Eight months ago, Brian Vickers faced the very real possibility that his racing career might be over at 26. Doctors discovered he had several blood clots, which meant he had to go on medication. His 2010 season abruptly ended on May 14.
Since then, Vickers has undergone heart surgery – he had a hole in his heart – and had a stent inserted in his left leg after doctors discovered he had May-Thurner syndrome, a condition that can cause blood clots.
Finally off medication, doctors have given him clearance to race again, and Vickers wasted no time in getting back in the car. He participated in a test session earlier this week at Walt Disney World Speedway, the first time he'd been in a race car since May 8, 2010.
Yahoo! Sports talked to Vickers about what he's gone through, his prognosis and what it meant to finally be back inside a race car:
Y! Sports: How anxious were you to get back in the car?
Vickers: Very. Obviously it's been the culmination of a long series of events. It's been tough. It hasn't been easy dealing with everything that's happened. But everything happens for a reason. I've learned a lot from the experience. Ultimately, I'm really happy about being back in the race car.
Y! Sports: Was there ever a point when you didn't think you'd be able to drive again?
Vickers: Yeah. There were many times when I didn't think I'd be able to drive again. When everything first happened and the doctors started filling me in on how serious the matter was, it started to sink in that I may never be back in the car. That wasn't easy. It was a hard pill to swallow.
But I never gave up hope, and the doctors didn't either. We were able to work through everything and work it out so I could get back in.
Y! Sports: How has your daily life changed?
Vickers: Nothing really. I mean nothing right now. I definitely have a deeper appreciation spending day in and day out. But I don't do anything different.
I mean, for a long time I was on medication and there were things I couldn't do and it changed my life dramatically. But now that I'm off blood thinners, everything's gone back to normal.
Y! Sports: So you don't have to take any medication on a daily basis?
Y! Sports: What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?
Vickers: I've been involved in some other companies outside of racing more. But more than anything I've just been travelling and enjoying life. Just enjoying time with friends and family and taking some time off.
Y! Sports: When did you know you were going to be able to race again?
Vickers: There was never a single moment. The doctors basically, in a lot of ways, the decision was mine. They said, 'Here's the situation and here are the risks. If you want to go racing, we think that's an acceptable risk.' But they're not going to make the decision for me. They're not going to say, 'Go racing.' If anything they're going to say not to. I'm lucky they didn't say that. They said if you want to race, we think it's an acceptable risk and go race.
Y! Sports: What is the risk?
Vickers: Being a race car driver is risky. Having another blood clot is risky. That's a risk. Anyone can have a blood clot, but obviously I've had one before, so there's a risk I could have another one.
Y! Sports: But right now you're completely healthy?
Vickers: Yep. Absolutely.
Y! Sports: What did it feel like to finally be back in the car?
Vickers: It felt amazing. It was even better than I imagined.
Y! Sports: Was it difficult or were you able to get right back into your groove?
Vickers: It was actually just right back at it. It was like riding a bicycle.
Y! Sports: You were forced out of the car right at time when your career was on the upswing. You were coming off a year in which you qualified for the Chase. What are your expectations for 2011? Can you get back to that 2009 level right away?
Vickers: Absolutely. That's definitely our expectation – to get back on and go win a championship. That's the reason I came back was to go win. I know it's not going to be easy, but that's our goal.
Y! Sports: Kasey Kahne is your new teammate, for one year anyway. How is that working so far?
Vickers: Obviously him being gone in a year is different. But at the same time, that happens. Teammates come and go. I've known Kasey for a long time. We work great together. We've always communicated well, and I think it's going to be fantastic.