Brian Vickers ready to resume NASCAR racing career

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

— Brian Vickers is ready to race again.

Sidelined last fall for the second time by blood clots, Vickers said he is off blood-thinning medicine and has been cleared by doctors to race.

“I’m ready,” Vickers said Thursday on the final day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center. “I’ve never been more excited to get back in a car.

“It’s been tough, but I look back at the whole experience and I’m thankful for it. Certainly there were a lot of moments when I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a next time for anything.”

Vickers will run a full Sprint Cup schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, driving the No. 55 Toyota.

He ended a 75-race series winless streak July 14 at New Hampshire while running a partial schedule for MWR. Vickers also competed full time in the Nationwide Series for Joe Gibbs Racing until a blood clot in the right calf during October.

Vickers missed the final 25 races of 2010 while driving for Red Bull Racing after developing blood clots and requiring heart surgery.

Blaney adds to schedule: Team Penske announced it has expanded 20-year-old Ryan Blaney’s schedule this season.

Blaney will run in 15 Nationwide series races and will make two Cup starts, the first coming in May at Kansas Speedway.

“I’m really looking forward to racing more in the Nationwide series and it will be a dream come try for me to race in the Sprint Cup Series,” Blaney said. “I want to thank Roger Penske, our sponsors and everyone at Team Penske for this opportunity and for believing in me.”

Blaney also will compete full time for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck series.

Drive for Diversity class announced: NASCAR unveiled the newest members of its Drive for Diversity program, a youth development initiative for multicultural and female drivers and run through Rev Racing.

The 2014 class is led by Daniel Suarez, who contended for two NASCAR touring series championships last year, and Ryan Gifford, who earned his first NASCAR win last season.

In addition, Sergio Peña returns to the program in which he earned three wins and finished fifth in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points in 2011. They’ll be joined in the K&N Pro Series ranks by Jay Beasley, who won the 2013 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Late Model track championship at Las Vegas.

Devon Amos, who drove with Rev Racing’s Legends program last year, and Paige Decker will compete for the team in Late Models in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Celebrity race returns to roots: The annual Denny Hamlin Short Track showdown celebrity late model race will be April 24 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, a track which helped launch Hamlin’s NASCAR career.

The race, which benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis research, has been held during recent seasons at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Previous winners include Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Tony Stewart.

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