Brian Vickers on NASCAR return: ‘My love for racing has only increased, but I’ve also learned it’s not who I am’

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Brian Vickers admits he was less sure about whether he was ready to return to a stock car this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway than his doctors.

“Las Vegas was their choice not mine,” Vickers told reporters Friday morning at the 1.5-mile oval before taking his first laps this season in the No. 55 Toyota. “I tried to push them the other way. I said, ‘I’m fine waiting longer.’ They said, ‘You’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.’

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver, who missed the first two races of the season after heart surgery in mid-December, still called his doctor early this week about a checkup.

“He said, ‘Listen, the least concerned person is me, but if you want to come in so we can have a chat, you can,’ ” Vickers said. “In a sense, I want to go racing. It’s what I love, but I didn’t push them in a decision. It’s their decision.”

The 2003 Xfinity Series champion is accustomed to the perspective gained from being sidelined. Vickers missed the final 25 races of 2010 after a blood clot was discovered in his legs and lungs. Another blood clot left him benched for the final five races of ’13.

“My love for racing has only increased, but I’ve also learned it’s not who I am,” he said. “It’s something I do. It’s a part of who I am and means the world to me. But it’s not who I am. If I can’t race, life’s going to go on. I asked, ‘Can I race?’ but if (doctors) say no, I’m not going to fight them if they don’t think it’s safe.”

Though he didn’t race at Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, Vickers was at the track with his team, watching from atop the hauler.

“It’s been tough being out of the car,” he said. “A lot of challenging emotions. I’ve been at the track the last two weekends supporting them and trying to pick up little things to be beneficial in the car.”