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Fast Take via FYI WIRZ   By Dwight Drum
Web work by Larsen & Drum    Images by Drum
CNN’s Gupta might not prescribe skydiving for NASCAR’s Vickers
Brian Vickers skydives onto the infield at Daytona International Speedway.

In February Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, interviewed NASCAR driver Brian Vickers just before his return to the track, his first race, the Daytona 500. Vickers had been cleared by doctors to race again after sitting out about half the season owing to a blood clot problem. Gupta explained then.

“At age 20, Vickers had driven his way in the record books by becoming the youngest champion in the NASCAR Nationwide Series” Gupta said. “A mere six years later, Vickers’ racing career came to an abrupt halt.”

Dr. Gupta commented on the way the diagnosis became even more complicated.

“Suddenly the 26-year-old was in the race of his life," Gupta said. “Vickers was also diagnosed with a condition where a vein in the pelvic area was compressed. A battery of tests found something else, a hole in his heart. It made the perfect storm along with the cramped quarters of his race car for hours on end. His health was at stake, and so was his career.”

Dr. Gupta elaborated on the medical process.

“Vickers had heart surgery and he was put on blood thinners,” Gupta said. “Now, eight months later, he’s scot-free. There’s a stent in his left leg to keep the vein open, but his doctors have cleared him to race. Vickers said he made one of the most difficult decisions of his life to get back in the car.”

That was February. By June Vickers was not only racing routinely but got back to skydiving as well. He commented on the question of his health after jumping from 5000 feet into the infield of Daytona International Speedway.

“Between racing and skydiving in Daytona, the question has been answered,” Vickers said. “It has been laid to rest.”

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Quotes by Dr. Gupta are courtesy of CNN.com. Quotes from Brian Vickers derived from personal interviewing.

Vickers arrived after Red Bull jumpmaster tested the air and ground.

Vickers described the exhilarating jump in Daytona.

“I see grand stands, building, light poles, scoring tower,” Vickers said. “Man there’s a lot of stuff down there. This is a tight landing for me. I’m proud of it. I’m happy I did it. It would have been great to have a special landing, pin point perfect, but I hit the mark and it was rough. I tumbled.”

The DIS jump meant much to Vickers in many ways.

“The actual jumping into the track is special,” Vickers said. “Knowing that last year we had this planned for the winner’s circle and I wasn’t able to make the jump because of the health issues. I was out of the car and obviously wasn’t able to skydive either. To be able to come back here and finish the job we started was very special.”

Life events have changed the way Vickers views the world.

“When you realize you can be walking down the street and end up in the hospital, all of sudden skydiving or snowboarding or skiing, mountain biking, stuff like that doesn’t seem so risky anymore,” Vickers said. “You got to have good judgment and take calculated risks, but you’ve got to live life.

“There were a lot of times when I had no idea if I were ever going to sky dive again, race cars or any of that stuff for that matter. When all of a sudden it was taken away from me, you really appreciate it. You learn what’s important to you and what’s not. There are something that aren’t as important to you anymore. And there are a lot of things that are more important.”

Some sponsors might shy away from off-track danger but Vickers has the full support of his sponsor.

“It’s definitely a little bit outside the box,” Vickers said. “Red Bull was fully behind it. They love this kind of stuff. With Red Bull, if you’re up to doing it, they up for helping.”

The June skydiving event was the first time Vickers has jumped in the rain.

“When you’re falling at 150 to 170 miles an hour, it (rain) hurts. It stings a little bit, but not too bad. It was fun. Once you get under the canopy, it’s not bad at all.”

DIS President Joey Chitwood III introduced Brian Vickers to waiting media.

When asked how he thought what Dr. Gupta might think of his skydiving Vickers got specific.

“I don’t think any doctor would be excited about me skydiving—period,” Vickers said. “When you’re talking to doctors about inherent risk when it comes to medical stuff, they always revert back to the fact that you race cars for a living. You’ve clearly accepted a level of risk and I think that goes with skydiving.

“I’m sure he would be happy. He’d be proud to see that sitting here after everything I went through last year. Sitting here this February doing an interview with him talking about health and coming back racing to not only race and go skydiving in Daytona is a huge accomplishment after what happened last year.”

Vickers confirmed his adventurous nature.

“I’m up for whatever I do. I skydive. I rock climb, mountain bike, dirt bike—I’m up for whatever. Bullfighting? I haven’t done that yet, but it’s on the list.”

After all that Vickers has accomplished in recent months—a red cape with Red Bull logo in his hands in a bull ring seems quite realistic.

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