Jack Roush press conference

Jack Roush, owner of the Roush Racing Tauruses driven by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, made his first appearance at a race track today since being injured in an airplane accident last month. JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- 6,...

Jack Roush, owner of the Roush Racing Tauruses driven by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, made his first appearance at a race track today since being injured in an airplane accident last month.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- 6, 17, 97, 99 Tauruses

"Guys and girls, I've really missed you. I can't say how excited I am to be back in the fray -- to be able to smell the gas, to be able to hear the keyboards being hit here in the press room. I had a really bad situation that was maybe exaggerated a little bit and I'm gonna talk about that in a minute, but I had something that gave me pause -- that certainly put me down for a period of time so I had time to reflect on my life and the things that I'd done and the things that I'd still like to do and to feel some joy and some appreciation for the fact that I've got a chance to keep going. But for all the things that happen at the race tracks and for all the things that happen in this great industry that we're all a part of, I've really missed it and I can't tell you how glad I am to be back.

"It was a really odd situation. The actual accident occurred on my birthday. I was in the company of friends and we were enjoying airplanes that I had an interest in. I was flying a little airplane that had been used by National Geographic to map the rainforest in South America. It was an experimentally-built airplane. It was not an ultra-light, but it was closer to the size of an ultra-light than the planes I normally fly. Within two miles of the Troy, Alabama airport, which is where we were having our little party with Kenny Campbell and Wiley Sanders -- they're folks that had been involved in airplane racing at Reno, not lately but previously, so they're my heroes for some of the things that they had done. So I was down there and they were being hospitable to me, letting me fly their little airplane. Within two miles of the airport there was a little bass fishing lake and, unless you went as far north as the Talladega race track, which was another 50 miles away, there wasn't much going on but this little bass lake.

"I flew over one end of the bass lake, which had some high-tension power lines that were marked. You could see the poles. They were cut into the trees and I bounced over those and dropped down to about 80 feet like I was flying a helicopter or I was mapping the rainforest in South America. And, would you believe, they put a second set of parallel high-tension power lines in there and you couldn't see the cables and you couldn't see the towers and you couldn't see a cut through the trees, and I ran into one of them. The good news was that after I stopped this airplane from flying at 80 feet or 100 feet off the ground, that it crashed into what was beneath it and there was some water down there. That broke my fall and caused me not to probably get more serious internal injuries and no telling what else. That broke my fall and I wound up in the water.

"Now I'm in the water. I probably got my concussion, got my head banged as I hit the water or as I hit the bottom of the lake underneath the water. I'm upside-down. I've still got some air left in my lungs and, low and behold, there's Larry Hicks -- a retired sergeant major in the marine corps. His wife is also a sergeant major. When they came to see me the first time I sympathized with her for all the issues she probably had being married to a career military guy that had been in Vietnam and all these other things. It turns out, she's the same rank as he is. She had the same problem with him that he had with her -- they were both career people. I really stepped on my shoe there.

"He had the training in Vietnam that let him know how to get somebody out of a helicopter or out of an airplane that was in shallow water, so he knew about the rescue techniques, he knew about the seat belts. He'd either been fishing with his grandson or was going to go fishing with his grandson and he had a little boat there that had an electric motor on it that was all hooked up with a battery. When I hit the water 100 yards off shore, he ran down on his bad knees to the shoreline, got in his little boat which was all ready and paddled his way out to me.

"There was considerable risk that he faced. I expected him to be here today. We thought he was gonna arrive at Baltimore around 9:30 this morning, so he must be held up in traffic or the flight was delayed. This is the first time that he hasn't been there when I needed him. He jumped in the water. There were two little engines that were marginally out of the water. Fuel was leaking onto the water. There was a lot of vapors and a lot of fuel and hot engines that were popping and cracking in the water. So when he jumped in the water, it wasn't so clear that there wasn't gonna be a bad fire. So he jumped in the water and went down and found me. He determined where I was and then went back down and released the seat belts and I popped up. Then he had the experience to know how to do the Heimlich maneuver and how to get me started breathing again. That really gave me the chance to be here today.

"If I hadn't hit the water and had the chance to drown, I almost certainly would have been killed if he hadn't been there. I cannot imagine all the miles of shoreline around all the small lakes in Alabama, not to mention the rest of the country. He was probably the only guy that was there with a boat that would have been ready. I crashed at exactly the right spot and the right time. We can wonder why that happened that way.

"I really almost shudder a little bit with the responsibility that I feel for the chance that I'm being given and for the fact that I may not do something with the rest of my life that would justify that bit of happenstance or the miracle that occurred.

"But he got me out of the water and got me breathing. The EMS people came and waited out there. They had a gurney and got me in the gurney. Larry had me up against the wing of the airplane and was helping me breathe or making sure I stayed with my head above water. I was interacting with him. From what he said, we weren't talking about what happened that day, but we were talking about getting back to shore and trying to get away from that fuel, which was aggravating both of us at that point.

"They got me to the shore and looked me over. I'm black and blue. It's clear that I've got a compound fracture of my left femur -- I've got bone and marrow exposed through the side of my leg. My ankle is all swelled up and I've probably got a bad ankle. Anyway, I'm black and blue on my rear end and down my whole right side, so they think that I may have a pelvis (injury), I may have internal injuries. I've got one lung that appears not to be working exactly right. It's clear I've got a head injury. So they get me to the shore and they give me a drug inducement coma drug, so they can keep me down and do the preliminary test.

"About the time they decide that now I don't have internal injuries, I am stable and they can move me, they order a helicopter. From what I understand, it was probably a 30-minute drive from Troy Hospital, where I was, back over to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center. So they order a helicopter and it takes an hour for the helicopter to get there. Well, with the amount of drugs they gave me to start with and the period of time that they spent working with me before they ordered the helicopter, another hour has passed.

"They were afraid that I might try to help the helicopter pilot fly that helicopter if I came too and didn't know what I was doing there. So they gave me another shot of coma inducement drugs and then sent me off to Troy.

"When I got to Troy, the bad news came out that I wasn't responsive and that I had very little brain activity. My eyes dilated correctly back and forth, but I didn't have the signs of neuro activity that they would have expected. Based on that, they sent out the bad news that I was probably more seriously injured than I was. That created the expectation that I might not live through the night, but about 2:30 in the morning I woke up looking for the guy that gave me that second shot of coma inducement. I was pretty sure I didn't need it because all the apparatus they had attached to me, I wanted to query what all that was about.

"So they tied me down for the rest of the night. I don't know what they gave me to get me through the night, but I'm sure I didn't have a chance to try to help them with their plumbing issues. There was an awful lot going on in that hospital for a while. Happily, the first four days of it I didn't remember. On my fifth day, I started to remember what had happened the fourth day. Then the questions stopped. 'Had I wrecked my Mustang? Did I have somebody with me? How badly had I screwed up? What was the problem that I created that resulted in my injuries and was there anybody else involved. On the fifth day, I got the answers and I remembered them.

"In the meantime, people have gone back and taken pictures of the site. We've had a chance to choreograph and understand what Larry Hicks did and how long it took, and I'm happy to be here with you. If there are any questions, we'll be glad to answer them, but from my point of view that's pretty much what happened to me. I've had great recovery getting back to here. The people in Alabama did a great job for me. The people in Michigan, where I did my physical and occupational therapy, they got me walking and dressing and all that. They did a great job for me. Two days ago, the doctor in Michigan told me that my leg was healed and as far as the bone was concerned that I could basically put as much pressure on it as I could stand from a pain point of view."

ARE YOU AS AMAZED AS WE ARE ABOUT HOW QUICKLY YOU'VE RECOVERED? "I've gotta go. For the chance that I've got here, there are a number of things that are still goals of mine and expectations that people have of me for things that either I've screwed up or unfinished business that's laying around. I've been very careful not to waste time in getting to where I am in all kinds of ways -- in the sport of racing and in business and other things. But, boy, everyday from here forward is precious because these are extra days."

WHAT SORT OF THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW? "There are no promises, but I've made a commitment to be more caring and gentler in all regards. That doesn't mean I won't be less determined to try to capitalize on my opportunities and to make sure that I don't make missteps. But, the time I spent on my back -- particularly the time that I had to spend in the hospital with all the people that were so horribly injured. Some of which were caught up in accidents and some of which were caught up in horrible diseases. I had a chance to look around me and, man, it looks different from the inside-out than it does from the outside-in. Starting the time that I was tied down and looking back at where some of the other people were that were tied down and couldn't deal with their problems at the time, that certainly gave me pause and gave me a chance to really think about how lucky I've been in my life to have been healthy and how lucky that I am to have a chance to get back from the injuries and accident that I had that put me there. I'm still determined to be a pilot. I'm still determined to rush across in front of a fleeting Winston Cup car in the pits if I think I can make it like most of you do everyday in your travels. But I hope to be more considerate of the people that would get themselves involved with problems -- either with regard to my race cars that they hadn't expected. I may have been a little short on patience in the past, but I think I'll be more patient going forward."

DO THE TROUBLES ON THE TRACK LAST YEAR LOOK DIFFERENT NOW AFTER WHAT YOU'VE BEEN THOUGH? "Last year they had me full-time and this year I've only been part-time for part of the time. The real test for me is gonna be to see on Sunday morning when the truck driver drives the truck in if he fixes a plate for me like he used to before I got hurt. If he does, then there's some possibility that maybe they think they still need me. But if I don't have a plate that's made up from cooking Sunday lunch, I'll know that they've decided that they really don't need me and that will be a huge disappointment. As far as last year, there were so many things. There was the Earnhardt accident. There were the new tires. We took pause and reassessed what we were doing with the cars and with our driving. Just a lot of things happened. Coming through that, we had some mechanical issues.

"We certainly had some issues of getting our cars setup right and we didn't have the year that we'd hoped for. But, I don't think, we could have hoped for that year or anything about it as it worked out, except for the improvements that came out of it for safety. As far as this year is concerned, the guys have taken off with the cars that we had developed, which were a continued development of the cars that we had in 2000. They took the 2000 development and the 2001 experience that we had, that wasn't great, they rolled that through the winter into their aero program and their chassis routines and decided where they wanted to start with their setups and with their aero for this year and it worked. It should have worked last year, except for all the things that happened that we were out of control and upside down on. It worked. Do I think that we are as good a race team as we are -- to have all of our cars in the points where they are? We are the benefactors of some other race teams having things go wrong with them that aren't their fault -- that have just happened. This thing ebbs and flows. We will have to get to be better. I'll have to help do my part that I've been lacking on and we will have to do better with our engineering and we'll have to do better with the way we use our time than we have been to this point to stay where we are for points -- to stay in this thing with all four cars."

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? "What I said before, it's pretty much the same as it was before, but I wanted to live life to its fullest which I've tried to do. I have no plans of retiring. There's no exit strategy for Jack. I want to go as hard as I can, to function as well as I can. When I can't be a contributor, then I hope my guys will roll me over in a ditch and be done with me (laughing)."

DO YOU THINK LARRY HICKS WAS THE ONLY PERSON WHO COULD HAVE SAVED YOU? "I liken the fact that he was there, the boat was there, I was there to winning one of these big state lotteries on three consecutive days with three separate tickets. I think that I was the luckiest person in the United States and maybe the luckiest person in the world. I think in the Eastern United States, he may have been the only guy with his kind of credentials that could have done for me exactly what he did and done it in a timely manner that it would allow me to sit here with you today."

HOW MUCH LONGER WILL THE LEG NEED TO HEAL? "I'm gonna have a little lunch and then I'm gonna send these crutches off into the garbage can about 1:30 -- about 40 minutes from now. The doctor told me when he saw me on Wednesday that my ankle, which had been their gross concern, was 100 percent healed. There's a lot of hardware in there and it's all healed nicely. There's no infection. I've got more mobility and more movement and much more strength than I thought I would have through my home therapy that I've been doing and some of the other things that I've been getting up to speed on. My knee and my femur repair only lacks some mobility. I've got about 100 degrees of motion and 125 or 127 degrees is what I've got in the other leg. So I'm short about 15-20 degrees in my right leg as far as mobility. That will stop me from squatting down to pick up something and bear weight on my left leg for a while. I guess my concern about the crutches is that I wouldn't have the strength and the agility to stop myself from rolling an ankle or from tipping in some way that it would be an unconscious thing where you're constantly on and off your muscles -- on and off your ankle and your knee -- so the crutches are just a safety thing for me right now. But I can stand for an hour with no crutches and bear half of my weight on my left leg. We had a little issue with a golf cart this morning and I did so for about 25 minutes. I was still upset enough that I wasn't thinking about my leg when I got through it."

HAVE YOU LET YOURSELF THINK ABOUT WHAT IT MIGHT BE LIKE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? "The short answer to that is no. The answer with some detail is to say that last week we broke three engines out of the five that we built for valve tip issues - with valve tips that failed in circumstances that hadn't failed in Texas, that hadn't failed in any of our bench testing. I've got my head into what we wind up doing here Sunday in terms of selection of parts and, even more than that, what we wind up doing at Pocono and as we go back to Michigan. So, I'm looking at and the guys on the team that are under my influence are looking at the things that we can do to make sure that we don't screw up - maximize the position we've got for our drivers by having our hardware do what it needs to do."

WHEN DO YOU PLAN ON FLYING AGAIN AND WHERE? "It'll be Dover Air Force Base about six or seven o'clock - maybe 8 o'clock if we win on Sunday - to go home. I flew up here today. The thing I did after my accident is I checked with my FAA flight surgeon and asked him if I still had a valid medical and he said whenever the doctor told me that I could function reasonable - that unless somebody had called me - that I still had a valid medical and I could resume my piloting and command responsibilities and prerogatives and I'm doing that now."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED AND NOT TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED? "Human life is an incredibly vulnerable and delicate, fragile thing. I guess if you live to be 60 years old, and I was 60, there is a certain sense of vulnerability - the choices we make like when we cross the street and when we don't cross the street, when we're out in the rain and the thunder and lightning are going and when we're not, how fast we drive in our car when the road is slick and all that. All of those things are the things that either allow us to get to 60 years old or get in our way. The same thing can be said of flying little airplanes and high tension wires in Alabama. I had been pretty good until I was 16 years old. I never had broken bones. I tore up a car when I was 16 that was really my fault due to my inexperience and the fact that I was excited about the guy next to me who had another car. It was a classmate of mine. Then when I was 30 years old I had a race car wreck with a pro stock car at Gateway Nationals in St. Louis and I had a bad concussion with that. I lost control of my arm, got it outside the car. I thought I was gonna lose my arm. I didn't lose consciousness even though I lost motor control, so then I survived based on those two near misses until I was 60 and still didn't have a broken bone. Now I have lots of hardware in my left leg and I've proven to myself again that I wasn't being careful enough in a circumstance and that will give me more caution than I've had in the past."

HOW TO RESPOND TO THE CHARGE OF TEAM ORDERS IN THE 600? "Well, there were no team orders. Until now, nobody had asked me that question. My expectation for the guys is not written down, it's in their face, is that I expect them to be responsible with regard to one another's well-being, both their physical well-being and taking care and not putting in jeopardy the program and the team's efforts. The guys have done that responsibly and I feel that they would in all circumstances. I certainly never questioned as I sat on my couch watching the race that Matt was gonna do something to take Mark out, or that if Matt was faster that wouldn't have given him enough room that if he got under him, they wouldn't have both wrecked. I'm sure they would have both been gentlemen and been responsible."

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus - "That was a pretty good lap. I felt like I got pretty much everything out of it. I think the track backed up a little. It was a real good lap. It probably wasn't a perfect lap, but it was a good one. I'm trying not to get too excited. It was a really good lap, but I don't know if it was the ultimate lap. If we ever qualify in the top 10, it's party time. It's almost like we won the race. Whenever we're in the top 20, we're extremely satisfied with that. We were the only car that tested up here and we had a real productive test. Hopefully, we'll have our ducks in a row when it comes time to race."

MARK MARTIN --6-- Viagra Taurus - "We're disappointed. The farthest down we were in practice was second, but the sun baked the track. We had the car on a knife edge and to get as fast as were, we were on the knife edge and when you're set up like that, you can' afford to have that sun bake for two hours."

KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus - "It just didn't bounce off the fence like I thought it should - it's a Rubbermaid Ford. Anyway, I couldn't decide what I needed to do right there. I thought I made a good lap and I was about ready to pull it off, but for some reason it just snapped around on me in turn two. I'm really good at starting in the back."

ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus - "Pretty disappointed in it, actually. I was hoping we would run a lot faster than that. We left the car a little tight and, man, the track has really tightened up, so it's pretty disappointing. I really want to get these guys a pole and I feel like this is one of the tracks that I can do that at. But that'll get us a top-10 for Sunday and we're going to race it up a little bit so we'll see what happens."

RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus - "The car got tight coming off the corner. We've been fighting it since we've been here. It wasn't like it was a big surprise, but in looking at how we fell off compared to other cars, it doesn't look like we fell off as maybe they did. The second lap I just about wrecked trying too hard. I got a good comfortable lap in. I tried hard on the second one and it just didn't work out, but we knew we had the first lap under our belt."

RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus - "That's one of those things where you say you should be happy with sixth and carry on, but being a competitor I say, 'Man, I'd like to have another shot at that one.' The guys did such a great job dialing this thing in right off the trailer. I believe we had a pole speed through one and two. I lost the rear of the car getting into three and I just had to keep chasing it up and up the hill. Then once I got the car back under me I had given up too much in the middle of the corner. It's just an example of where we're at as a group. You've qualified sixth and you're disappointed."

-ford-

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About this article
Series Automotive , NASCAR , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Jack Roush