A strenuous off-season could lead to plenty of success once the year kicks off at Daytona. During NASCAR’s off months, Brian Vickers had his second heart surgery in the last four and a half years. Although it was nearly a career-ending surgery, the driver of the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing is set to return in 2015.
Vickers had a disappointing 2014 season, with only three top-five and nine top-10 finishes, along with one pole at Talladega.
However, it was following the 2014 season that caught the most news. On Dec. 15th, he was on his way to an Aaron’s photo shoot when he began to feel ill. What was supposed to be a day spent in front of the camera ended up being spent in the operating room. The result of this was a replacement patch on his heart that was covering a gap between his right and left atria after the old one dissolved. Vickers spent the next week in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
In mid-January, it was revealed that the three-time Cup Series winner would be back behind the wheel starting in the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He will be missing the Daytona 500, as well as the second race of the year at Atlanta.
Michael Waltrip, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing and two-time Daytona 500 champion is set to pilot the car for the “Great American Race” in late February.
Brett Moffitt will drive the No.55 at Atlanta. Last season, Moffitt raced in the Sprint Cup Series seven times, with a best result of 22nd-place in his series debut at Dover.
“I was just honored,” Moffitt told Frontstretch. “It’s such a great opportunity, and I’m really grateful for Aaron’s for giving me this opportunity.
“Brett has been working with our team for a couple of years, and we would go test last year, he was as fast as anybody,” Michael Waltrip, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing told out editor.
The 22-year-old has been a development driver for MWR for the past couple of seasons, but has not really been established in either the Camping World Truck Series or the XFINITY Series.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Brett will go into Atlanta and have a chance to win that race,” Vickers said to Frontstretch during the NASCAR Media Tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Vickers implied that he wanted Moffitt to get the opportunity of a life time.
“Brett has done so much for MWR. He has such a good attitude, and he’s just a really good race car driver,” Vickers continued. “It was really up to Rob (Kaufmann) and Michael. I have no doubt that it is the right decision. Brett has done so much for MWR. He has such a good attitude, and he’s just a really good race car driver.
The best news for Vickers came when NASCAR give him a pass on the first two races with a medical exemption. He is still eligible to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff format, which was originally doubted. Vickers would more than likely have to win because he would be two full races behind in points, but anything is possible.
The driver’s “never give up” attitude has brought him this far. It will be crucial for Vickers to maintain this motto as there is no guarantee in racing, or in life.
Vickers will be entering his 13th season behind the wheel of a Cup Series car, and is looking to make the Chase for the second time of his career.