Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Kansas Speedway Infield Media Center and discussed his accident last weekend at Talladega. ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus "As far as my progress this week, it's...
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Kansas Speedway Infield Media Center and discussed his accident last weekend at Talladega.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
"As far as my progress this week, it's been pretty good. I was a little sore Sunday night - my neck and I had a pretty good headache. I started feeling a little bit better Monday. I went and got some therapy done - some muscle relaxing and things like that to try and help me recuperate from everything. On Tuesday, I got back in the race car at Kentucky. Todd and the guys took me there for two reasons. One, to shake down a brand new car we're running here this weekend. Two, I wanted to get back in a race car before I came to the race track this weekend to make sure I was gonna be OK - not scared or whatever was going on. I went to Kentucky and everything was great. We ran good. I felt perfect in the race car. I made some long runs. I didn't get stiff - things like that. I kind of knew after that we were gonna be in good shape. After that it's been a pretty good week, so I feel very fortunate for the ride that we did take to be able to be sitting here and talking to you today. After looking at the car in the shop Monday, it seemed like every bad hit that the car took was on the right-hand side - the front or the back. The driver seat area and right about my head was hardly messed up at all, so I guess you could say somebody was riding with me."
WERE YOU CONCERNED THE ROOF FLAPS DIDN'T WORK PROPERLY?
"I know that Gary Nelson and everybody took it to the Tech Center for that reason. One, just to look at how everything held up. But, two, why didn't the roof flaps deplore. We don't really have an answer for that yet. I know they're doing some studying on it. My feedback on it was when I got turned sideways, my front tires were on the flat part of the race track and my rear tires were on the banking, which causes a really nice air pocket under the right side of the car when it's going sideways. I think they said we were running 190 miles an hour, so I think it just didn't give it time. I noticed that the ride side one did come up, but I guess it wasn't enough by itself to try to keep us on the ground. We have not gotten an answer back from that at all. Why that happened or what can we do better as teams or NASCAR to try to give us another roof hatch or something to try to get some more air up there to try to get them to open a little quicker."
FROM START TO FINISH WHAT DID THE ACCIDENT FEEL LIKE?
"I was coming down the back straightaway in the middle, we had a great run, and actually I was so focused on the 15 because he was leading at the time. We had such a good run that I felt we could take the lead. I was looking at which line he was in, and all of a sudden, Junior just makes a hard left and I have to react to it and then I cut across Kurt's bumper. I feel sorry for Kurt to be caught up in this, but when it hit me I was like, 'Oh, my God,' and then 'What's going to happen?' And then all of a sudden it just gets real quiet and I'm looking at the dirt and the asphalt. The whole pirouette or whatever I did was so much slow motion the whole time. Then when I started hitting, everything sped up. I never got knocked out the whole time. I remember every bump and every bruise, and I'm sitting there telling myself this the whole time - 'One, hopefully I'll be OK after this. Two, don't get knocked out. Don't get knocked out. Try to remember what's going on.' I'm just lucky as I can be. This is second time I've ever flipped and both times I ended up on all four wheels. But, I remember every single thing that happened. I do have to say one thing while I'm here, and I went and talked with John Darby and Jim Hunter this morning, to commend them to the not racing back to the caution because that's the fastest I've ever seen a speedway crew at the wreck. It seemed like I had just finished flipping and I was amazed. I was like 'Wow, the trucks are already here.' I really commend Talladega Superspeedway on that, to get their workers out that quick to us. They did a great job."
DID YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES?
"Did I close my eyes? Yes. I closed and I peeked and then I closed them again. As a driver you kind of get in the fetal position when you think you're going to hit the wall, so as soon as I go turned sideways, you grab the bottom of the steering wheel. I'm thinking inside wall, I'm getting ready to hit the inside wall so I 'm trying to brace myself for that. And then all of a sudden everything is quiet and you look again and you're flying through the air, so you kind of have to change your thinking a little bit."
DO YOU THINK DALE JR. WAS A LITTLE OVER-AGGRESSIVE?
"I think you have to be aggressive to win races at that track. I learned that a couple of years ago. I was decent on speedways, but not really good finishes, and I started looking at tapes. I wasn't nearly blocking as much as I should have been or nearly bump drafting as much, and I started finishing better because of that. Too aggressive? No. I think with the rules we have this is just an element of racing that we have at Talladega. I don't care what rules you give us, we're gonna be bunched up in a pile all day long. It's hard racing. It's hard on us. It's hard on everybody. It's hard to ask 43 human beings to be perfect for three hours. I can understand what he was trying to do. It's not his fault at all. That's just racing. That's the element we have. I don't blame anybody for what happened. It's just good, tight racing. If I was in his position, I would have done the same thing. I would have tried to block whoever was making the move at that time too. I just got caught up at the wrong place at the wrong time."
WERE YOU MAKING A MENTAL CHECKLIST?
"That's exactly what happened. It seemed like everytime after the car was hitting and I'd flip again, you'd run a mental checklist. 'OK, I'm still here. I still know what's going on. I can still feel everything in my body.' When the car finished, I was hurting pretty good. I had a headache and I was just sore feeling, so when the guys got there I was like, 'Just give me a second and let me get my bearings.' I took my steering wheel off and I really hadn't had time to reach for the window net yet. I was just checking everything. The first thing I looked for was the radio to tell the guys, 'I'm OK.' But there were no radios in the car. I guess flipping threw them out of the car. So I started doing a mental checklist. 'OK, my feet? No, they feel good. My legs?' You just kind of run through your whole body until everything is OK."
WERE YOU AFRAID AND HOW DID THE SAFETY WORKERS KNOW YOU WERE OK?
"I told them. Fear, yeah. I'm not gonna lie to you and say I'm fearless. When I went flying through the air a lot of things ran through my mind. Whether I was gonna make it, not make it. Be here, not be here. The whole nine yards. When the car finished, I'm doing a mental checklist. When they got there, they ask you. They always ask you, 'Are you OK?' 'Actually, I feel pretty good. I've got a headache. Just let me take my time and unbuckle everything and make sure everything is OK.' The reason I bent over was I flipped before at Michigan a couple of years ago and when I got out of the car I was still very, very dizzy and I couldn't walk straight. So I got out of the car and I wanted to make sure, 'OK the ground is not moving. I'm in good shape.' I had those heat booties on and I didn't want to walk with those on, so I was bending over trying to take the booties off. If you see it on TV, you can't tell what I'm trying to do. I just looks like the wind is knocked out of me, but I had heat booties on. I was telling the guys, 'Look, I've got to take them off before this walk because if not, I'll trip over them or it might look bad. So let's take them off.' I was talking to the guys the whole time. I was alert. They were talking to me, so that's why there was no neck brace involved or anything at that time getting out of the race car."
LOOKING BACK IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE?
"Probably hit him square in the butt, I guess (the 8 car). That was probably the only chance. Things happen so fast at that speed that I didn't have time to make a decision. It was more of a reaction. Of course my decision would not have been just to turn left and run over Kurt Busch like I did. It was just a reaction of, 'Oh God, he's coming down. He doesn't know I'm here' or whatever. It was a reaction to go down, so it wasn't like I was sitting in my car thinking, 'I'm either gonna hit him or I'm gonna spin out myself.' It was more of just a reaction to what his move was."
WAS THE HEADACHE FROM THE FORCE OF THE CRASH OR DID YOU HIT YOUR HEAD?
"I think my head going back and forth between the head rests or something and probably the force of the crash and flipping probably just got some blood to my head or whatever. That's probably the reason for the headache. The guys were really good with me on that. They did a great job out on the race track. Then when they took me to the infield care center I told them I had a headache and things maybe fell apart a little bit in the infield care center. It was a pretty tough deal. I'm laying in there. I just got out of a meeting with NASCAR - with Jim Hunter and John Darby - and one thing I really would like to see at these race tracks - and we're all asking for it - is to have some doctors in the infield care center that we know and that travel with this sport - that go place to place. There's nothing better than going to see your doctor. We've all been there. You'd rather go see a doctor that you're familiar with. You know him and he knows you. It was a pretty bad feeling going into the infield care center Sunday and looking up and seeing six people that you have no idea who they are. Yes, I know they are doctors, but who are they? We had some problems in the infield care center, so, hopefully, one day we'll get to that point that we can have some doctors that go with us."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY BASELINE TEST WITH A VIDEO GAME OR SOMETHING?
"Yes, I have done that with my doctor at home. I feel if I get to a point that I think I might have a concussion or don't feel right, I can go and do that with him. We did that at the beginning of the year. It was a good idea. I think Ganassi and them were the first people we heard did it, so I went home and went through the steps with my doctor. It's a little, simple game. It's just like kindergarten stuff. It's just seeing how quick all your neurology stuff is working, so it's a pretty good deal. Yes, we do have one."
CAN YOU CLARIFY THE CARE CENTER PROBLEMS?
"It goes back to when you go into the infield care center, there are people around there that do not know you. You're strapped down. I still want to know I'm OK and things like that. I'm laying there and they're pushing and pulling on you to make sure everything is OK and I'm fine. All of a sudden they want to put a needle in me, like an IV. Elliott doesn't like IV needles, so that's kind of how the problem started. We kind of had some arguments about whether they were gonna put an IV in me or not and then I did not want to be helicoptered out of that place at all. I think it put my parents through some things that they probably did not need to go through, but since I didn't want the needle they helicoptered me out. We just had a lot of problems about that in the infield care center. That's why I went to NASCAR this morning. It's just something to look at here in the future - to have some people there that we know that knows Elliott and knows he don't like needles. Some people are scared of certain things and I'm scared of needles. I just think we need to go more towards that line. That would be safer for everybody."
CAN YOU SHARE NASCAR'S REACTION?
"Yeah, I think it's something they really want to look at. It's something they think that we need to get to also. Jim Hunter and John Darby were very good with me talking to them. They had heard what happened too. They just wanted my side of the story. It was not fun in there for about 10 or 15 minutes. It was pretty bad, but when you're around people that you do not know and they start talking about doing things to you that you don't really like, you don't know really how to react. I'm in a neck brace and I'm all tied down on the table. I don't really know how to react to that, so it was pretty pressure-packed in there for 15 minutes. I finally obliged to what they wanted me to do and I finally went."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE YELLOW FLAG RULE?
"I am very satisfied with the gentlemen's agreement as far as everybody slowing down and not racing back to the caution. I think everybody did a great job at Talladega because we're three-wide pretty much the whole day as far as getting in line and things like that. I remember flying to Dover with Dale Jarrett on his plane and we talked about the one lap thing getting back. We're race car drivers. I think we should earn everything that's given to us. I understand NASCAR's point of view.
"They're taking one aspect of racing away from us - racing to get your lap back after the caution comes out, so they're trying to give it back to us a different way. I don't know. I think if you're fast enough to get your lap back and you line up against the leader, you should get it back. I don't really agree with free passes. We said this before we went to Dover. I'm saying this and I might need it Sunday and we're going to take advantage of it, but I was sitting here even before we went to the first race like that. This is a tough sport. This is not a Mickey Mouse sport. It's a tough sport. Sometimes you get a lap down and if you can't get yours back, well better luck next week. That's just the way I think this racing should be."
WHO WOULD DECIDE WHAT TREATMENT YOU WOULD RECEIVE IF YOU WEREN'T CONSCIOUS IN THE CARE CENTER? ALSO WHAT ABOUT THE ROOF FLAPS?
"I don't know who is to make the decision, I guess it's their decision if you're knocked out. But when I'm sitting there alive and well and alert and it's still not my decision, that's when I have a problem. That was a big deal. As far as the roof flaps, I don't know. Gary Nelson and the guys have to go through that and check everything out at the Tech Center. They had the car there and I guess they'll let us know what happened. I want my roof flaps to come up. That's something we don't mess with because I don't like flipping any more than anybody else, but I don't have an answer on that yet. I really don't have an answer on if I had roof hatch in whether it would have withstood everything. I think Michael Waltrip had the roof hatch in and a net and I think he had a safety net, I'm not real sure he did. So that's something else we need to look at. If I flip like that, will the hatch crinkle or make me more exposed? I think that's something they're gonna have to keep studying before we can use it."
ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND THAT IT'S OK FOR YOU TO GO IN A CAR190 MILES AN HOUR AND SOMMERSAULTS FOUR OR FIVE TIMES IN THE AIR. YOU'RE OK WITH THAT, BUT AN IV MAKES YOU CRAZY?
"Yes. Everybody has a fear of something. You have a fear or phobia of something and it wouldn't be the same thing as somebody else. It's just that everybody has a different fear of something, but that's not my point. I could have been scared of anything, the point was that if I'm alert and well and I understand what's going on around me. I have not been knocked out and I've answered every question you've asked of me, why shouldn't I have a say-so on what's gonna be put in my body. When does my decision-making for my life stop? Where do we draw the line? That's the point I'm making. That's my biggest concern. When I'm laying on that table, who is making the decisions. I want to be around people that I know - I can look up and see a familiar face. NASCAR was great this morning. I commend Mike Helton and Brian France on the not racing back. The talk I had with them this morning, everything went great. I know it's something they're gonna look forward to and, hopefully, something we can see in the future."
WAS ANYONE THERE WITH YOU LIKE YOUR CREW CHIEF?
"Yeah, they all showed up and I told them the same thing. 'You've got to get me out of here. I want to go home.' But Todd was great. Raymond and Todd both came in there and I told them I was ready to go, but they wanted me to bear with it. They were like, 'Look, they've already got you to go in a helicopter. Just go and get checked out.' They flew me down to Alabama-Birmingham and they did a great job and were very nice. I had a cat scan done on my head and my neck and it was all negative. I told them it was gonna be negative if we went down there, but it was all negative. They were really great to work with down there, so they released me Sunday night around 7 o'clock and we ended up coming back home."
WERE YOU AWARE OF NASCAR'S MEDICAL LIASON THERE?
"Yeah, I know some of them. I think I saw Robin in there. She was trying to keep me calm and comfortable the whole time I was in there. She was in there, yes."
WAS SHE AN ADVOCATE FOR YOU?
"I guess it's the doctor's final decision on everything."