Brian Vickers expected to replace Tony Stewart at NASCAR opener

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DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. — Brian Vickers is expected to replace injured driver Tony Stewart for the NASCAR season opener at Daytona International Speedway, The Associated Press has learned

Stewart-Haas Racing has scheduled a Friday news conference to discuss its plans for the No. 14 Chevrolet. A person familiar with the situation told AP on Wednesday that it will be Vickers. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is awaiting word from NASCAR on whether Vickers is medically cleared to race.

Vickers ran only two races last season before suffering a recurrence of blood clots. He can't compete when being treated for the clots because the blood thinners increase his risk of serious internal bleeding if he crashes.

Stewart is sidelined for the start of his final NASCAR season with a fractured vertebra. He was hurt riding an all-terrain vehicle in the desert in California last week.

Vickers is only expected to run at Daytona, which opens Friday ahead of the Feb. 21 season-opening Daytona 500. SHR is still looking at all of its options for beyond Daytona. Stewart is expected to race at some point this year.

Vickers has been sidelined four different times for health issues since 2010.

He missed the final five races of the 2013 season because he was placed on blood thinners to treat a blood clot in his right calf. He also missed 25 races during the 2010 season when clots were discovered in his legs and lungs.

During his 2010 absence, he underwent a pair of procedures, one to close a hole in his heart and another to insert a stent into a vein in his left leg. He was private about the heart surgery and didn't address it until a month after the procedure.

He was looking forward to last season, but surgery in December 2014 to repair a hole in his heart sidelined him for the first two races. He needed the surgery because his body was rejecting the artificial patch he received five years prior.

He was able to run only two races before blood clots returned, and the need for blood thinners sidelined him the rest of the year.


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