NASCAR

Red Bull still unsure of NASCAR plans for 2011

Kasey Kahne
Who will be Kasey Kahne's teammate(s) at Red Bull in 2011?
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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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BRISTOL, Tenn.

Brian Vickers insists, “I will be back next season.”

The driver of the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota has been sidelined since May with May-Thurner Syndrome which increases the risk for deep vein thrombosis – a blood clot in a deep vein.

During a press conference at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday, Vickers, 26, explained he had surgery on July 12 to repair a hole in his heart and a stint placed in his left leg to keep his vein open and assist with the blood flow.

Vickers says both procedures “went very well” and his doctors have given him “full clearance” to start testing in January.

“I’m really excited about that,” Vickers said.

Vickers says once he’s off the prescribed Coumadin, a blood thinner, his chances of forming another blood clot are equal to anyone else in the garage. Vickers fully expects to return to the No. 83 Toyota next season.

And while Red Bull is holding the seat open for Vickers, the company simply can’t afford to endure another disruptive season in 2011 as was the case this year. The No. 83 Toyota, which qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup last season with Vickers, is currently 27th in the owners standings after hosting five racers.

The No. 82 Red Bull Toyota, driven solely by Scott Speed this season, is 28th in points. Speed has scored just two top-10 finishes and led 21 laps through 24 races. Although Speed signed a contract extension in May, it’s becoming increasingly clear that he won’t match his performance clause — a 16th-place finish in the standings.

“Like we said earlier, we’re monitoring Brian’s situation with his health,” said Red Bull GM Jay Frye. “We’re monitoring Scott’s performance situation. We have room to do different things. Depending on part of what happens with Brian, we’ll react at that point.

“Next year we know what the situation is with Kasey. Again, with Brian, we’re very hopeful and Scott needs to pick up his performance. And he can. With Scott, we’re coming to the third and fourth race in his career at different racetracks. We need to see some sort of improvement. We need to see where the curve is moving forward in the next few months.

Currently, Kahne is the only known piece to the 2011 Red Bull puzzle. In securing Kahne, Frye finally has a driver with multiple wins and Chase appearances under his belt. Although Kahne’s enlistment is for just one year, he can provide a barometer as to how the organization has progressed during its four seasons in the Sprint Cup Series.

“We have great expectations for Kasey,” Frye said. “In our minds, there’s no reason why we can’t win races, get in the Chase and compete for championship with him next year. That’s feasible and a very realistic goal. We’re going to do everything we can to allow him to compete at the highest level he’s ever competed at.”

“Brian’s very optimistic about his recovery and so are we. But we have to continue to monitor the situation. We’re about at the half-way point of his recovery process. So far, so good. We’re remaining hopefully optimistic. When we know exactly what’s going on with him and what we’re doing going forward with the rest of the company.”

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