Twice victimized himself, Brian Vickers to drive car in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race to raise awareness of blood clots

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Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers has twice had to overcome potentially life-threatening blood clots.

To raise awareness about the disease, as well as  March being Blood Clot Awareness Month, Vickers will drive a specially marked No. 55 TreatMyClot.com/Aaron’s Toyota in Sunday’s 400-mile Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, located about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Janssen Pharmaceuticals, which is sponsoring Vickers’ car, is also sponsoring Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 Nationwide Series race, also at Fontana.

“I want people to be mindful of what the signs and symptoms are,” Vickers said in a statement. “Visit http://www.TreatMyClot.com to learn about the warning signs and if you experience any of the signs or symptoms talk to your doctor. That’s the best thing to do.

“I’m always mindful and take precautions. When you’re taking long flights, you stand up and you walk around. That’s not just for me, everyone should do that.”

Vickers’ first bout with severe blood clots occurred in 2010 in both his lungs and legs while driving for Red Bull Racing. He was hospitalized for several weeks and wound up competing in just 11 of that season’s 36 races.

He came back for a full slate of races in 2011, only to have the Red Bull team fold following that season. He drove just eight times in 2012 (due to sponsorship issues), but came back in 2013 to make 17 starts – 15 for MWR and three weeks in place of the injured Denny Hamlin.

Unfortunately, after last fall’s race at Charlotte – and three months after his third career Sprint Cup win, at New Hampshire – Vickers once again was sidelined with a blood clot in his right calf, forcing him to miss the final four races of the season.

“Obviously, I keep an eye out for signs and symptoms, but my last incident was a provoked incident,” Vickers said. “I had to wear an ankle brace for a month, which is known to create clots. In those situations in the future, I will be more mindful and probably more careful and maybe try to get ahead of it. Other than that I just live my life and go racing.”

Fortunately, he’s back racing full-time in 2014. He currently sits 17th in the Sprint Cup standings and is coming off strong finishes of 13th at Las Vegas and a season-best thus far finish of ninth this past Sunday at Bristol.

“I’m totally focused on winning now, but I’ve also teamed up with Janssen to share the risks for deep vein thrombosis and get the word out about the risk of clots,” Vickers said. “I’m telling everyone to go to www.TreatMyClot.com to learn more about blood clots and information that can help everyone.

“You know, I’ve been fortunate over the last few years to have doctors, friends, family and medicine to help me overcome this. This is just a way to give back and help others.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Veach tops opening IndyCar practice at Pocono

Photo: IndyCar
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LONG POND, Pa – After a delay of 30 minutes due to track drying – overnight rains hit Pocono Raceway and the surrounding area – opening practice for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) got underway at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach topped the speed charts in that opening practice, with a fastest speed of 217.393 mph. Veach also posted the best no-tow speed at 214.233 mph.

Behind Veach, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden was second with quick lap of 217.016 mph – Veach and Newgarden were also the only drivers above the 217 mark in the first practice.

Veach’s teammate Alexander Rossi was third. Sebastien Bourdais was fourth for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, while A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five.

The lone interruption in the session came with just over 10 minutes remaining, with a yellow for a track inspection to check for debris. However, the session itself saw no on-track incidents.

Of note: Conor Daly and Harding Racing experienced a mechanical problem that limited their running during the session. Daly was able to complete 15 timed laps, but only with a best lap of 206.012 mph.

Results are below. Qualifying is scheduled for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Follow@KyleMLavigne