Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers out at least 3 months

Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers had to sit out Sunday’s race in Fontana, Calif., after another episode of blood clots.
Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers had to sit out Sunday’s race in Fontana, Calif., after another episode of blood clots. Getty Images

Sprint Cup driver Brian Vickers will be on blood thinners at least the next three months, which effectively will end his NASCAR season.

Vickers went to a Southern California hospital Thursday after feeling chest pain reminiscent of previous blood-clot episodes. A CT scan confirmed he had small clots in both of his lungs.

Vickers can’t drive competitively while on blood-thinners. This is at least the fourth time he has had clotting issues while driving in the Sprint Cup series. He acknowledged his driving career could be over.

“Am I worried? Of course,” Vickers said at a news conference Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. “Have I given up hope? No.

“I’ve been told 1,000 times I’ll never drive a race car again. I raced the last two weeks.

“I love racing more than any other activity. But it’s what I do, not who I am. There is more to life than just this.”

Vickers began feeling chest pain while flying from New Orleans, where he attended an event for one of his sponsors, to Los Angeles. He initially tried to disregard the symptoms, then he went to UCLA’s hospital in Santa Monica for tests.

“I listened to my body and went to the hospital. Had I not, (the pain) would have gone from a five to a 10,” Vickers said. “If you think something is wrong, go see a doctor and listen to your doctor …

“I didn’t do the smartest thing by going to the hotel and checking in” rather than heading straight to a hospital.

Vickers said he doesn’t know what brought on this most recent clotting episode, but he suspects all of the long flights he took last week, going to Orlando, Fla.; New Orleans and Southern California, could be a factor. Long flights, where passengers can’t walk around to optimize circulation, have been linked to blood-clot episodes.

“I didn’t wait two days. I waited an hour,” Vickers said of his decision to get a CT scan. “And I’m sure glad I did.”

Vickers, 31, last was on blood thinners in 2013. However, he had offseason heart surgery that caused him to miss the first two races of the 2015 Sprint Cup schedule. He was replaced in the No. 55 Toyota by Brett Moffitt, who filled in for him in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

Vickers said Michael Waltrip Racing has been incredibly supportive through his health issues. He respects whatever MWR must do as he misses at least the next three months.

“They have a team to run,” Vickers said. “I’m probably wearing out their patience.”

Vickers said he was in no particular discomfort once the blood thinners attacked the clots in his lungs.

“I’m here, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s been a long, frustrating weekend, but more on the emotional side than the physical side.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell

Related stories from Charlotte Observer