Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brian Vickers Ready to Race

Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR had many big stories in 2010, but one compelling story was that of Brian Vickers and his health, leading him to be sidelined for the season.

Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota, experienced chest pains and was hospitalized just prior to the Sprint Cup race at Dover this past May. Upon testing, it was discovered that Brian had multiple blood clots, including ones in his left leg and lungs. After further and more extensive testing, the cause was determined to be a hole between his left and right atrium in his heart. An additional factor was a undiagnosed genetic condition called May-Thurner Syndrome.

Vickers then underwent two successful surgeries, one to repair the hole in his heart and the second to implant a stent so blood can pass easier through the veins. Medication was also required to help with thinning his blood and those medications are prohibited in NASCAR. (In the event of a crash, bleeding would be hard to control.)

Brian has had time to reflect on what has occurred in the past months: "I never gave up hope, and the doctors didn't either." Now with that hope intact and more importantly, the medical clearance to drive, Brian is ready to race for the 2011 NASCAR season.

The first step in preparation for the new season was climbing behind the wheel once again. Brian and the Red Bull team have accomplished just that following a two-day test earlier this week at the Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla. The importance of the test was to get Brian in the car and comfortable again, because May was the last time he has been behind the wheel of a stock car. When asked how he felt after turning some laps, Brian said, "It felt damn good to be back in the car."

Click here to see a video of Brian getting back behind the wheel

The next step for Brian and the team is a test at the newly paved Daytona International Speedway, where all Sprint Cup teams will be participating. The test is scheduled for Jan. 20-22 and for those of you who do not know, SPEED will have coverage online and on TV.

As a fan, this story was one that I found heart-wrenching. Brian, who had just come off of making the Chase in 2009, was now sidelined due to a severe medical condition. That was devastating in itself, but personally I thought about what Brian was going through with his health. That is one thing that you cannot take for granted. It doesn't matter who you are or what you do, anyone could have this happen to them. I myself deal with health issues and I felt so much for Brian, the man ... not the racecar driver. Being in such a vulnerable situation, just waiting to find out the news on your health and how it will affect your life is so hard.

Brian inspired me, coming trackside to support his team and through his interviews with the media about his situation. He has dealt with these problems, and has not let it detain him from life, which is a lesson for all of us.

Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of Brian Vickers, you cannot deny the fact that his story off the track has truly been inspiring. His comeback will be one of the stories to watch this season. I know as a fan, I look forward to Brian making his return to the track, where he belongs.

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