Jack Roush, car owner for Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, held his first press conference since being injured in a plane crash last week in Troy, AL. He conducted the Q&A session via teleconference from the UAB Medical...
Jack Roush, car owner for Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth, held his first press conference since being injured in a plane crash last week in Troy, AL. He conducted the Q&A session via teleconference from the UAB Medical Center in Birmingham, AL.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- 6, 17, 97, 99 Ford Tauruses
"I've got notes that aren't as well organized as I'd like and, by some accounts, I'm not as lucid as normal and that's normally a problem. You've got to be right on time to have an accident and I've been the survivor of a most horrible accident. Eight days ago, on the day of my 60th birthday -- 4/19 of 2002 -- I went into eight-feet of water in a lake near Larry Hicks' home near Troy, Alabama. The reason I was in Troy, Alabama was I was receiving a birthday present from my good friends Ed and Connie Bowlin, their good friends Kenny Campbell and Wiley Sanders, who I respected for their air operations for many years. The point of the gift, to me, was that, like many of us, I'm in this second half of my life, much closer to that than I realized eight or nine days ago, but I wonder what's gonna happen when I'm not gonna be able to do the things I'm doing now. I enjoy the independence of being able to travel on my own to the NASCAR races, being able to exercise the great freedoms -- the air space that the FAA provides for my North American P-51 Mustang and North American AP6 Trainer World War II vintage. The time will come when I can't do those things anymore due to oncoming health problems, if not other things that can be predicted. If that occurs, one of the things that I have had in mind, that I would like to do as a next phase, is to have an ultra-light airplane -- the like of which somebody from south South America, across the Andies -- the river width in South America that goes just about end to end and they went up to Central America and up through Texas and on into Oshkosh about two years ago. I said, 'If those guys can do that without a pilot's license and at a point when they don't have many resources, that time will come for me and I want to live part of that life.' Anyway, Wiley Sanders and Kenny Campbell, under their charge had such an airplane, so Ed and Connie made the arrangements that I would fly an P-51 down there and that we'd have a little birthday party and I'd get a chance to fly this little airplane. Well, I was out doing that when something went totally wrong for me. Since I have no recollection of the day, I can't know if I had a problem with the aircraft or if I simply had a pilot problem of judgement in not seeing the wire that I ultimately ran into. But I ran into a wire that was, by some estimations, 75-feet off the ground and went into eight-feet of water across the pond from Larry Hicks' house. Larry Hicks is a retired marine guy who now works for the Forestry Service as a conservation officer and his health hasn't been good. Life hasn't been good to Larry Hicks. He's suffering under nose and throat cancer most horribly in the last year, but he did have this training in his military life -- in his 33 years in the military, where he was trained to go down and get pilots out of airplanes that might go off the end of carriers or off the end of plane fields and I dropped right in on Larry -- Larry Hicks. How could that be? So, anyway, Larry Hicks tells his wife that he loves her, said that he would do whatever he can and then he jumps in the water where this fool has just crashed his airplane upside-down in eight-feet of water with no telling how much high octane aviation gas was in the water. Of course, that tends to float on the top, you've got to dive through it to get to things underneath. Larry Hicks dives down once. He gets in his boat first and paddles out there. He dives down once, doesn't find anything. He dives down twice, man, that's a lot to ask. The third time he goes down and he finds Jack in a harness that he was familiar with from touch I guess from his military background and he pulls Jack to the surface. He supports him up on the wing, which is upside-down, and executes timely and critical CPR.
"I don't know what we're gonna do for Larry Hicks, but we've certainly got to think about him in our prayers. Then we ended up getting picked up by a local hospital in Troy, Alabama that sedates an outrageous or enraged or furious if not totally deportment Jack, so they can get some tubes down him and get some bones stuck back in his legs and they transfer him up to Dr. Sam Wyndham's. We're up here at the Alabama-Birmingham Hospital Trauma Center. Initially, we went into the neurosurgical area and then worked through a number of departments here. The care has been unbelievable the last six days of my life -- six days later than my birthday I've started to have memories that I can recall today. I guess if there hadn't been this improbable set of circumstances -- they said you have to be just on time to have an accident and you have to be surrounded with the right people and the right circumstances to survive it, and I certainly had that going for me. I am sure that given my breath the opportunity here there is more that I want to say, but that can wait for question and answers. But, before we get to that point, I want to express my thanks to Larry Hicks and his wife for being there. For the University of Alabama at Birmingham for being there and for taking me in, and for all of Roush Industries -- managers and employees -- for putting into action the emergency plans that we've had to deal with a catastrophe or near catastrophe or whatever principles. For NASCAR and for ISC for all of their support. For everybody in the Winston Cup garage, many of whom have offered their airplanes and their means of transportation support. There are too many to thank at this time. There are many customers and sponsors and business partners and associates that have kept the faith and allowed us to get through this difficult week. And to our fans and our drivers and all of our crew chiefs and supporters, our general managers and everybody that let us run the Talladega race through the time of my indisposure and uncertainty, and in preparations for this race in Fontana. The guys have done great and have made me proud."
DR. SAMUEL WYNDHAM, Assistant Professor of Surgery -- Division of Trauma, Burns and Surgical Critical Care -- University of Alabama-Birmingham
WHAT IS THE TIMETABLE FOR JACK'S RECOVERY? "Let me first start by saying when we first started the thing he said he's in his second half of life, but after seeing how well he's come through this I would say he's probably in his first trip of life for as tough as he is. As far as time of recovery, I'd imagine between the physical therapy, healing from the bone fractures in the left leg, that will probably be about two or three months. Otherwise, I would suspect that with the other injuries he would pretty much be over most of the symptoms by about four to six weeks from the lung injury, rib fractures and the head injury."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY INTERACTION WITH THE TEAM? "I've had no interaction with the teams. My assistant Brenda Stricklin and Evan Lyall, our CEO, and Geoff Smith and Stephanie (Smith), and, of course, Jeff Paxton. But they've all done very well and the worst thing I've got to fear is by the time I'm ready to come back, that they've figured out innumerable ways to do better jobs when I was helping them do with my involvement. Getting rolled over into the side of a ditch has been my worst fear.
"Let me say in addition to that that Mark Martin was out here twice -- once when I was unconscious and when I had no memory, and once when I may have been conscious but I have no memory. He has been a partner of mine in building Roush Racing. He's been a pillar and an advocate for what NASCAR racing is. He optimizes, like Richard Petty does, what people would like to think that drivers would be, and I enjoyed him sharing that with me and unfolding it again this week."
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO LARRY HICKS YET? "No. I plan to see him before I leave. He and his wife are gonna come to see me. I've got a big hug for him.
WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE NOW? "You have to be right on time to have an accident, like I said. The important part of my participation, Jack's, was I got outside my zone of comfort -- the things I normally do at anticipating the kind of equipment that I'd be around when I was no longer able to operate at full capacity, which I have right now. So I'm gonna be slower than I might have been to get into somebody else's airplane, or to drive somebody else's race car, or do something else that would take me out of my zone. My problem was, whether it was airplane-oriented or whether it was pilot-oriented I can't be sure, but my problem was that I was doing something that I was unfamiliar with and that I didn't reasonable assess the risk of. Every policeman, every race car driver, everybody in their daily lives survives the day by assessing the risk that they've got and making reasonable judgements. Either I was faced with a risk I didn't understand, or the judgements I made were bad -- one or the other. I know when I started flying, and that was after having built a racing business of some size, and spending much of the time in my race cars when they were faster and more ticklish in a lot of ways than I had realized and I was capable of dealing with as a driver, so I decided when I started flying in my mid-40's that I was gonna take whatever I was flying and I was gonna fly a lot, I was gonna get good instruction on it, I was gonna pay attention to the hardware, and I was gonna be able to assess the risks. My risk management was what I fault here, whether something went wrong or whether I made a mistake, I can't be sure. I'll probably never know. So, I'm going to go back into a zone of not making leaps of faith from where I am to things that I might do or might be, that had been really a standard for me through all of my adult life -- or say from 30 years old in the last 30 years. The last 30 years I decided that I wasn't gonna drive race cars that were too fast. I wasn't gonna operate outside my zone of comfort. I was gonna do things that I felt I could control and manage and I didn't do well with this. It was looking ahead, it wasn't what I am."
ARE YOU IN GREAT DISCOMFORT AND WILL THIS RECOVERY BE HARD FOR YOU? "I'm not sure that it's gonna be hard for me. Pain is the only throttle on me that works. I'm not big on pain killers. I generally just cave into pain when it finally overtakes me. As far as my recovery, the doctor can speak to that. In terms of time, I know that they've got some anticipated steps, but I'm so far ahead of where -- if I could look back as a risk assessor eight days ago and seen where I was and what my prospects were, I've got to be months ahead of where I thought I could be under the most optimistic circumstance."
DR. WYNDHAM -- "I'd certainly agree with that -- very far ahead and we've all been very impressed with his speed of recovery and overcoming these injuries. Certainly, he's very tough and he's had wonderful support and through the combination of the team here at UAB with Dr. Matz, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Kirkpatrick the orthopedist, and one of my partners, Dr. Moran, who took care of him when he was in the intensive care unit, I think we all have been thoroughly impressed and I would estimate that less than five people out of 100 would have survived similar injuries and I certainly wouldn't say that they would be on the phone with a press conference eight days later, but we've all been very impressed."
WILL THIS CHANGE HOW YOU ASSESS RISK? "I'm not sure I understood the question itself, it's very much like the question I just answered. I'm certainly humbled by what's happened. I don't think anybody wears pride to the point of feeling immune to things. People have looked at my life up till now and a lot of people would say that I'm a risk taker, but I would debate that through my life the risks I've really taken where I was out of control or I wasn't able to assess the outcome in advance and to predict a positive result, that those risks I've taken have been less than I could count on my hands and feet, including the ones I drove in my race cars that were too fast. Like I said, I'm just gonna step back into my zone of relying on good instruction from my betters and being humbled by the things that can go wrong that you can't plan for and appreciative of the things that other people can do for you that you couldn't ask for or expect."
FRANK ROUSH, Jack's younger brother -- "Jack's family would like to take this opportunity and are very thankful to take this opportunity to thank the University of Alabama at Birmingham -- the many doctors, nurses, trained professionals and all of the employees of this wonderful hospital for the care and the treatment that they have given Jack. He has been a real challenge to them with his personality. A special thanks to Larry Hicks. Without that, this statement and this conference would not be going on -- for treating Jack and bringing him back for us to enjoy. We would like to thank the NASCAR family and all the fans who know Jack's determination and his competitive spirit. We just want to let you know that Jack will be back soon. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."
HAVE YOU MET WITH THE HICKS FAMILY? "No, I have not. That's gonna happen before I leave here. I think it's scheduled for next Sunday or Monday. We're anxious to express our appreciation and to find out what we can do to enrich his and their lives in some way."
IS YOUR MEMORY COMING BACK FROM THAT DAY? "I remember nothing about the 18th or the day of the 19th or the day of the 20th, the 21 or the 22nd or the 23rd or the 24th. My first memories are of the things that happened on the 25th. The doctor can tell you, since he had contact with me. The first contact they had was they had to tame and chain down the beast because they had some work they needed to do and didn't have time to put up with my foolishness. So they induced a coma and they strapped me down, as well they should have. They strapped me down tight. They re-set my bone and they got my lung from being collapsed. They put a drain in it, put a drain in my head, put a drain in my leg, and then three days after all that happened I started remembering. But probably three days before I remember I was interacting reasonably. They had brought me to heal. They establish who was the mother figure here and I was playing my role. I was communicating, I was interacting, I was making sounds that made sense to them even though I don't remember them."
WHEN DID JACK START TO REMEMBER? "That's a really fairly common response. After such a head injury as he sustained -- his wasn't just the crash but it was also the time that was spent under water without the oxygen. I would really anticipate not being able to remember that day or the events at all. That's the normal course in terms of not remembering the ICU stay, but all of a sudden once he gets to the floor, all of a sudden beginning to remember. It may take even sometimes up to a year for all of the memory or amnesia to go away. It's often a very frequent course."
WHEN DO YOU THINK YOU'LL BE BACK AT THE TRACK? "I'm sure it'll be based on the pain throttle that's working on me. I had hoped to make it to Richmond next week, but I think when they get the schedule of rehab going on me at the University of Michigan, which is my next stop, that I'll probably be too busy for it. But when I get into the serious rehab and see what kind of things they'll give me that I can do away from the hospital, and what things I've got to do there, we'll have a better idea. Right now, I don't know if I'm faced with three days or three weeks or three months of intensive rehab, but I think it may be closer to three months -- maybe closer to three weeks than three days. I'm hoping that within a month I'll be able to go into the hospital a couple of times a week and to do some things at home and on the road and have them be happy with me. But, with this leg being the way it is, I'm gonna need some help getting around. I'm gonna be in a wheelchair for awhile. They're not gonna let me walk on this thing probably for three months."
WHAT'S THE FIRST THING YOU WANT TO DO WHEN YOU RECOVER? "Breathe. Breathing is big. There was a big premium on breathing there for awhile. Just a minute ago I had some stuff that was strong with gasoline, so I've still got gasoline parcels along with water parcels in my lungs that are affecting me. But, what I want to do? I want to go around and thank everybody that's been very generous with me. The ones I haven't been able to thank like the good folks at the University of Alabama-Birmingham division here. We're gonna have a chance to thank all of them before we leave, but for all of the fans and supporters and the people that have kept our businesses running, and the folks that are in organizations, like I said, that have had their parts to play in times like this of tragedy. They've all stood their base and they've done their job and we have continued to make the quality of competitive effort, the quality of industrial effort that we're committed to make. The managers have done their job and all the people that would be naysayers and would be critics have given us a little room and I'm gonna tell them all 'thanks' when I can."
WHAT DO YOU MISS ABOUT NOT BEING AT THE TRACK? "I haven't been up in the NASCAR trailer for more than two weeks now. That means one side of my head or the other side is not hurting on that account. Sometimes I go up there to knock my head into something and other times I go up there to get beat up. So, I haven't had those experiences. Mainly, I've missed the interaction with all of the competitive people doing their jobs, playing their part and my chance to interact with them."
WILL YOU FLY AGAIN? "As soon as they'll let me. As soon as they tell me my leg is OK. The problem I had here was whether it was a hardware problem or a pilot induced problem, I was out of my element and I ran out of time out of my element. You say, 'Well, you had this option or that option.' I had no option. By whatever means I got into that wire and that wire, at that time, interrupted the airplane's ability to fly and the airplane went upside-down and I went into eight-feet of water. Risk assessment is a big deal for me. I think drivers need to have enough experience at what they do, so they can assess their risks. I don't put pressure on drivers to do things they don't want to do because they've got to manage their risks and they're part of their program and their personal safety. The same thing is true for the rest of us. The work jobs have an element of risk in them or travel or whatever. I understand what I need to do to live 60 years -- 59 years and 64 days of not having a problem and I've just got to keep faith in those principles that I understand and I will. But I won't pull back and I won't be any less competitive and I won't be less than I can be every day of my life. I'll do everything I can in all the areas and opportunities that are in front of me. That's where I stand."
DID YOU SAY EARLIER YOU DON'T REMEMBER MARK'S VISIT ON MONDAY? "Yeah. I had that interaction with him and I had other interactions with doctors on those days that I've got no recollection of. The first memory I had was Wednesday, it was five days after the event."
HOW DO YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW? "I feel pretty good actually. Both of my feet are pointed the same way. Both of my eyes are pointed straight ahead. I've got a little bit of oxygen hooked up to me, but I've got all the tubes out of me. I've got on IV going with antibiotics to offset any germs or organisms I might have picked up in the water, but on a scale of one to 10, I'm about an eight right now."
ARE YOU GOING TO WATCH THE RACE THIS WEEKEND? "Oh, absolutely. If the local FOX affiliate will cooperate here, we'll be watching the races."