Posted: Thu January 30, 2014 11:28AM; Updated: Thu January 30, 2014 12:38PM

Brian Vickers cleared to race full Sprint Cup slate

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Brian Vickers
Having recovered from a blood clot, Brian Vickers has set his sights on his frist Daytona 500 since 2011.
Jeffrey Vest/Icon SMI/Icon SMI

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Brian Vickers is ready to go racing again.

Vickers said Thursday he is off blood thinners and plans to run the entire Sprint Cup schedule this season, beginning with next month's Daytona 500.

The 30-year-old Vickers missed the final five races last season after doctors discovered a blood clot in his right calf in October. He also missed the final 25 races of 2010 because of blood clots and heart surgery. Aaron's will be his full-time sponsor for the No. 55 Toyota car for the season.

"I'm ready," Vickers said. "I've never been more excited to get back in a car."

Vickers has run 22 races with Michael Waltrip Racing and has 10 top-10 finishes. He won last July at New Hampshire, snapping a 75-race winless streak.

"It's been tough, but I look back at the whole experience and I'm thankful for it," Vickers said. "Certainly there were a lot of moments when I wasn't sure if there was going to be a next time for anything. Once that was behind us it was, `Will I ever be back in a Sprint Cup car again?"'

Vickers credits the support of his family and friends for helping him get back to where he is today. Vickers said the entire experience has taught him patience, something he said he's lacked.

"I've learned a lot that you just can't force things," he said. "As much as you want things to happen faster, you just can't force that. You have to be patient and wait."

Vickers knows there is always a chance the clots could return. If that's the case, he will go back on blood thinners.

"There is risk that you can get clot, or I can get another clot," Vickers said. "But it's a very low percentage if unprovoked. There is a big distinction between provoked and unprovoked when it comes to clotting."

Vickers said the most recent clotting incident came after he had his foot immobilized for a month in a protective boot.

"If I were to break my leg and go into a cast, my odds would increase a lot," he said.

Vickers is focused on Daytona, where he hasn't raced since 2011. In 14 Sprint Cup races at Daytona, Vickers' best career finish is seventh.

"It's been a long time," Vickers said. "To get back down there is always special. I'm curious to see if that energy and excitement and that love is going to feel the same this year as it did the first time I went to Daytona. I have a feeling it will, especially having gone through as much as I did to get back there."

Norris no longer spotting for MWR after scandal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Ty Norris' days of working as a spotter for Michael Waltrip Racing are over.

Norris said Thursday he will no longer be spotting on the stand for MWR following a scandal last season that rocked NASCAR and led to his suspension.

Norris was recently reinstated by NASCAR after serving a four-month suspension for his role in attempting to manipulate the outcome of last September's race at Richmond to get Martin Truex Jr. into the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

Norris said his new title with MWR will be executive vice president of business, and his role at the race track will be pretty much remain the same - recruiting drivers and dealing with sponsors on the business side. He just won't have any communication with the drivers on strategy during the race.

"It's not upsetting at all," Norris said. "I thought I was retired from it already."

Norris was caught on the radio Sept. 7, 2013, instructing MWR driver Brian Vickers to pit at Richmond to help his teammate Truex make the Chase.

After an investigation, NASCAR bounced Truex out of the Chase in favor of Ryan Newman. MWR was fined $300,000 for manipulating the outcome of the race, and all three crew chiefs for the organization were placed on probation for the rest of the season. MWR also lost a major sponsorship deal with NAPA.

NASCAR later expanded the Chase field to 13 drivers to include Jeff Gordon and issued new rules banning digital radios and more than one team member per car on the spotter stand.

When asked if NASCAR was trying to send a message, Norris said: "I think that's pretty clear."

Norris said people in the sport have taken notice.

"You respect history, you learn from history and you do everything you can in order to make history," Norris said. "I think if anyone has respected the history and has learned from our history, you won't see any of that going on in the future."

While he is now allowed to return to the track, Norris remains on indefinite probation.

Waltrip remains supportive of Norris, who has spent nearly a quarter century of his life working in racing.

"Ty has been an integral part of Michael Waltrip Racing since I hired him in 2005 when I began down this road," Waltrip said. "He's really connected in the sport and is passionate about NASCAR and Michael Waltrip Racing. He is the key interface between the sponsors and the team. He also does a lot of recruiting and if there is someone looking for a position he is certainly aware of it."

With the scandal behind them, MWR is looking to move on.

"We've closed the book," Waltrip said. "Only a fool would trip over something that is behind him. So we are focused on the future and ready to win races."

Norris, for one, is happy to have last year behind him.

"It's always been about the future and what's ahead," Norris said. "You have to look out the windshield. It's about 2014 and 2015 and the future and building back up. We did a lot of work to become a winning organization and we have a lot of work to do again."

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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