LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Brian Vickers can already claim a victory this season without taking a checkered flag.
Vickers has started all 18 Sprint Cup races, the kind of run that's a given for stars like Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon. For Vickers, the number holds a special significance. It means the blood clots that have cost him major chunks of his career since 2010 have yet to return.
He missed 25 races in 2010 when clots were discovered in his legs and, while he was out, he had heart surgery to prevent future clots from moving through his body to his brain.
A blood clot in his right calf found in October sidelined Vickers for the final five races of 2013 because he was taking blood thinners. If he crashed, the thinners would make it impossible for doctors to stop internal bleeding.
Recovered and ready to race, Vickers knows the clots could always return.
"I wouldn't say that I linger on it or I let it kind of affect my daily life," he said. "You just kind of have to move on. I certainly am conscious of it and I make decisions based upon the fact that I could have another clot."
Vickers is always on the move, stretching often or he takes walks on long flights.
"I won't just sit there for long periods of time," he said.
Except when he's behind the wheel of the No. 55 Toyota.
Vickers, coming off a runner-up finish at Dayton, is on pace to start all 36 races for the first time since 2011. He started only 11 in 2010 because of the clots, eight in 2012 and 17 last season (because of part-time schedules).
But one of those starts last season was a career highlight. After four years of health scares and unemployment put his promising career in doubt, Vickers was the surprise winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He snapped a 75-race winless streak and won for third time in 271 starts.
Back at New Hampshire for Sunday's race, Vickers couldn't help but recall all the fond memories of his victory celebration. Drivers saluted Vickers with a wave from the car or a back slap on the way to Victory Lane. Johnson, a close friend, pumped his fist out the window toward Vickers.
"I was out of the car and was told I may never race again," Vickers said. "And, to be able to get back into a car at all was a huge accomplishment for me personally. And, then to get back in Victory Lane was just kind of put it over the top."
Here are five things to know about Sunday's race:
BYE-BYE BURTON: Veteran Jeff Burton could make the final start of his Sprint Cup career. He's making just his second start of the season in the No. 66 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. With no other races lined up, Burton could cross the finish line for the final time. He's already made the transition to the broadcast booth and is part of the "NASCAR America" panel on the NBC Sports Network. "I think it's a good chance," he said. "I'm OK with that. I'm really comfortable with what I'm doing." In 38 starts, Burton has four wins at New Hampshire, the most among all drivers. His last victory at the mile track in 2000 marked the last time a driver led every lap. "If this is my last race, it's cool with me for it to be here," he said. "This isn't my home track, but this is certainly a track a lot of my career has been shaped at this race track."