Cornelius, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Sprint Cup Series driver Brian Vickers has been medically cleared to return to racing full-time in early March, three months after he underwent open heart surgery.
Vickers, who drives the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in NASCAR's top series, is scheduled to make his season debut in the March 8 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. MWR revealed on Wednesday that team co-owner Michael Waltrip will drive Vickers' car in the Feb. 22 season-opening Daytona 500. The team will name a substitute driver for the March 1 event at Atlanta Motor Speedway at a later date.
In December, doctors discovered that Vickers' body was rejecting a patch that was surgically placed over a hole in his heart in 2010. Earlier that year, he was diagnosed and treated for blood clots in his left leg and both lungs. Vickers also missed part of the 2013 racing season after he was placed on blood-thinning medication to treat a blood clot in his right calf.
"The doctors gave me a clean bill of health and said I will be better than before," Vickers said in a team statement. "The advancements in modern medicine and surgical procedures are amazing, and I have to thank my doctors at the Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and Carolinas Medical Center for their extraordinary care. I have literally put my life in their hands twice, and I cannot begin to express my level of gratitude."
Vickers won the championship in NASCAR's second-tier series (now known as the Xfinity Series) in 2003. He is a three-time race winner in Sprint Cup as well, with his most recent victory in that series occurring in July 2013 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.