Health issues to sideline Brian Vickers for early part of 2015 Sprint Cup season

6 Comments

In a major blow both personally and to his team, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers will miss the 2015 season-opening Daytona 500, as well as an unspecified number of subsequent early-season races due to health issues, Michael Waltrip Racing officials announced Monday.

Vickers, who joined MWR in a part-time capacity in 2012 and was promoted to a full-time ride in 2014, has had prior health issues with his heart and blood clots.

In a media release provided by the team, Vickers said he felt ill last week and went for an exam, where another issue with his heart was discovered.

Here is Vickers’ statement:

First, I want to thank everyone for their sincere support. I have faced obstacles before and it has made victory that much sweeter and I know that will be the case again.

“My previous experiences have given me a very keen understanding of my body. Late last week I knew something wasn’t right, so I went to the hospital to be checked out.

“Following several tests, it was discovered that my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart.

“Saturday, I had to have corrective surgery to repair the hole and now I am beginning the recovery process. I will need plenty of time, rest and rehab but this temporary setback will not stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.”

It’s unclear how many races Vickers will miss while recovering. In its media release, the team said only that “Vickers will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.”

After spending 2012 and 2013 as a part-time driver for MWR (including a win at New Hampshire in July 2013), he was elevated to full-time status in 2014.

In 36 races last season, he had zero wins, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes, as well as one pole position (Chase race at Talladega). He finished 22nd in the final season standings.

In 58 overall starts for MWR in the No. 55 Toyota, Vickers has eight top-five and 19 top-10 showings.

In his overall Sprint Cup career, Vickers – who also previously drove for Hendrick Motorsports and Red Bull Racing – has three wins and 12 poles in 316 starts, dating back to the 2003 season.

MWR is looking at its options, including the likelihood of finding a replacement driver for Vickers during his recovery.

“Brian has been a part of the MWR family since 2012 and our thoughts today are with Brian, his wife Sarah and the Vickers family,” MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said in a statement. “As a race team, MWR has plenty to consider and we will confer with our partners, including Aaron’s and Toyota.

“As this is fresh news, we will adjust our future plans as more information becomes available.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.