Brian Vickers' roller coaster NASCAR career takes another turn up with Stewart-Haas Racing confirming him as Tony Stewart's replacement behind the wheel of the No. 14 for the Daytona 500.
The 32-year-old knows all-too-well how it feels to have a medical issue take away your opportunity to race and perhaps that’s why he may be the most appropriate substitute driver for Tony Stewart at Speedweeks.
I think a lot of these guys get in these cars and they are so caught up in the moment and the future, they don’t stop to think that it may be their last time and they should enjoy it
Vickers has been sidelined from his NASCAR career four times in the past six years for issues related to blood clots and didn’t have a ride lined up for the 2016 season.
Vickers thrilled to be back in a race car
A serious back injury to Stewart in a sand buggy accident on Jan. 31 left Stewart-Haas Racing scrambling for a replacement driver and the organization turned to this week to Vickers. Stewart said in a Periscope session this morning, saying that Vickers "deserves to be in a good car."
“For me, this is huge. I wasn’t sure I would ever race again (after his most recent blood clot issue last March). The last five or six years of my life have been a roller coaster, to say the least,” Vickers said.
“I can’t wait to get back in a race car. For me, it’s one day at a time. I’ve learned so many times that you can only plan so far ahead. You just live life to the fullest. You enjoy it. You make reasonable decisions.
“I love what I do and I love what’s next – whatever that may be.”
More races in the No. 14 on the horizon?
For now, that is competing in Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited non-points race and the Feb. 21 Daytona 500.
There may more races ahead or may not. SHR’s competition director, Greg Zipadelli, said no decisions on substitute drivers have been made beyond Daytona.
There will definitely be a need for more as Stewart’s recovery process is likely to take at least a couple months.
SHR president Brett Frood said there remains no timetable for Stewart’s return and it would be up to Stewart’s doctors and how quickly the bones in his back heal. He called the fill-in situation for Stewart very “fluid.”
Vickers comes back with a whole new perspective
Vickers said his medical issues have given him a perspective that is sometimes lost on current NASCAR drivers.
“I think a lot of these guys get in these cars and they are so caught up in the moment and the future, they don’t stop to think that it may be their last time and they should enjoy it,” he said. “I can assure you when the green (flag) drops next Sunday, I’m going to enjoy it much more than anyone else on that race track.
“If I have another five or 10 Daytona 500s left to race then great, but if it’s my last one, that’s fine, too. I’m very fortunate. I’ve gone through a lot but I’ve learned so much through all these experiences as a person and grown.
“I couldn’t be happier in my life.”
In 318 career Cup series starts, Vickers has three victories with his most recent coming in 2013 while at Michael Waltrip Racing. His crew chief at the time, Rodney Childers, is now a crew chief at SHR with driver Kevin Harvick.