The next two stops on the Nascar Winston Cup Circuit should bring a great deal of attention and maybe some redemption for Bobby Burrell, the 31-year-old front tire changer on Johnny Benson's ...
The next two stops on the Nascar Winston Cup Circuit should bring a great deal of attention and maybe some redemption for Bobby Burrell, the 31-year-old front tire changer on Johnny Benson's #10 Valvoline Pontiac.
Burrell will take part in Saturday's annual pit stop competition at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham then the series returns to Homestead-Miami Speedway the next weekend where Burrell suffered serious head injuries during in a pit lane incident last year while working for Ricky Rudd's #28 team.
As Burrell bent down to work on Rudd's car midway through last year's race another car struck the six-year veteran knocking him headfirst into the concrete pit wall. He was airlifted to a Miami hospital then transported to Charlotte hospital where he remained in serious condition for several days. Two of Burrell's teammates and a Nascar official were also injured in the accident although not as seriously as Burrell.
Burrell made a remarkable recovery in the off-season and returned to his tire changing duties this season joining Benson's team about a month ago. The accident prompted NASCAR to mandate teams utilize helmets on pit road for the 2002 season.
Bobby Burrell On Looking Forward To Homestead:
"Yeah, I look forward to Homestead because I know that it is the place where it all happened last year. I look at it as a place where I can find a lot of redemption. I won't have any apprehension going back there. Sure, I'd like to take a few minutes to walk down pit road by myself and think about what happened maybe get a little bit of closure. But, I don't want to take away from this race team and Johnny's focus on winning. I hope it's just like a normal weekend. It would be a pretty cool deal for me if we could win there."
How Has The Year Been Since The Accident?
"This year has had its ups and downs. The whole month of November and the whole month of December I was in a lot of pain. It was hard to think straight and walk straight. But once February rolled around and I went to Daytona things started going pretty good. I feel as good as I did before I got hurt."
Did You Ever Think About Quitting?
"No. I always knew I would be back. I had the desire, I knew I would have the attitude. It was something that I never doubted. Right after I got hurt and spent time in the hospital I started working out with Walt and Gary Smith. They helped me on improving my hand-eye coordination and that kind of stuff. It was hard work but worth while."
Do You Get Scared Going Over The Wall:
"You can't be scared. You can't afford that. If you are scared you aren't going to concentrate on your job. That means you could get yourself hurt, or your teammates hurt, or somebody else on pit road hurt. When I go over the wall now my focus is totally on what I need to do to get Johnny and out of the pits."
Has There Been Any Good To Come With The Accident?
"There has been some good. I mean Nascar has always done a pretty good job with driver safety but it seemed like they really started taking steps to improve the safety of the crews and race officials. The helmets are a great idea. Giving the guys on pit road a little bit more protection will help them in the future. I guess you could say that was the good that came out."
What Do You Remember About The Accident?
"I don't remember any of it. I remember that whole day up until it happened but that's it. That's probably not a bad thing. I've seen pictures and the video but I don't remember it."
Rockingham Pit Stop Competition This Weekend:
"Sure we want to win it. I don't know if we get more or less excited about the pit stop competition compared to the race. The difference is that the competition is a one shot deal. At least in a race you have about a half dozen chances to get your car in and out pretty fast. The pit stop competition is big to us. You never know what can happen. The worst team could be the best that day and the best pit crew could be the worst. If you are in it you have a chance to win. We are going to pull out all of our best tricks. Plus, I think the purse is about $100,000 so just that should get you motivated. "
Johnny Benson On Pit Safety, Burrell
"Everybody thinks the driver has the most dangerous job but if you watch our pit stops you see that those guys going over the wall have to be pretty brave. We do a really good job in our sport of not getting those guys hurt. I mean if you think about how often we pit on those tight pit roads its amazing we do as well as we do. The safety of my crew guys is the most important thing to me. When we come down pit road we want to beat the other guy out of the pits but making sure we don't slide into the crew or another team's crew is more important than all that. Its something as a driver you have to be aware of at all times or things could go really bad.
"Bobby has made a heck of a comeback. That accident was scary. I didn't know him at the time and remember thinking he was pretty lucky to get through something like that. Let me tell you getting hurt isn't fun but when you can comeback like Bobby has then it creates a lot of respect. It takes a lot of courage to do what he and the other over-the-wall guys do each weekend. We'd love to get him to victory lane in Miami or anywhere for that matter."