MICHAEL WALTRIP, co-owner, Michael Waltrip Racing
Why will Brian Vickers miss the Auto Club Speedway race?
"We're here to talk about Brian Vickers. He unfortunately had another episode with clotting last evening and he is going to miss the race this weekend. It's Blood Clot Awareness Month and Brian was here on behalf of our partner Janssen to talk about the importance of recognizing the symptoms and the feelings that you get when you are experiencing clotting.
"That was going to be the message for the weekend for Brian to talk about that and unfortunately he's not going to be able to do that, but I think it's just a great example of how important awareness is and understanding what the symptoms are that if you have clotting. He recognized those symptoms. He got in touch with his doctors and they began treatment on Brian.
"My mom, who had a stroke 20-some years ago due to clotting, she didn't recognize the symptoms and it caused her to have a stroke and she's in a wheelchair today and has to have 24/7 care because of that, so the message is powerful. The message is strong that recognizing the early symptoms of clotting is important and so we will continue to spread that message and we will do it with Brian in our hearts and in our minds. His heart surgery back in December was a success. He was able to return and have a very competitive race in Las Vegas and we were really proud of Brian for that and now he's going to be sidelined again.
"We support Brian. We love his heart, we love who he is and we don't know how long he will be sidelined. This is all very fluid and new information and we're learning as we go, but we've elected again of course to put Brett Moffitt in the car. Brett was a wonderful replacement driver when he drove for us at Atlanta – got a top-10 finish and was really a great story for the Atlanta race and for our partner Aaron's over there. We expect that Brett will race the car competitively and he's certainly aware of the clotting issues that many Americans face and he's well versed on Janssen's message, so not only will he be a great driver for us this weekend, he will also be able to continue with me and Kevin Nealon And Arnold Palmer – some of the folks Brian has partnered with at Janssen – to spread the message of being aware of clotting and preventing the results that it can cause."
How is Brian today?
"He's in the care of his doctors and expects to be able to operate normally today. That's really all the information I have on what his current state is other than he feels really good and he's really sad."
Was Brian in California when this happened?
"Yes, sir, he had made his way. We were in – Brian and I both were in New Orleans on Wednesday evening at an event for our partner Aaron's and we both traveled here yesterday."
How did you find out about Brian's most recent issue?
"Like Ty (Norris, executive vice president, MWR) said, Ty got the call in the middle of the night. When I last saw him there was no indication and that's the way Brian (Vickers) is – there was no indication that he felt bad and he probably didn't. It probably just came on him in the evening. Like I said, I talked to his wife and they're both very positive and he feels good. I know he wants to drive the car, but he also loves spreading the message of Janssen and clot awareness. He told me and (Brett) Moffitt that Moffitt has to pick up the driving and I have to pick up the spreading the word end. Spreading the word is easy for me because every time I look at my mom, I think about how that could have been prevented and that's why awareness is so important to me. If he weren't a race car driver, you wouldn't know there was an issue, he would just be on blood thinners and he would be fine. In order to drive the car he has to come off the thinners and that hasn't worked out yet."
Where is Brian now and will he travel home?
"Brian (Vickers) is in LA with his doctors and I think that anything about what the rest of the day holds, I would be speculating and I don't want to do that. When Brian had his surgery, his doctor said that he wouldn't have any problem relating to the surgery racing the car at Vegas and that's exactly what happened and the doctor was correct. He is more susceptible to clots evidently than you and I are. We knew that could be an issue. Are we surprised? Yes. Did we think it would happen? No. As far as Brett (Moffitt), he was here and he's a part of the MWR family and in the system. He was doing some virtual testing for us this week, so he's been plugged in all week long and he fits in Brian's seat so there are no issues at all with getting Brett into the car. He's never run a lap here at California Speedway, so that will be fun to watch. I love kids and he's like, 'I've never run here before and this is going to be cool.' As the owner, he's never run here before, but he certainly over-achieved for us at Atlanta in being able to – I was afraid when he got there with that youthful enthusiasm and exuberance that he would overdo it and mess up and he was the opposite. He was just smart, methodically made his way through the race and produced a great result at the end out-running Brad Keselowski on the same tires for that eighth-place finish. I was really proud of that accomplishment for that young man. Love his heart and his spirit and am glad he's going to be able to step into Brian's car for him."
Do you expect Brian to still be eligible for the Chase and is Brett Moffitt with MWR moving forward?
"No, we haven't talked to NASCAR yet and for the foreseeable future Brett (Moffitt) is definitely our guy. This just happened so Rob (Kaufmann, team co-owner) is in England and Ty and I have been in constant contact with Rob and we're going to get through this weekend and we'll have a plan next week to share with everyone."
Are there other limitations to what Brian is able to do?
"I can't answer that. I don't have the knowledge of that. I just know he can't drive a car and that's the one that he wants to do the most. I also know that he wants to spread the word of Janssen during blood clotting month and now that's going to be predominantly mine and Brett's (Moffitt) job. We've got his back."
Is there a chance this medical issue could end Brian's racing career?
"I just know his heart and his passion and he would not say that and therefore I can't say that. He will tell you that he would be back in a couple weeks or a couple months or whatever the decision comes from his doctors that it will be. He's certainly overcome a lot and I expect him to be able to overcome this. Obviously, this is a setback for our team and for Brian and I think this morning we're just glad that Brian is okay. We look forward to learning more and coming up with a plan."
TY NORRIS, executive vice president, Michael Waltrip Racing
How did you receive the news about Brian?
"I just received a phone call about one o'clock in the morning and he's obviously disappointed in the result, but Brian has a lot of things in perspective and the thing in perspective is that he was aware of the issue, thought he knew what it was, it was confirmed and he's getting the right treatment and, as a human being, he'll be fine moving forward and that's the most important thing."
What did you think of Brett Moffitt's performance in Atlanta?
"One of the things I will say about Brett (Moffitt) at Atlanta, it was his eighth race, but it was really like his Sprint Cup debut with an organization that is running for race wins, the Chase, with a full-time team. It was impressive to see what he did when he had the opportunity with a full-time team."
Where are Brian's blood clots?
"I think when we talked to him – we will let him talk about all the locations and things of that nature relative to HIPA rules and all that."
When do you expect Brian to return?
"We haven't had any direct conversation with the doctors and we'd have to have that with Brian's (Vickers) permission and right now we told Brian just to take care of his business."