“Cat In The Hat” Lucky To Be Alive

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus

 

Winston Cup car owner Jack Roush was upgraded from critical to serious condition Monday, and while he remains in the intensive care unit of University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center recuperating from serious injuries suffered in a plane crash last week, spokesmen for Roush Racing say they expect him to return to Winston Cup racing sooner than later.

The crash, which occurred on his 60th birthday, left the four-team Winston Cup car owner with a closed head injury, a compound fracture of his left femur, a badly broken left ankle, a collapsed lung, and other less-serious injuries.

"We need to more time to elapse, but I can say that we're all greatly encouraged by the news of the day," Roush Racing President Geoff Smith said this week.

Roush is reportedly responding to visitors, but he has no recollection of Friday night's incident, which saw the light plane he was piloting clip a set of power lines and fall 75 feet into a lake. He was trapped underwater for a substantial period of time before being rescued by a bystander, and remains on a respirator due to the large amount of water ingested into his lungs.

The fact that Roush survived the crash is nothing short of miraculous. First, there are very few bodies of water in south Alabama into which a plane can successfully be ditched. Second, Roush’s crash occurred within sight of witness Larry Hicks, a former Marine Corps Master Sergeant specially trained in underwater rescues. Hicks, an Alabama state game warden, dove to the bottom of the murky pond three times in an attempt to rescue Roush, identified the restraint harness Roush was wearing - by touch, not sight - and pulled the car owner to the surface. Hicks then expelled the water from Roush’s lungs, performed CPR to restart his heart, and immobilized his injuries until help arrived.

Roush's head injury remains a major point of concern. Whether due to impact or the long period Roush spent underwater, doctors were initially concerned about potentially fatal brain swelling. No swelling has occurred, however, and Roush is now outside the 72-hour window for that to occur. The 60-year old car owner is not out of the woods yet, however.

"There are a lot of concerns," said Smith this week. "He ingested a lot of murky lake water, so we have to watch him pretty closely.”

Saturday, steel rods were implanted in Roush's broken left femur, pins were inserted in his ankle, and his damaged knee was repaired. Since then, doctors have begun weaning him off the ventilator, and removed one of the chest tubes from the area of his collapsed lung. He is reportedly resting comfortably - partially due to an aggressive regimen of medication - and is writing notes to his visitors and responding to verbal commands. He underwent a second round of surgery on his broken left leg at midweek, to clean surgical wounds left open for drainage.

"We're going one day at a time," Smith said. "If these checklists of worrisome things get checked off relatively quickly, then we’ve got a man in a cast who'll be out here on a golf cart in a short period of time."

He’s lucky to be alive, but with his past history of beating the odds, no one expects anything less than a full recovery from the man they call “The Cat In The Hat.”

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Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh kicks off its 2002 season Saturday with its annual preseason car show at Consumer’s Square in Plattsburgh from 9 a.m. to noon. More than 70 cars in four divisions -- ACT Late Model, NAPA Flying Tiger, Street Stock and Renegade -- will be on display, followed by an open practice session for all divisions at the speedway. “Best Appearing” honors will be awarded during pre-race ceremonies at Airborne Raceway’s 48th season opener, the Remington "4-10" Shootout on Sunday at 1 pm.

The Remington "4-10" Shootout pits all of last season’s at Thunder Road, Airborne and ACT Dodge Tour Late Model winners against each other in four, 10-lap sprints scored Milk Bowl-fashion. The driver with the lowest point total at the end of the day claims the $5,000 first prize. Last year’s non-winners still have one more opportunity to join the fray, with a 50-lap, “Last Chance Qualifier” to be run prior to the Shootout.

At last Saturday’s open practice session, opening day ACT Dodge Tour winner Patrick Laperle was among the fastest drivers on the track, along with cousins Brent and Scott Dragon. But with 20 drivers already qualified for the ACT All-Star race - and room for another - Saturday’s event should provide a fitting kickoff to the 2002 Airborne season.

In addition to the Remington “4-10” Shootout, Sunday’s card includes a full afternoon of racing for the Flying Tigers, Street Stocks and Renegades. Post-time is set for 1 p.m. Same-day coverage of the race can be heard on WDEV FM 96.1, WDEV AM 550 and NewsTalk 1390/WKDR, with Ken Squier and Pete Hartt, beginning at 6 p.m.

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Short (Track) Subjects…

…For those times when it's impossible to get to the track, fans of the American-Canadian Tour can now follow ACT Dodge Tour racing action live on the Internet at a new website; ACTseries.com. Live race updates are a new service offered by the site, and made their debut with the running of the ACT Dodge Tour New England Dealers 100 at Star Speedway.

Glen Davis, ACTseries.com administrator, said, "Response has been favorable, and we are eager to cover the Merchants Bank Freedom Lynx 150 at Thunder Road on May 5." ACTseries.com will post hourly updates throughout practice sessions and qualifying, then every few moments during the feature race.

ACTseries.com is a new web site especially for the fans of the American Canadian Tour, and includes news, feature articles, a message board, free classified ads and photos from all of the ACT Dodge Tour events. Check them out at www.actseries.com.

…It’s fairly common for drivers to move from one racing division to another. Most often, however, teams elect to move up the technological ladder, trading their current mounts for newer pieces in higher divisions.

Mark Barnier is going the other way. Barnier, a fan favorite and main-event winner on the ACT Dodge Tour, will return to his roots this season, parking his Late Model in favor of a new Flying Tiger entry. “The Hammer” began his career in the Tiger ranks before moving to the Late Models a few seasons ago, but the comparatively high cost of competition on the ACT Dodge Tour made him a part-time competitor at best in 2001.

Now, Barnier is putting the finishing touches on a new Tiger entry built by series veteran Joe Becker, with plans to contest a full schedule in 2002.

…After being slapped with a one-race suspension by NASCAR, one might have expected Kevin Harvick to be contrite, chagrined and apologetic. One would have been wrong.

Last week, the driver of Richard Childress’ GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet commented on his Martinsville “benching,” with the bulk of his comments dealing with how difficult it was on him. "It tore me up Sunday to watch the race from home,” he said. “I haven’t been racing since I was five years old and made it this far in my career to throw it all away now. Having to miss the race in Martinsville definitely got my attention.”

…“The Home Of The Coupes" is a faster, wider place now that a two-year program to expand and improve the layout of Bradford’s Bear Ridge Speedway has been completed. The track grown in circumference, and has also been widened to create more racing space, hopefully leading to higher speeds and increased passing. The half-buried tires that have long marked the inside of the corners are also gone now, replaced with jersey barriers.

Track owner C.V. Elms, III, said that with the completed reconfiguration, the track is now a minimum of 60 feet across at its narrowest point.

The Modifieds, Sportsman Coupes, Pro Streets and Fast Fours will all get their first opportunity to crank it up on the new racing surface on Saturday, May 4 when Bear Ridge opens its doors for its 35th season of racing with an afternoon practice session, followed by the NAPA Auto Parts of Bradford season opener. Highlighting the evening will be the debut of the 2002 Twin State Modified Series, with a special opening night starting time of 6 p.m.

 

Elms has also announced a special 35th Anniversary show, to be run on Perry's Oil Service Night on June 22. On that night, fans will be treated to a 40-lap Sunoco Coupe Series event, as well as an opportunity to meet some of the pioneers of Coupe racing. A number of golden-era Bear Ridge coupes will be on hand, along with many of the drivers who pioneered the popular division. Elms said he hopes to have inaugural Bear Ridge champion Merlin Bean, legendary Keene, N.H. racer “Blazing” Buddy Bardwell, and longtime favorite Harold DeRosia in attendance that night, along with the track's founder, George Barber, a man whose own Coupes dominated northern New England racing for many seasons.

 

Sounds like a “don’t miss” night at the Ridge.

…Don’t believe everything you hear about Tony Stewart jumping ship from Joe Gibbs Racing to take a new position with a two-car team owned by Andy Petree and former Dallas Cowboys coach Jerry Jones. Rumors have been circulating of late that Jones had contacted Stewart about becoming the lead driver for the team, but this week, Gibbs made it clear he has no intentions of letting his driver go.

"They'll have a tough time doing that," said Gibbs. "I'll own the Dallas Cowboys if they even try and get Tony Stewart. You can write that down."

Gibbs said he has Stewart, crew chief Greg Zipadelli and sponsor Home Depot signed through the 2004 Cup season, and has no intention of losing anyone to his former NFL rival.

…And finally, does anyone else see a connection here? Not long after shareholders of Speedway Motorsports Inc. -- the group that owns Lowes, Bristol, Texas and Las Vegas Motor Speedways -- filed suit against International Speedway Corporation, hoping to force NASCAR to award their Texas track a second Winston Cup date, NASCAR has begun discussing the possibility of moving “The Winston” All-Star race away from its longtime home at Lowes.

The SMI suit accuses NASCAR of being a monopoly, and of unfairly awarding races to ISC tracks at the expense of other deserving speedways. Some see NASCAR’s recent talk of moving “The Winston” as a none-too-subtle way of telling SMI, “be happy with what you’ve got, because it could be a whole lot worse.”