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

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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.”

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