Bill France Jr, Chairman Of The Board, Nascar "Number one, this is a tough period in NASCAR's history. I can't think of anytime that has been more tough. We're doing everything we can to help the family, Richard Childress Racing. We got our ...
Bill France Jr<,/B>, Chairman Of The Board, Nascar
"Number one, this is a tough period in NASCAR's history. I can't think of anytime that has been more tough. We're doing everything we can to help the family, Richard Childress Racing. We got our Charlotte office working full time on it. Paul Brooks is leading the charge from NASCAR's standpoint working with the Dale Earnhardt family and Richard Childress Racing.
"I like to offer my, condolences is not the best word I don't think per se, to Michael Waltrip for winning his first race. He has tried as you folks know forever and he finally won a points race and it was the Daytona 500 to get the show going. In the last minute of the race, he had a lot of water thrown on his win. Michael, you'll win some more.
"My statement from yesterday still stands. I thought about it before I came over today. If I had to write it over again, I don't know how I could've written it better. He was a dear friend and really liked the sport. I will share this side note with you. For some of you that have been around awhile, he and I started getting close together when I had Dale, Geoff Bodine and Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick come to Daytona for a little summit meeting after they had been banging sheet metal up at Charlotte for about three weeks in a row. I pointed out to them that after I was gone and after they were gone, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will hopefully be going as strong as ever. They both understood that and recognize they had a page in it along with a lot of other people like my father and Dale's father. (Dale) was really a booster of NASCAR. Whenever you asked him to do something to promote the series, he stood tall."
<B>Mike Helton</B>, President Of Nascar
"I think all of NASCAR certainly echoes what Bill France has just commented on. The fact that Dale Earnhardt was the driver for NASCAR and played such an important role in all of our energy level and enthusiasm that built NASCAR to what it is today. It's hard to comprehend the statistic sheets for Dale Earnhardt are now permanent.
"But it's real easy to understand that Dale Earnhardt will be a part of this sport for many generations to come. The only other thing I have is on behalf of Richard Childress, he asked if I would read his statement.
"This is from Richard Childress, the president and CEO of Richard Childress Enterprises. We all know Richard and Judy.
'Words cannot express the tremendous loss all of us at Richard Childress Racing are feeling at this time. All of our thoughts and prayers and deepest sympathies are with Martha, Teresa, Kerry, Kelley, Dale Jr. and Taylor Nicole and the entire Earnhardt family.
Dale Earnhardt was much more than a race car driver. He was a very loving husband and a proud father and grandfather. He was a successful businessman. He was also a hero to millions of racing fans throughout the world.
Dale was my friend. We hunted and raced together. We laughed and cried together. We were able to work side-by-side and have the success we had for almost 20 years because we were fiends first.
I will miss him always. He was the greatest.'
"That was the statement from Richard and Judy that was released today."
Michael Waltrip, Daytona 500 Winner And Earnhardt Friend
"I talked to Teresa and I talked to Dale Jr. They asked that on behalf of Taylor and Kerry and Kelley and all the employees at Dale Earnhardt Inc., that I express a sincere thanks to all the many people that have offered their condolences to the family during this time. They say the outpouring has just been overwhelming. They want you to keep the family in their thoughts and prayers and in lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Carolina Foundation. Their address is:
Attn: Honor of Dale Earnhardt
PO Box 34769
Charlotte, NC 28234-4769"
"I personally ask that everyone respect the family right now. Dale has meant so much to so many that I hope you will keep him and those people in your thoughts and prayers. The media has done such a wonderful job overnight and this morning honoring Dale and showing all the great victories and what he has done for this sport. Buffy and I love Dale.
"We treasure our times that we got to spend with he and Teresa. Dale and I would talk all the time about one day me driving for him. Yesterday was our day. In victory lane and I just couldn't wait. I had won the race and I was telling everybody about it and I just couldn't wait until I got that big grab on my neck and a big hug. I just knew any minute Dale was going to run into Victory Lane and say 'that's what I'm talking about right there.' But that wasn't to be. My belief is that in a twinkle of an eye you're in the presence of the Lord. So instead of patting me in the back and hugging me, he's up there hanging out with my dad. So, that ain't a bad thing either."
<B>Dr. Steve Bohannon</B>
"I've been asked to basically reiterate what happened yesterday and my involvement in that. I was stationed on the backstretch on ambulance.
"I saw the cars sliding between turn 3 and 4. We were dispatched a short time later to help. There were already ambulances in that area when I arrived. There were medical personnel attending to him and there were a lot of firefighters that were working on and around the car with saws and jaws of life. The access was fairly limited. When I walked up and saw what car it was and looked in and the other physician who was in the car working on the car looked up at me, I could tell what was happening. After a period of time the roof was finally removed and the doctor and I both felt that we needed to go as soon as possible to give him definitive care. So he was loaded and we went on the ambulance to Halifax Hospital. It's a level two trauma center. The hospital had already been notified beforehand and had mobilized a full trauma team, including a neurosurgeon, a trauma surgeon, an anesthesiologist and several emergency room doctors as well as nurses and X-ray personnel.
"When we were met there everyone did everything possible. CPR had already begun from the first ambulance and that was continued. His airway was stabilized and was placed on a ventilator. Chest tubes were put in, IVs, various tests were run. He was given cardiac drugs to try to get the heart started again. But the attempts were futile. After about 22 minutes the physicians in attendance all agreed that we should cease our efforts. At not point was he ever conscious. He was not breathing and had no pulse from the time of the first paramedics arrival. At 5:16 p.m. at Halifax Hospital the physicians in attendance all decided to cease our efforts and he was pronounced dead. His wife Teresa was there at the bedside through most of this and held up wonderfully. Various race people began showing up after that. It was a very trying experience on my part. Most of the time when I deal with patients we don't know them and I try to distance myself, but this was someone who I knew who he was and I knew what we were dealing with and it was very hard. But I feel like everything that possibly could have been done was done for him. That's all I have."
aQuestions and answers
Mike, talk us through exactly what happened. seeing it on video over and over again, you're not exactly sure what happened.
Helton "I don't know that you can explain what happened other than what you seen on the video. It was a racing accident. There were a lot of guys coming through the turn at the same time and they were charging hard back to the checkered flag. Dale wanted to be where he was, Sterling wanted to be in front of him and the other guys, Kenny Schrader and the other drivers were all back there side by side racing back to the checkered flag. I don't think we know anymore details other than what you see on the video."
Will NASCAR look at making the hans device mandatory after another accident like this?
Helton "I think it would be interesting to get Michael's perspective on the HANS device. You've heard ours before, but maybe ask a driver in this circumstance."
<Michael Waltrip</b> "The HANS Device is something that I think all of us are curious about and some drivers are wearing it and others have tested it and elected not to use it. There's mixed reviews about it. People like the way it stabilizes your head in an incident, but people also are concerned that it's cumbersome and hard to get in and out of the car, which would be a concern during an accident as well. The area inside a race car where I sit, when I'm in there with all my stuff on, my belt and my helmet, that's my responsibility. I try to make sure that gain all the knowledge I can from what's out there to be as safe as I can. The HANS Device is an option, it's just something that I haven't elected to use yet. And I don't personally think that that is something that should be made a requirement, a rule, I just think it's something that the drivers need to investigate and find out if it's right for them."
Dr. Bohannon, is it your interpretation of the autopsy that the cause of death was basal skull fracture?
<Bohannon</b> "Yes it is. When you have a force that'll fracture the base of the skull such as this, there's also a lot of damage to the base of the brain. The brain is soft tissue, it bruises, it bleeds. And so more than just a fracture to the base of the skull, I feel there were probably significant injuries to the base of the brain which were the cause of death."
Mike, will racing go on this weekend or will this race be moved?
Helton"No, it'll go on in Rockingham this weekend, yes."
Mike, is NASCAR investigating any new technologies that might prevent a driver from suffering these types of injuries in a rapid decceleration accident?
Helton"We're always investigating safety issues and I mentioned to several of you that if you go to Talladega or Darlington and look at a race car that is on display and look at the cars that the guys are using this weekend or this season, you see a great vast difference in a lot of parts and pieces on the race cars. It's an ongoing work in progress that everybody in the garage area and all the masterminds who are the best in the business are working on. We don't accelerate it, we don't slow it down, it's a work in progress all the time. Other technologies that are coming forward, different materials, different shapes and sizes of elements, new technology that gives us the ability to understand things better is an ongoing development and we're smarter today than we were yesterday and we'll be smarter tomorrow than we are today because of everything that we have at our access."
Mike, what are the immediate plans for any type of memorial service?
Helton"Teresa and her family and Richard are working on those. There's no firm details, but I'm sure they'll all be distributed as soon as they are put together."
Bill, Dale Earnhardt has been the person of NASCAR for the better part of 20 years. how do you fill that void?
France "It's going to take time, if we ever fill it. I'm sure we will. Life has to go on. I touched on my remarks earlier that when Dale and Geoff Bodine came back, they had a good appreciation for the sport and wherever it was going to be going down the road, what part they were going to be playing in it and the window they were going to be putting it in. Somebody's going to come along. Curtis Turner was a hard driving driver in his day, Fireball Roberts, Joe Weatherly, there were a number of drivers that were respected, Roy Hall, Lloyd Seay, which is back before WWII. They were the Dale Earnhardts of their era. Dale Junior looks to me like he's got pretty good potential too to follow in his father's footsteps."
Mike, at what point do you require safety equipment, such as the HANS device, and what is the process that you follow?
Helton"There's no formal process per say outside the blue book other than the fact that safety is our number one concern. In specific regards to the HANS Device, it's more than just an option. NASCAR recommends drivers to try it and to work with the developers of it to perfect it for stock car racing, which is unique to open wheel racing because of the configurations of the cockpits and everything. So, it's a joint effort by every mind in the NASCAR garage to make all these elements work right. The process is ongoing, from inspections to the rules to the drivers meetings, that whole process is all safety-oriented."
Mb>Mike, is nascar going to retire the no. 3?
Helton"We haven't thought that far down the road. Richard Childress has licensed the car No. 3 for 2001 and we'll address that later."
Mike, will the aspect of soft walls once again be considered?
Helton"It never stopped being considered. Again, it's a matter of understanding that technology. What's available, how you can implement it correctly and how it can do some good. Again, I reflect back on the history of the sport. You look at a lot of racetracks that we race at and we've gone from tracks without any walls at all to wooden barriers to guard rails to concrete barriers. There very well may be a new substance out there that replaces concrete. We have not found it yet that warrants the positive side, not that it needs the warrant to make that change. Concrete still is the best barriers that can be incorporated in the racetrack to balance the racing with the spectators. But we'll not give up looking for that new technology, but in the meantime we simply are not going to react for the sake of reacting. We're not going to do something just because it's a reaction that we can take credit for. We will do it when it's the right thing to do."
Michael, do you plan to speed up your implementation of the HANS device? will you wear it in Rockingham?
Waltrip "I plan on testing the HANS and had planned on it in Atlanta next week, not this week. I'm not planning on running it at Rockingham this weekend, but I had planned to test it at Atlanta and see if I'm comfortable in it and see if I can get in and out of the car like I want to. I have a hard time getting in and out of the car without a helmet on because I'm so big. With the safety nets that we run now, it's a squeeze for me to get out of there. I can do it perfectly but I just have to make sure I can do it with a helmet on or if look at the options that might be available of taking it off."
Dr. Bohannon, you mentioned yesterday you weren't sure if the HANS would have saved Dale's life, you didn't think so. has that opinion changed?
<Bohannon</b> "I think it's still a matter of speculation. Even if you restrain the head and neck in this type of injury with the forces we are talking about. Hitting a concrete barrier at 150, 170 mph, whatever, there's still one more element that you have to address and that is the body has internal organs that are free floating. The brain is floating in fluid. Internal organs, the heart, the liver, are floating inside the body. Even if you restrain the body, the head, the neck, the chest, all of those organs internally move at time of impact. The brain for example will still impact on the inside of the skull and there's considerable forces involved. Small blood vessels are torn, the brain is injured, bruised, torn. With the impact of Dale's nature, even if he had the device on, hitting the wall that fast, it may have resulted in the same injuries."
Mike, where is the race car and if there are plans to look at it to see what can be learned from it?
<Helton> "The car is currently in NASCAR's possession. We're not going to divulge it's exact location. We do plan on looking at it. We have over the evening and earlier today with other crew members and other minds from the garage area that help understand different things. We'll continue to do that. The car's in NASCAR's possession."
Michael, did the close competition that nascar has been looking for have anything to do with Dale's crash?
Waltrip "It's my opinion that that was just a racing incident. The checkered flag was getting ready to wave. There were three or four cars in a tight pack and they got together. I ask that everyone keep Sterling Marlin in their prayers. Sterling didn't do anything wrong. Sterling was simply racing. When the checkered's waving, nobody is going to let off. When they rubbed, I'm sure Sterling didn't think Dale would wreck, otherwise he wouldn't have rubbed him. But there was just a little bit of contact and maybe it would have just shot Dale up the hill a little bit, Sterling probably thought and got him on through. It's the last lap, it's racing. I don't think that wreck looked to me a result of anything other than guys wanting to get to the checkered. I believe that in my heart and I hope that people will remember Sterling during this time too because they made contact, there's no denying that. But I didn't see that being anyone's fault. It's just hard racing on the last lap."
Michael, as you look back at these last four deaths, do you look at them as a group or do you look at them as individual racing incidents?
Waltrip "I look at them every way I can. A couple of times throttles stuck and caused a problem. We've addressed that the best I think we can in order for that not to happen again. The wreck that happened in Texas was just a terrible looking crash. He just got turned in a bad manner. When I'm driving I'm always mindful that I have to finish in order to win and I can't wreck. I'm trying to make sure I have my car headed in the right direction. That's probably a result of seeing wrecks over the years. The deal yesterday, I don't think I could learn anything from that. I think Dale was doing what he loved to do. He was coming for the checkered and his two cars were winning the race. I didn't realize it at the time, I thought Dale Jr. was pushing me along and helping me out. I didn't know the thunderstorm Dale was fighting in back there with all those other cars. He was just doing his job and close racing sometimes makes contact happen and when contact happens you hit the wall. Schrader hit it and Schrader walked away and Dale didn't. I don't think anyone could have done anything differently in that situation to help Dale."