Brian Vickers won’t drive for Michael Waltrip Racing at Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway because of a re-occurrence of blood clots.
Vickers, 31, has had multiple episodes of clotting during his racing career. He recognized symptoms while in Los Angeles on Thursday and consulted with a doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.
Brett Moffitt will again fill in for Vickers in the No. 55 Toyota, as he did for the circuit’s first two races this season. It’s unclear when Vickers could be cleared to race again.
“When I last saw him there was no indication that he felt bad. He probably didn’t; it just came on him in the evening,” Waltrip said at a news conference Friday morning.
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“If he wasn’t a race-car driver, you wouldn’t know there was an issue. He’d just be on blood-thinners and he would be fine. But in order to drive the car he has to come off the thinners and that hasn’t worked out yet.”
Vickers had heart surgery in December, causing him to miss season-opening races in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Atlanta. He raced at Las Vegas, finishing 15th, and Phoenix, finishing 41st.
Vickers didn’t attend Friday’s news conference, but did provide a comment in a prepared statement.
“Thankfully, because I recognized the signs and symptoms, the doctors caught this early and I’m going to be OK,” Vickers said. “I had finished the treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013 and I haven’t needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since.
“I’m going to follow doctor’s orders and do everything I need to do to get well.”
In 60 races with Michael Waltrip Racing, Vickers has eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10s. He won the July race at New Hampshire in 2013.
“He’s in the care of his doctors and plans to operate normally. He feels really good and he’s really sad,” Waltrip said. “His heart surgery back in December was a success. He was able to return and have a very competitive race in Las Vegas and we were really proud of Brian for that.
“Now he will be sidelined again. We support Brian – we love his heart, we love who he is. We don’t know how long he will be sidelined; this is all very fluid with new information. We’re learning as we go.”
Waltrip was asked if this could be the end of Vickers’ racing career.
“I just know his heart and his passion. He would not say that so I can’t say that,” Waltrip said. “I guarantee he would tell you he’ll be back in a couple of weeks or a couple of months – whenever the decision comes from his doctors that it will be. He has certainly overcome a lot and I would expect him to overcome this.
“Obviously this is a setback for the team and for Brian. I think this morning we’re just glad Brian is OK and we look forward to making a plan.”
Waltrip said he hadn’t yet contacted NASCAR to inquire how many races Vickers could miss and still be eligible to qualify for the Chase. Moffitt was already in Southern California, so it was easy to move him back into the car as substitute driver.
Waltrip said Moffitt, 22, has the ride “for the foreseeable future.” He finished eighth at Atlanta.
“He certainly overachieved for us in Atlanta,” Waltrip said. “I thought with all that youthful exuberance he would overdo it and mess up. He was just the opposite; just methodically made it through the race and produced a great result at the end, outracing Brad Keselowski on that same set of tires for eighth place. I’m very proud of that accomplishment.
“He’s never run a lap at California Motor Speedway, so that should be fun to watch. I love kids (saying), ‘I’ve never run here before! This is going to be cool!’”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell