Brian Vickers believes he will be ready to return to racing in 2011 after undergoing successful heart surgery, and expects to finish his blood clot treatment in early January.
The Red Bull driver spoke to reporters on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway to give an update on his medical condition and was optimistic about his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season. The 26-year-old said doctors have already given him full clearance to compete again in '11, although he is still on blood thinners and will remain using the medication until next year.
Vickers was diagnosed with blood clots in May and his treatment forced him to stop racing immediately. He revealed that since then he underwent surgery last month as another blood clot was found on a finger in his left hand. The clot went through his heart and Vickers said he was lucky that it did not go to his brain, although he would need to undergo heart surgery, which took place on July 12, in any case.
Additionally he said he was diagnosed with the May-Thurner syndrome, a rare condition that leads to the formation of blood clots due to compression of the vessels in the leg. He also revealed that he had a stent inserted on a vein on his left leg a day after his heart surgery. He said that both procedures were successful, although the decision to go through them was not a straightforward one.
"[The doctors] gave me full clearance for next year," Vickers said. "I will be back next season, racing in January. I'm really excited about that. They feel that I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I've got two issues that I never knew about, fixed.
"Both surgeries went extremely well and it's been a bit of fresh air for me to know what caused this, or part of what caused this. It wasn't one thing. But to get this behind me, it was a big question mark that was still out there."
Despite initially trying to keep close to his outfit and attending races, Vickers recently has distanced himself from the track. He has taken time to attend events where Red Bull is involved such as the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Red Bull Air Race in New York.
Vickers said he has been training hard physically following his heart surgery, including doing some cycling at altitude and swimming. He claims he is currently in great shape and expects to see the benefits of his hard work when he returns to racing next year.
"I was in Aspen, biking with some friends, doing 40, 50, 60-mile rides through the mountains at 10,000 feet," said Vickers. "I feel good. I'm probably going to be in the best shape of my life when I get back to racing. I'm training every day and love it."
"What I love to do is race. It's not only my job, but it's my passion. I definitely have been missing that need for speed, the competition. But at the same time, it's nice to take a break. I just miss being in the car. I miss doing 200mph, banging fenders with the guys I love and hate. I've missed it all."
Two weeks ago Red Bull Racing Team announced Kasey Kahne will be driving one of its cars in 2011, but the full driver line-up of the squad has yet to be revealed as Vickers and Scott Speed are both candidates to drive alongside Kahne next year.