SOPHIA, N.C. (Dec. 11, 1998) NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Mike Skinner was resting comfortably at home Friday after undergoing a scheduled successful arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday at North Carolina Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. Skinner underwent the procedure as an outpatient and was in and out of the hospital Tuesday, a Lowe's Chevrolet team spokesman said. Dr. Walt Kurl, an orthopedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, performed the approximately one-hour long procedure on the driver of the Richard Childress' No. 31 Monte Carlo.

He found that Skinner's left knee was injured in three areas, including a complete tear in the lateral meniscus, a pad of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the bones that connect at the knee (the femur and the tibia); a 70 percent tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which connects the femur and tibia at the center of the knee; and a partially torn articular cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones and acts as a cushion between the two.

"Mike's knee wasn't terribly unstable but we were able to clean it up quite a bit," Kurl said. "He needs to let it (the knee joint) settle down for about a week but, hopefully, he should do well when he begins formal rehabilitation therapy next week. I have every reason to think that he will be able to drive his race car by early-to-mid January."

A relatively new procedure was used to stabilize the ACL. The ligament was actually shrunk back into shape using a heat probe. Professional golfer Greg Norman recently underwent a similar procedure on one of his shoulders. The surgery won't cure Skinner's ACL problem, but will increase the joint's overall stability.

"My basketball playing days are over but my racing days should be OK," Skinner said. "I'll probably miss the first test session at Daytona in January because Larry (McReynolds, the team's crew chief) wants us to be as close to 100 percent as we can when we go back for the Daytona 500. It would all be for nothing if I got hurt again during a test session."

Testing at Daytona begins on Jan. 3 with a three-day session for Ford Motor Company teams. General Motors cars are scheduled to test for the first time on the 2.5-mile speedway on Jan. 6-8. That is the session that Skinner felt he would miss. The second GM test at Daytona is Jan. 19-21.

Speedweeks 1999 activities at Daytona International Speedway is tentatively scheduled to begin for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series with practice on Friday, Feb. 5.

Skinner originally injured the knee March 8 in an accident during the PRIMESTAR 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Further damage was done April 5 in an accident during the Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where Skinner also suffered a broken right scapula and a fractured bone in his left wrist.

After the accident at Texas, Morgan Shepherd drove the No. 31 Chevrolet in races at Martinsville Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway and Childress' son-in-law Mike Dillon drove for Skinner at California Speedway. Skinner returned to the car for The Winston Open on May 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and resumed his points chasing in the following week's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

The Lowe's team ended the 1998 season on a strong note, winning the 76/Rockingham World Pit Crew Championship at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham and the '98 NASCAR Thunder Special Motegi - Coca-Cola 500 at the Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi City, Japan. The Motegi win was Skinner's second consecutive victory in the NASCAR exhibition event in Japan, having also won last year's race at Suzuka, during his NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year season.

Source: NASCAR Online