Steve Park update 2001-09-21

Ty Norris, DEI executive vice president of motorsports" opening statement: Just wanted to update everyone on Steve Park's condition. I know there's been some rumors lately about his condition and certainly understand how they get started. Went...

Ty Norris, DEI executive vice president of motorsports" opening statement:

Just wanted to update everyone on Steve Park's condition. I know there's been some rumors lately about his condition and certainly understand how they get started. Went to see Steve last Wednesday night and was really impressed on how he looked. Rumors about his condition are much worse than he really is - bottom line is that he's extremely alert. In fact, he met me at his door, walked me into the living room and then we sat down and watched RPM2Nite together and talked about a lot of things going on in the racing world. That should give you some idea of his mental capacity.

They gave him a test to assess his intelligence, along with the two other people in the room, and he was the only one to pass it. So, I think everyone should take that as a good sign. The bruise on his brain, which has been the subject of most of his injury, has healed a tremendous amount. In fact, one tending physician said it was all but gone...that's not a medical term but it sounded good to me. I don't know what percentage but the bottom line is Steve was up and around and looked great. We all were concerned because we hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks.

He's been going through about 7-8 hours a day of physical and mental therapy to make sure everything is working properly. The biggest issue still remains to be the double vision. When he covers each eye individually, his left and his right eye are 20/20 but together he has double vision. The double vision is the reason he walks more gingerly than he would if he didn't have it.

The frustrating part for people in the media and the family is that the doctors and physicians can't tell us exactly when he's going to return. I told him the other day that it didn't matter. It doesn't matter. The biggest concern is to get him better. It could be two weeks, it could be three weeks, it could be another six weeks, it doesn't matter if the physician can tell you or not. He understands that it going to take time to heal and we are going to give him the time. His comment to me the other day was that "I could win races when I got out of the car and I'm going to have to be able to win races when I get back in the car." For him to have that mental approach was pretty heartening for us to see, that he has that ability to compute everything that's going on and understand that it's going to be a difficult process. It's not going to be as lengthy as some of the rumors but we're not going to force him into the car at anytime this year. If he's able to return, he will return but we aren't going to force him back and he's not going to force the issue either.

Has anything about his condition or prognosis changed since you last talked to Dr. Petty? What happened in Richmond...the comment from the doctor was that Steve would make a 100 percent recovery. I haven't asked the question to Dr. Petty again but I have talked to another physician who was talking about the end of the year. So that's telling me that they're expecting him to make a full recovery.

How much concern is there given the fact that Steve has a history of previous concussions? Certainly, he had a mild concussion when he had the accident in Atlanta. He had an accident at Homestead. In fact, it was before the Dover race in 1998, where he actually broke his back. He raced the rest of the year with a broken back and didn't tell anybody. He had a concussion then but this is not necessarily an issue with the concussion as much as it is the bruise on his brain that is in a sensitive area. It's really a little bit different injury. I have not asked that specific question. I know it has come up because of the NFL quarterbacks Steve Young and Troy Aikman and those kinds of guys have certainly had that issue. But I believe this was just a little bit different.

Please elaborate on the type of therapy he is going through. I don't everything, but I can tell you some. Some of the exercises are as simple as leaning over to brush your teeth because of the elevation change when you bend over. Some of its treadmill work; some of it is general movement. All of that is to stimulate the brain to send out the proper messages to the rest of the body. I didn't ask Dr. Petty nor did I ask Steve the other day about the specifics but I do know those are some of the things he's going through.

Is double vision the main problem? The other day he said the right part of his body was still sore from the hit, which I would think would be the left, but it was the right side he complaind about being sore. The biggest problem is getting both eyes to operate together. There is double vision but it's not in each individual eye, it's when they are both open together. The physicians have told him that it's only a matter of the brain healing. They believe once the brain heals, it will all fade away. And Steve is used to measuring his life in tenths of seconds and the doctors have told him he has to measure it in days and it may be weeks. He's frustrated with that part of it because he's psychically strong. There's been a lot of talk about he eyes not moving together but when I walked in, I was just blown away by his physical appearance. He looked perfectly physically. I was really, really happy about that. Little things made me realize how sharp he was mentally.

How much of the wreck does he remember? Steve still doesn't remember the incident and doesn't remember what led up to the incident either. Obviously he's read things and people have talked to him and people have talked to him about what happened when he was unconscious. But as far as him recalling it himself, he doesn't.

What type of testing is he going to go through before returning to the car? We will take Steve somewhere, whether it's Kentucky, Memphis or Greeneville Pickens, just to get him back in the rhythm of the race car before we enter him again, that's for his own good. What they go through physically is different than everyday life so we will do that before he gets back into the car.

Have the doctors indicated how surprised they are at how quickly he is healing? I have not talked to Dr. Petty about this but three different people delivered the message to me that his recovery in the last two weeks has been "remarkable." That is the word they used. Like I said Steve measures his life in tenths of seconds and the doctor looks at him after two weeks and says "you have made a remarkable recovery." The bruise has all but disappeared. Steve worked out four times a week and he probably gained 15 pounds, all of it muscle, since we hired him four years ago. He was in such tremendous physical health that he was physically able to take that hit without any physical damage outside of the internal organ.

Will people see him back at the track before he drives? I know he wants to. I know he wants to come by the shop because there are a lot of guys who are interested in seeing him. He wants to do it but he also understands that his number one priority is the physical therapy and that's an all day job. I don't know about you guys, but I know that if I went through physical therapy from 8:30 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I wouldn't want to see people at night and I wouldn't want to take the time. When he feels that the time is right, I'm sure he'll come by the shop, I'm sure he' ll around the track. I don't know if he'll be in Charlotte or not. I know he'll want to be there and he may end up coming. It's just a matter of whatever the physicians tell him. The reason we haven't been able to see him as much is that the physicians don't want his brain to be over stimulated from these other circumstances outside of therapy.

-Pennzoil Motorsports-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Steve Park