Brian Vickers to return to racing at Las Vegas after health scare

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Nearly seven weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a hole in his heart, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers announced on Wednesday that he has been given medical clearance to return to racing in early March.

Vickers is expected to be back behind the wheel of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota Camry for the March 8 Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“The doctors gave me a clean bill of health and said I will be better than before,” Vickers said in an MWR media release. “Now all of my focus is getting ready so when I return we are prepared to win races and the championship in my Aaron’s Dream Machine.”

During an examination in early December, it was discovered that Vickers, who has had prior health issues with his heard and blood clots, had suffered another setback.

“I was not feeling well in December, so I went to see Dr. William Downey in Charlotte,” Vickers said. “He discovered my body was rejecting a patch that was surgically placed over a hole in my heart a few years ago. He and Dr. R. Mark Stiegel immediately went to work on correcting the problem.”

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

Shortly after undergoing successful surgery to repair the issue, Vickers issued a statement that he would likely miss several early season races while recovering.

However, with Wednesday’s medical clearance, the North Carolina native will only wind up missing the first two races of 2015: the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 22) and the following week’s race (March 1) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Team co-owner Michael Waltrip will replace Vickers in the No. 55 at Daytona. Waltrip is a two-time Daytona 500 winner.

The team has not yet announced who will replace Vickers at Atlanta.

Because it is a medical condition, NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday that despite missing the first two races, Vickers would still be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“With the clearance from his physicians, Brian Vickers has satisfied all necessary NASCAR requirements to resume racing on March 5,” the statement said.

“Further, NASCAR has reviewed the circumstances surrounding his situation and has determined that he will maintain Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility despite neither entering nor attempting to qualify in the first two championship events, provided he meets all other necessary eligibility requirements.”

This most recent episode marks the third time Vickers, 31, has been sidelined by health issues. The other two occurrences were in 2010 and 2013.

The 2003 Xfinity Series champion, Vickers has made 316 career Sprint Cup starts in his career, with three wins, 29 top-five and 77 top-10 finishes, as well as 12 poles.

As part of that tenure, he’s made 58 starts for MWR, with one win (New Hampshire, July 2013), eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes, as well as one pole (Talladega, Oct. 2014).

In a note to his fans, Vickers wrote on his Facebook page: “Some great news. Can’t thank everyone who wrote in here enough for your thoughts, prayers and kind words… Very humbling.”

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Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.