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Driver Brian Vickers leaves health scare in rear-view mirror

Brian Vickers (20) stands next his car during qualifying for NASCAR Nationwide aurace DaytonInternational Speedway DaytonBeach Fla. Friday July 5

Brian Vickers (20) stands next to his car during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide auto race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Friday, July 5, 2013.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

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Updated: August 22, 2013 7:03AM

It has been three years since Brian Vickers had to take himself out of a race car after doctors found blood clots in his left leg and lungs. But the emotion of nearly losing his life hasn’t left him.

Vickers will race his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the STP 300 Nationwide Series race Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, a week after winning the Sprint Cup Series race in Loudon, N.H., for Michael Waltrip Racing. He is
running a part-time Cup schedule this season.

Besides trying to win the STP 300, Vickers also is entered in NASCAR’s Dash for Cash program, in which he can win an
additional $100,000.

‘‘This past week was more than a good week for a lot of reasons,’’ said Vickers, who earned the third Cup victory of his career and his first since 2009 at Michigan. ‘‘The win was very special for me and the whole team.’’

Through 17 Nationwide races,
Vickers is sixth in the points standings and has seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes. His best
Nationwide finishes were seconds at Dover, Del., and Loudon.

It’s a feel-good story, especially when Vickers is reminded of the health scare in 2010 that led him to have heart surgery.

In May 2010, Vickers announced he had to sit out the rest of the
season because doctors found blood clots in his left leg, lungs and a finger. More tests determined Vickers had a hole in his heart, and he had surgery that summer. If Vickers hadn’t had the surgery, he could have suffered a stroke.

Vickers’ medical issue was something that shook up some of the other drivers, too.

‘‘When Brian got sick and had to get out of the car, we all looked at each other and thought, ‘Man, I don’t know if we could do that,’ ’’ said Elliott Sadler, the 2012 STP 300 champion. ‘‘We appreciated Brian taking care of himself first and going through the steps to come back and be a winner on the Cup series. People don’t understand what that takes. He’s been through one hell of a road.’’

Vickers wouldn’t use the word ‘‘vindication’’ to describe his victory last week. He seems more grateful than anything.

‘‘It was [about] enjoying the moment,’’ Vickers said. ‘‘I’m very thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to get back into a race car and race again. Period.’’

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