RELATED: Full coverage of Stewart's accident " Driver tracker: Full lineup for '16 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brian Vickers was officially introduced as Tony Stewart 's interim replacement Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway , taking the reins of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet for the next 10 days of NASCAR's season-opening Speedweeks. It's a chance to return that he wasn't sure he'd ever get. Now that he has it, the 32-year-old driver is determined to make it special. "If you'd asked me six months ago what my racing career looked like, I had no idea," said Vickers , who last raced in NASCAR's top division last March. "What I wasn't going to do was get in something that I didn't feel like when I walked in the gate that I could win in. What I did tell myself I was going to do was I was going to race again one day. It may not have been here, it may not have been Daytona, may not have been in the Sprint Cup Series, but something. I love racing." Vickers has been sidelined from the sport because of a recurrence of the blood clots that have forced him to abbreviate four seasons since 2007. He said he worked with his physicians on a plan to return to the cockpit, getting the necessary clearance to compete again. Thursday, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell told SiriusXM that Vickers had been granted medical clearance from the sanctioning body. Before sealing the deal, Vickers spent time with Stewart, who is out indefinitely with a broken back suffered in an all-terrain vehicle accident Jan. 31. Stewart, who broke his social media silence with an impromptu Periscope session Friday morning, gave his fill-in a vote of confidence while walking on a treadmill as part of his rehabilitation in his North Carolina home. RELATED: Stewart breaks his silence "I'm real confident with Brian in it," Stewart said. "It's pretty cool to see how excited he is about being in a car. He definitely deserves it. … It's nice to take something negative on my side and make something positive about it." The agreement, which for now extends only through the Feb. 21 Daytona 500 , is designed to bolster a team in flux with a new crew chief in Mike Bugarewicz and with Stewart still hoping to return for the balance of his final Sprint Cup season. "Obviously when you're in this situation, you look at who's the best candidate, who has experience," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing 's competition director. "You look at his record at restrictor-plate races and we looked at everybody who was available and we talked to Tony and he felt like Brian would fit our group the best." Vickers has three victories in NASCAR's premier series, including his breakthrough win at Talladega Superspeedway in 2006, his third full season. But since 2007, when his medical ailment was first diagnosed, Vickers has fewer full 36-race seasons than partial ones. Vickers completed his most recent full campaign in 2014, but made just two starts last season. "The last five, six years of my life have been a roller coaster to say the least," Vickers said. "As race car drivers, we're obviously willing to take a certain level of risk, but what I'm not willing to do is take undue risk, and I'm not now. That's the reason my doctors approved me to come back racing with the plan that we've developed. I can't wait to get back in the race car. "For me, it's one day at a time. I've learned so many times that you can only plan so far ahead. You just live life to the fullest, you enjoy it, you make reasonable decisions. Everyone's tolerance is different, but I love what I do. I love this, I'm going to love what's next, whatever that may be. Right now, I'm just focused on enjoying the Daytona 500 ." Vickers said he had been looking for the right opportunity to return to NASCAR in a competitive car, though he loathed the circumstances with Stewart's injury. But throughout Vickers' reintroduction Friday, the common theme to his comeback was gratitude -- to his family, to Stewart-Haas Racing and to Stewart himself for another opportunity. It's something that will likely help Vickers savor the moment as he straps in again for the Great American Race. "I think a lot of guys get in these cars and they're so caught up in the moment, the future and everything else, they don't stop to think that it may be their last time, just to kind of really enjoy it. I can assure you when the green drops next Sunday, I'm going to enjoy it as much as anyone on that race track. If I've got another five or 10 Daytona 500 s in me, then great, and if it's the last one, that's fine, too. "I'm very fortunate. I have gone through a lot, but I've learned so much through all those experiences as a person and grown. I couldn't be happier in my life." BRUCE: Cruel twist to Stewart's swan song
RELATED: Full race entry list Brian Vickers will be piloting the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400 (March 20, 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX), according to the official race entry list, as Tony Stewart is still sidelined with an L1 vertebra burst fracture from an all-terrain vehicle accident. SHR provided an update on Wednesday saying that Stewart's doctors are now implementing a rehabilitation regimen to hasten the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion's recovery. Vickers took the wheel for Stewart for the Daytona 500 where he finished 26th. Vickers also drove the No. 14 at Las Vegas and finished 36th.
RELATED: Arnold Palmer's day at the track Brian Vickers was in Beijing, China on business when the phone messages started piling up with condolences and the news that his friend, golfing legend Arnold Palmer, 87, had died Sunday. Vickers , a former XFINITY Series champion and a three-time Sprint Cup Series race winner, appeared in multiple television commercials with Palmer to promote a medicine to help with blood clots -- a condition they both suffered from. But it was the time off-camera with Palmer that Vickers said he would remember most fondly. "He was so easy to work with, such a nice guy," Vickers told NASCAR.com late Monday from China. "The thing I enjoyed most was sitting around when we weren't shooting (the commercial) -- at lunch, dinner or on the golf course just listening to some of his stories. "I wish only that I had more time to spend with him. I've gotten to know him over the past five years and he was so nice, just fantastic. He is great to work with. We had a lot of fun throughout the entire campaign and off of it as well. He even helped me fix my grip for golf." Vickers got the chance to interact with Palmer during their playful but educational television commercials for the Janssen Pharmaceuticals drug Xarelto. And he was still amazed at the four-time Masters champion's skill on the golf course even though he was well into his 80s. "When we shot that commercial -- the last one with Janssen just a couple years ago -- he was still smoking every single guy out there in putting," Vickers recalled. "He wasn't out-driving anybody anymore, but on the green he was literally draining putts one after another, 30-foot putts no one else could hit. "It was unbelievable, just amazing to see this guy just dropping putt after putt, 30-footers on oscillating greens. I can tell you, that's the way I want to go out." For Vickers , the opportunity to work with Palmer was a life-impacting turn of events. And he was extremely proud to carry the champion's "Arnie's Army" charitable foundation on his race cars at both Martinsville and Auto Club Speedway earlier this season while filling in for an injured Tony Stewart . "I'm obviously going to miss him, he was a great guy," Vickers said. "It's a sad day, but I look at the end of life as more of a celebration of what you accomplish in life. And he accomplished a lot. "I would say people should celebrate his life. He did a lot for the American people and the American dream throughout his career, he was an inspiration and in that regard he should be celebrated." And he will be.
Driver to be on blood thinners for next three months Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Vickers sidelined with recurrence of blood clots FONTANA, Calif. -- Brian Vickers , driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, addressed the media on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway for the first time since team owner Michael Waltrip announced Friday that Vickers will not race in the Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX). Vickers explained that he will have to be on blood thinners for three months because of recurring blood clots that were discovered on his lungs in a CT scan on Thursday. The driver said he cannot drive while he's on blood thinners. "I have not been on a blood thinner since the end of 2013," Vickers said in a press conference on Sunday. While Vickers gave no specific timetable for his return, he said he remains hopeful about resuming his racing career and is far from crossing that bridge. Vickers has been dealing with frequent blood clots in his leg and lungs that caused him to miss the first two races of the year while recovering from heart surgery he had in December. NASCAR kept Vickers Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -eligible. This is the fourth time since 2010 that Vickers has missed had to sit out due to medical reasons. "I've been told a thousand times I'll never race again," Vickers said. "And I've raced the last two weeks." In the only two races that Vickers participated in this season (Las Vegas, Phoenix) he finished 15th and 41st, respectively. Waltrip explained on Friday when the news was announced that he had spent time with Vickers in New Orleans recently and that when he last saw his driver, there was no indication that Vickers was experiencing health issues. It wasn't until 1 a.m. local time on Friday that the MWR team received a call from Vickers detailing his situation. Filling in for Vickers in the No. 55 will be 22-year-old Brett Moffitt . This will be Moffitt's first time ever racing on the 2-mile speedway in California. Moffitt had been piloting the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford for David Ragan as he filled in for injured No. 18 Kyle Busch . NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Chris Buescher will be behind the wheel of the No. 34 Sprint Cup car. When asked if the North Carolina native is worried that his medical condition could push him into an early retirement he responded with confidence. "Am I worried? Yeah, of course," Vickers said. "Have I given up hope? No. "Whatever happens next I couldn't have been happier to be in that car for the last two weeks," Vickers said. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Michael Waltrip Racing turns to 22-year-old in relief role CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brett Moffitt , who made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2014, will drive the No. 55 Aaron's Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1 as Brian Vickers recuperates from offseason heart surgery. Owner Michael Waltrip made the announcement Tuesday during his team's stop on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "He was the driver that everybody at Michael Waltrip Racing wanted to be in that car at Atlanta," Waltrip said. "They believe in him." Moffitt said he learned of his appointment to the No. 55 Toyota two weeks ago, making it exceedingly difficult to keep his fill-in role a secret. "It was a stressful wait to find out that I was going to be in the car, that's for sure," Moffitt said. "I obviously wanted this opportunity really bad and I'm thankful for it." In seven Sprint Cup starts last season, the best start and finish for the 22-year-old native of Grimes, Iowa and former NASCAR Next driver and K&N Pro Series East race winner came in his debut on June 1 at Dover International Speedway when he began the race in 18th and finished 22nd. Though he said he has been enjoying his time as a developmental driver in the MWR system, Moffitt said he was continuing to explore options -- in any of NASCAR's three national series -- that would allow him to race on a more consistent basis. "I'm very happy with MWR. They're very supportive of me -- have been since 2011," Moffitt said. "They gave me the first opportunity to test a Cup car, they gave me the first opportunity to race one, so they've been huge supporters of my career and I wouldn't be where I am without them, that's for sure. But at the same time, I need to be in a race car more often and they've been willing to work with me on that, and they said hey, if you find an opportunity, we're not going to hold you back from it." Waltrip agreed: "We'll let Brett do anything he wants to do in order to get laps so that he can continue to mature as a race car driver. We believe in Brett, he's our guy, but if we can loan him out and he can race somewhere else that would make me happy." Waltrip will drive the No. 55 Toyota in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 22 (1 p.m. ET, FOX) as he attempts to win his third Great American Race. Despite missing the first two races of the season, Vickers received NASCAR's blessing to run for the Sprint Cup Series championship provided he meets all other requirements for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. He will return to his ride at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third race of the year on March 8. Last month, doctors discovered Vickers' body rejected a patch that was placed over a hole in his heart. They alleviated the problem and gave him clearance to race just three months after the corrective heart surgery. "They took my heart out and replaced it with a lion heart," Vickers joked on Tuesday. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
RELATED: Full schedule for Texas FORT WORTH -- Brian Vickers hasn't made three consecutive Sprint Cup race starts since the 2014 season. He's preparing to do it in Saturday's Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and he's doing so with the attitude of deep gratitude and high expectations for himself. His job filling in for Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet while the three-time Cup champ recovers from an offseason back injury and surgery, has given Vickers , 32, the kind of opportunity he has sought and deserves. He's coming off a season-best seventh-place finish at Martinsville after starting an impressive third and was 13th at Auto Club Speedway in his previous start. At this point, continuity is a bonus and Vickers certainly likes the direction this is going. "It's probably a better question for the team, but speaking to them I know that their sentiment would be 'It's huge,' " Vickers said Thursday at Texas. "Having some consistency in the driver's seat has been great for them and great for us to build that chemistry and work together. It takes time. It just does. "From a communications standpoint with me, the crew chief, the engineers, the spotter, it takes time, but we are getting there. We are making it happen. It's an honor for me to be in the (No. 14) car. I've said this before, I will say it again, I hate that I'm in the car because of the circumstances because Tony is injured and he's not here. "I have been in his shoes many times. I wish him nothing but the best. I would love to see him in the car soon, but happy to fill in for him until then. I think the more times we are together, the more times we are in this car, the better it will get." Vickers won the pole at Texas in 2006 driving for Hendrick Motorsports , and his best finish at the 1.5-mile track is 2014's fourth-place showing -- his only top-five -- while driving for Michael Waltrip Racing . But listening to Vickers talk and seeing the excitement in his face, he absolutely believes things are looking up. He is bolstered by the good finishes and optimistic about having the continuity and very real sense of promise here in Texas this weekend. "It is a challenge, you know, not being in the car every week; although it is kind of nice, at the same time," Vickers said with a laugh. "It's certainly an added challenge. But, as you guys know, everyone in this room pretty much is on the circuit and understands the grind of the length of our season. But the last three weeks I think, have been great, working with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) kind of continually, and the whole team, and really building momentum we need to put a car in Victory Lane. "I feel like we've done it in the last few weeks. Martinsville showed that. I feel like we have a good car coming here to Texas and hopefully we can build on that and take a seventh and turn it into a win or a top 5." Vickers' SHR teammate Danica Patrick says Vickers has been an ideal addition to the team during Stewart's recovery. " Brian has done a great job," Patrick said Thursday. "He's done really well. He fits in really well. He's intelligent with the race car, he's helpful as a teammate. He's fallen into place really well. "So I've always known Brian is a really good driver. He's had a great career and it's good we could find someone so strong and consistent and full of experience to be in the seat for Tony while he's getting better." Vickers is scheduled to be out of the car next week in Bristol, Tenn -- Ty Dillon will drive -- and has honestly kept things open depending on Stewart's return and the uncertain time frame of it all. This is bonus time for Vickers , who missed all but two races last season because of blood clots -- marking the fourth time since the 2010 season he was sidelined while dealing with important medical issues. His attitude and determination now is very evident and he's making good on an unexpected opportunity. With his time at SHR a moving target, and his health strong now, Vickers has been open to various opportunities. He said Thursday that he hasn't ruled out a possible Indianapolis 500 start with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in May. "I would love to race anything, quite honestly," Vickers said. "The Indy 500 would be one of them. I would love to run Le Mans again. I would love to race sports cars. I would love to be in this car. "I am really enjoying this opportunity as well. I'm open to all of those opportunities. Indy is one of them. I would love to have something to announce, unfortunately, there is nothing to announce at this point. It is still on the table. It’s not done, but it's not off the table yet, either. We will continue exploring that and if it happens great, if not, move on to the next opportunity and maybe next year."
MORE: Full race results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brian Vickers ' much anticipated return to NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series racing lasted 23 laps into Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited exhibition and concluded with a massively wrecked car. But the popular driver -- who missed all but two races last year while dealing with a recurrence of blood clot issues -- still emerged from Daytona International Speedway 's infield care center smiling and encouraged, and perhaps a little sore from the heavy contact. It was Vickers' first time filling in for injured driver/owner Tony Stewart , who broke his L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident two weeks ago. Vickers is set to drive Stewart's No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet during Daytona Speedweeks, which includes qualifying for the Daytona 500 Sunday, the Can-Am Duels on Thursday and the race next Sunday, Feb. 21. Vickers' car cut a tire while racing in heavy traffic. At least seven cars were caught up in the ensuing accident. But despite the disappointment in an early exit -- he finished 24th in the 25-car field -- Vickers said he enjoyed the taste of Cup competition and feels better about what to expect come Thursday's Can-Am Duels, which set the Daytona 500 starting field. "I had a little contact," Vickers said, smiling. "But it's the Sprint Unlimited and that's what it's all about. The 18 ( Kyle Busch ) and I got together a little bit early, had a little (tire) rub but it went away right away. The 2 ( Brad Keselowski ) and I had a little rub on the front-stretch. "I felt the tire going down on the front stretch and I tried to get out of it, but we were three wide. Not much you can do, just try to manage the damage." Vickers , a three-time Cup winner, has missed major parts of three of the past four seasons while dealing with medical issues. His last start was at Las Vegas in 2015 and he didn't race again after doctors told him he couldn't compete while on necessary blood-thinning medicine. Stewart-Haas Racing announced this week that Vickers would drive the car at Daytona, but has not said who will steer the Chevrolet thereafter. The late timing has meant some serious catch-up work. Not only is Vickers driving a different car with a team's brand new crew chief (Mike Bugarewicz), but he's also refining some of the basics of competition he’s missed in the last year. "We learned a lot," Vickers said. "It's the first time back and we worked on the spotter-driver relationship, talked about what we want and what we need. Unfortunately we didn't get to pit road, that was the part I was most disappointed in, I needed to make sure I hit the marks. But we've got plenty of time, the Duels, practice and then the Daytona 500 ." Primarily for Vickers , it's been a good opportunity to race again while also helping his friend Stewart. Having missed so much of the last few seasons, this was clearly a chance not to be missed. "I felt great out there," Vickers said. "I was sideways on Lap 1, but it was fun. It feels great to be back in a race car and I was having fun. I love racing. Everyone was racing like it was Daytona 500 . I think the most frustrating part of it for me was not to finish this first race back. But these guys have done so much and worked hard and gave me a great car. Not gonna get 'em tonight. We’ll have to get 'em in the Daytona 500 ."
RELATED: Stewart suffers serious back injury " Evernham's firsthand account Stewart-Haas Racing has called a press conference Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway to announce who will drive Tony Stewart 's car in the Feb. 21 season-opening Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), and sources confirm to NASCAR.com that Brian Vickers is the leading candidate for the job. The three-time premier series champion Stewart is sidelined for an undetermined amount of time after injuring the L1 vertebra in his back in an all-terrain vehicle accident in the desert a week ago. Stewart underwent surgery and is back home in Charlotte, North Carolina, but no timetable has been given for his return. In the meantime, sources confirm that his SHR team is making plans for Vickers to steer Stewart's No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in the Daytona 500 . Vickers , 32, competed in only two races last season for Michael Waltrip Racing after missing time due to a recurrence of blood clots, and he currently is in the process of getting final medical clearance to fill in for Stewart. On Thursday, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell confirmed to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that NASCAR has medically cleared Vickers , should SHR elect to put him in the seat. Vickers did not compete in the 2015 Daytona 500 , but started races in Las Vegas and Phoenix before announcing the next week at Fontana that he would be sidelined while under treatment for the clots. Because Vickers was on blood-thinning medication to deal with the blood clots, he was not cleared by doctors to race and has not made another Sprint Cup start since. This would be Vickers' first Daytona 500 start since 2014. He finished runner-up in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July of 2014. RELATED: Full coverage of accident, impact
RELATED: Stewart offers health update post-Phoenix FONTANA, Calif. – Brian Vickers will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to make two consecutive starts in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet for 2016. Vickers , filling in for SHR owner/driver Tony Stewart here at Auto Club Speedway this weekend, said Friday that he will also be behind the wheel in two weeks when the series heads to Martinsville Speedway . Vickers will make his third start for the team this weekend at ACS after finishing 26th at Daytona International Speedway and 36th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon has driven in relief for the team on two occasions this season as well, finishing 17th at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 15th last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . "As of right now, I'm going to be (in the car) at Martinsville. … Then we're figuring out everything from there," Vickers said during a media appearance at the track. "As you know nothing has really changed. I think everyone is really just kind of waiting to see how Tony shakes out." Stewart, scheduled to retire from Sprint Cup competition at the end of the '16 season, was injured during an off-season off-road accident and has yet to compete this year. Following last week's race Stewart said no date has been set for his return to competition, although doctors had cleared him to begin driving his personal car – something he said he had been doing for three weeks without medical approval. Vickers' own racing career has been interrupted by medical issues (blood clots), and sponsorship on the No. 14 entry this weekend as well as for the Martinsville race has a tie-in to his condition. For the next two races, the car will carry branding featuring the drug company Janssen and Arnie's Army Charitable Foundation, the charitable organization founded by legendary golfer Arnold Palmer. "I can honestly say this: As much as I want to race this car as long as I can … I really want to see Tony back in it," Vickers said. "I've been in his shoes. I know exactly what it’s like. It's his last season (and) he deserves to be in this car as much as he can be. "I'm honored to race it as long as I need to and as long as I can, but I'm happy to turn the keys back over as soon as he is ready."
RELATED: Practice 1 results Brian Vickers topped the leaderboard in Friday's opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Martinsville Speedway , wheeling his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 97.182 mph. Vickers is temporarily filling in for the injured Tony Stewart . Right behind him was reigning race winner Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, clocking in at 97.108 mph. Rounding out the top five were Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford (97.088 mph), Ryan Newman in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (97.053 mph) and Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (97.023 mph). Series points leader Kevin Harvick was 17th-fastest with a speed of 96.381 mph in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. With rain in the forecast, many drivers began -- rather than ended -- practice in qualifying trim. If today's qualifying session were to get rained out, the starting lineup would be set by practice times. Trevor Bayne spun and smacked the wall with less than a minute remaining in the 80-minute session and sustained significant damage to the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. He will resort to a backup car. "In qualifying trim I thought our car drove good, it handled good, but I was really lagging in the braking zones," Bayne said. "We were giving up two to three-tenths into both corners and I tried to just push the braking zone a little bit more and it started wheel-hopping really bad. There was nothing I could do about it. Once it started bouncing I tried to save it and once it got backwards stood in the gas and it just backed in. "The back-up car will be good. I hate that we worked on that one in race trim and I tore it up, but I just feel really bad about it. I think this might be the first one I’ve got to for a back-up in practice, but they’ll get it ready for qualifying." The Sprint Cup Series returns to the track at 4:15 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (FS1).