Brian Vickers will return to NASCAR and drive Red Bull Racing's No. 83 car next year, he said Saturday, but revealed that he had heart surgery last month to repair a hole in his heart.
Vickers said in addition to the blood clots discovered in his left leg and his lungs, doctors found a blood clot in his left hand – which meant he had a hole in his heart.
Given an option to either repair the hole with heart surgery or risk a future stroke, Vickers chose the surgery. During the process, doctors discovered Vickers had May-Thurner Syndrome, which occurs when a leg vein and artery pinch and can lead to blood clots.
To address the May-Thurner Syndrome, Vickers had a stent put into his leg which doctors told him will alleviate the problem.
They also said that when Vickers is finished taking blood-thinners in January, the driver will have no more risk of a blood clot than the average person.
Though he hasn't spoken to NASCAR about his return yet, Vickers said he'll be in the best shape of his life and doesn't expect any obstacles that would prevent getting on-track for Daytona.
Vickers said he's enjoyed his time away from the track, but the 26-year-old also said he missed the sport dearly.
"Sometimes you don't know how much you really love something until you don't have it," Vickers said. "And I really love driving race cars."
Vickers said he had no information on what Red Bull would do with current teammate Scott Speed and future teammate Kasey Kahne, saying he only learned of the Kahne deal by reading the Internet.
The driver said confidently that he will be in Red Bull's No. 83 car next season regardless.
"I have a new appreciation for life," he said. "I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to race."
Vickers said that though he misses the track, he's been filling his time by taking advantage of a rare opportunity to relax. He's been boating, biking in Aspen and attended events like the Red Bull Air Race in New York.
He plans to take more time off before returning to racing, as the blood thinners prevent him from driving this season.
Being away from the track, however, made Vickers realize NASCAR is his greatest passion.
"What I love to do is race," he said. "I’ve definitely been missing that need for speed, the competition, the people in the industry that are my friends here."