Brian Vickers, who was forced to take a medical leave of absence from the Sprint Cup Series last spring, made his first laps in one of his Red Bull Racing Team stock cars in eight months Monday at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.
The first day of the two-day session was interrupted by rain in mid-afternoon but both Vickers, who last drove in May 2010, and his new teammate Kasey Kahne, who said he "felt great" after having surgery on both knees immediately after the 2010 season, were thrilled.
"[Monday] was just a huge weight off of my shoulders, not only for myself, but for the guys on the team," Vickers said. "There were so many rumors, assumptions and speculations about my health and status for 2011, but [testing] hopefully put all of them to rest.
"It felt damn good to get back in the car. Everything fit. Everything felt right. Everything was just the way I left it last May. Just to fire the car back up was awesome, and then to punch it for the first time was such a great feeling."
"It was good to see Brian back on the track," said Kahne, who was at his first test for Red Bull. "Working with my crew and teammate at the test is important and a good start to a great season. I look forward for more car time to get myself better and working closer with Brian in 2011."
Vickers had posted on his Twitter feed at 10:29 a.m. Monday from the oddly-shaped one-mile oval that was used in the late 1990s for a couple Truck Series races, along with IndyCar Series events, "Just got to Walt Disney World Speedway ... Going to make the first laps of 2011 this afternoon -- Can't wait!"
The test lasted about two hours before rain ended the day. Vickers posted at 2:33 p.m. that he was at the hotel and planning to take his road crew to dinner.
"We are here to get more seat time for me and so I can get back in the groove with the road crew," Vickers said. "I don't think we are going to learn anything ground-breaking [Monday], but it's really just a great chance for us all to work together, and the bottom line for me is just to get back in a race car and log some laps."
Vickers is scheduled to appear with virtually the entire group of Cup teams intending to compete in the Daytona 500 at a three-day test Jan. 20-22 at Daytona International Speedway.
But Monday was significant for Vickers. Last May he experienced discomfort while on a public relations outing to a medical facility. He was diagnosed with blood clots and part of his treatment regimen required blood thinners, which precluded his driving race cars.
Beginning with the May 16 race at Dover, Vickers' place in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota was taken by Casey Mears (four races), Reed Sorenson (13 races), Mattias Ekstrom (two races), Boris Said (one race) and finally, for the season's last five races, Kahne -- who will be Vickers' teammate for one season, driving a No. 4 Toyota rather than using the No. 82 formerly employed by the team.
Last week, a post on Vickers' Facebook account said he had been approached about driving a Grand-Am Rolex Series car, but he "ran out of time getting permission to drive something other than a stock car."