Out for health reasons, team expects driver to resume activity before 2014 season
CONCORD, N.C. -- Michael Waltrip Racing suffered another setback Monday, when the team lost driver Brian Vickers for the remainder of the 2013 season after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right leg.
Vickers missed most of the 2010 season with blood clots found in his lungs and his left leg. He recovered from that setback and returned to NASCAR, and is slated to be the full-time driver of MWR's No. 55 Toyota next season. An examination Monday morning revealed a blood clot in Vickers' right calf, and Dr. William Downey placed him on blood-thinning medication.
The medication will keep Vickers out of the No. 55 car effectively immediately. According to MWR, Vickers and his physicians are confident he will be able to resume activity before the 2014 season begins.
"It sounds like it’s an abundance of caution," team co-owner Rob Kauffman
told NASCAR.com. "They (medical team) say it’s a very modest issue, more
that his taking medication is why he can’t race and they remain
confident for 2014. I’m not a doctor or medical expert so have to defer
to them but it sounds like it’s an abundance of caution on the doctors
Vickers' No. 55 team was one of six participating in a test Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway trying potential changes on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars for next season. Brett Moffitt, a regular competitor on the K&N Pro Series East and a test driver for MWR, was at the track Monday instead of Vickers.
"If there's anything to be positive about with today's news it's that this is only a temporary setback," Vickers said in a statement released by the team. "The timing for this is never good, but I'm glad we'll get it out of the way now and be ready to run for a championship with the Aaron's Dream Machine in 2014."
Vickers began this season racing a limited schedule for MWR in the No. 55 car, one which became essentially full-time ride in August after Mark Martin moved over to the No. 14 to replace Tony Stewart, out for the remainder of the year with two broken bones in his right leg suffered in a sprint-car crash. The one race Vickers wasn't scheduled to compete in comes this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, where Waltrip is slated to drive the car.
According to MWR, a replacement driver for Vickers' remaining scheduled events will be named at a later date. "We were just informed this morning and our concern is for Brian's health," Kauffman said in a statement. "Anything else will be worked out in due course."
A 29-year-old native of Thomasville, N.C., Vickers also competes full-time in the No. 20 car of Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which is off both this week and next. JGR said a replacement in the vehicle will be named at a later date.
"We are praying Brian will have a quick and full recovery from this latest issue," team owner Joe Gibbs said in a statement. "Everyone at JGR appreciates all the hard work and effort he has given to our Nationwide Series program this year. He is a great competitor and we look forward to seeing him back on the track in 2014."
The news was another blow to a MWR team still reeling from its involvement in a race manipulation scandal in the final regular-season race last month at Richmond. That episode led to record NASCAR penalties against MWR, which knocked Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. NAPA, the sponsor of the team's No. 56 car, later announced it would leave the team after this season, putting the status of the organization's third car in jeopardy.
In 17 races this season for MWR, Vickers has six top-10 finishes, including a victory at New Hampshire in July. He was driving for the defunct Red Bull Racing team in May of 2010 when a hospital visit for chest pains discovered the blood clots in his chest and left leg that sidelined him for the remainder of that season. A clot was later found in a finger on his left hand, and Vickers eventually had surgery to repair a hole in his heart that put him at risk for the condition.
"I truly hate it for him," Jeff Burton said Monday at the Charlotte test. "That guy's busted his ass to be here and appreciates the opportunity. I feel really bad for him. I thought we had the best car at New Hampshire where he won the race, and I was heartbroken we didn't win, but I was really happy to see him win. I really was. When you have something and lose it and get it back, that's a hell of a thing. Not many people experience that. He really wants to be here, and he puts a ton of effort into it, and it's really depressing. It really is."