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NASCAR: Healthy Brian Vickers eyes another New Hampshire win

Published July 12, 2014 6:36 pm

NASCAR • Victory at track last season was a career highlight.
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Loudon, N.H. • Brian Vickers can already claim a victory this season without taking a checkered flag.

Vickers has started all 18 Sprint Cup races, the kind of run that's a given for stars like Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon. For Vickers, the number holds a special significance. It means the blood clots that have cost him major chunks of his career since 2010 have yet to return.

He missed 25 races in 2010 when clots were discovered in his legs and, while he was out, he had heart surgery to prevent future clots from moving through his body to his brain.

A blood clot in his right calf found in October sidelined Vickers for the final five races of 2013 because he was taking blood thinners. If he crashed, the thinners would make it impossible for doctors to stop internal bleeding.

Recovered and ready to race, Vickers knows the clots could always return.

"I wouldn't say that I linger on it or I let it kind of affect my daily life," he said. "You just kind of have to move on. I certainly am conscious of it and I make decisions based upon the fact that I could have another clot."

Vickers is always on the move, stretching often or he takes walks on long flights. "I won't just sit there for long periods of time," he said.

Except when he's behind the wheel of the No. 55 Toyota.

Vickers, coming off a runner-up finish at Dayton, is on pace to start all 36 races for the first time since 2011. He started only 11 in 2010 because of the clots, eight in 2012 and 17 last season (because of part-time schedules).

But one of those starts last season was a career highlight. After four years of health scares and unemployment put his promising career in doubt, Vickers was the surprise winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He snapped a 75-race winless streak and won for third time in 271 starts.

Back at New Hampshire for Sunday's race, Vickers couldn't help but recall all the fond memories of his victory celebration. Drivers saluted Vickers with a wave from the car or a back slap on the way to Victory Lane. Johnson, a close friend, pumped his fist out the window toward Vickers.

"I was out of the car and was told I may never race again," Vickers said. "And, to be able to get back into a car at all was a huge accomplishment for me personally. And, then to get back in Victory Lane was just kind of put it over the top."

Nationwide Series

Brad Keselowski had a couple of impressive performances at New Hampshire. It's the victory celebration that again gave him fits.

Keselowski topped all the fields Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, including a dominant run in his Nationwide Series victory. Keselowski also led the speed charts during both Sprint Cup practices. Throw in the pole for the Nationwide race and that made the Team Penske driver a neat 4 for 4.

Simply perfect.

"Well a hell of a Saturday," Keselowski said.

His only hiccup came when he dropped the American flag out of his No. 22 Ford. The flag rested on the track before it was retrieved by an official to let the victory celebration continue.

"It was really windy and my hand's been sore," he said. "I took my hand off the flag for the second and the wind ripped it out. It wasn't one of my prouder moments."

Keselowski still needs work on his victory laps. He needed four stitches to close a wound he received during his Victory Lane celebration in the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky. He tried to open the bottle of champagne by hitting it against a podium, and the bottle broke and cut his hand. —

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