surgery, never thought I’d have that at 26 [years old]. I’ve had a stint put in, never thought I’d have one of those. But they both went extremely well. I’m on Coumadin and Plavix still, and will be the rest of the year, so I will be out of the car, but they gave me full clearance for next year. I will be back next season. I will be racing in January and I’m really excited about that. They feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life.
“I am going to be back in the [No.] 83 and I’m very excited about it. I’m very excited to be back with Red Bull,” Vickers added.
During further examinations after the initial diagnosis, doctors discovered Vickers also had a blood clot in his left finger, something that is only possible by passing through his heart. Sounding like a doctor in his own right, Vickers explained how his physicians discovered a hole in his heart through which the clot traveled to his arm. When a blood clot travels through this hole it has two places to go, the arm or the brain, leaving him more at risk for a stroke rather than a heart attack.
Understanding the risks, Vickers opted to undergo surgery on July 12 to close the repair the hole and prevent this from occurring again.
“It was a difficult decision, it wasn’t my easiest for sure,” Vickers said. “My decision was this, if I had the operation and something went wrong, God forbid I died, that wouldn’t be too good, but I feel pretty good about where I’m going next, so I’m good with that. The other option was not to close it and then run the risk of the stroke. How I made the decision… is I would rather die than have a stroke. That was kind of my thought process. I don’t want to live like a vegetable.”
In the process of operating to close the hole in his heart, doctors also looked to see if Vickers had May-Thurner Syndrome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, May-Thurner Syndrome is caused “when the left iliac vein is compressed by the right iliac artery, which increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the left extremity. DVT is a blood clot that may partially or completely block blood flow through the vein.”
Doctors found he in fact had May-Thurner Syndrome, which Vickers said was “bad news, but great news.” A stint was added to his leg to help open up the blood flow the day after having the procedure to close the hole.
Throughout the process of diagnosis and surgery, Vickers remained confident in his doctors and his ability to recover. Initially planning to attend nearly every race, watch from the pit box and spotters stand learning everything he could, Vickers explained his stress level was becoming so high the blood thinners were simply not working. As a result, his doctors suggested he take time away from the track.
In that time, Vickers spent time traveling, going to various Red Bull events and simply enjoying life. While admitting it was hard not beating fenders with the guys he liked and did not like, Vickers said he enjoyed stepping back and taking in life away from the track.
“I have a new appreciation for life, I’m looking forward to it and I feel great and I’m excited to race,” Vickers said.
Since he will remain on blood thinners for the remainder of the year, Vickers will not be allowed in the car until January, but he does not feel like he has lost his competitive edge and expects to be at the top of his game when he returns.
“I haven’t been in any simulators,” Vickers explained, adding, “I’ve been playing NASCAR on Xbox a few times, not really sure if that counts.”
The Red Bull Racing driver says he has not discussed his return with NASCAR, but does not foresee any issues with his return. As far as the situation at Red Bull Racing, he explained he learned Kasey Kahne was joining the organization by reading it online and was not up to speed on what the future held.
Friday at Bristol, Scott Speed, current driver of the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota, told Frontstretch he was not worried about not having a ride for the 2011 season.
“I’m not worried about it at all.” Speed said. “I honestly don’t know about Brian. I think it’s one of those things that is a lot more complicated than it is let on. Brian’s deal is going to be what it’s going to be, and in any case, I’m really confident in my position. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be in the position where I would be without a ride. I’m pretty much 100% positive about that, so I haven’t even thought about it.”