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Mar 15, 2013 - 03:43 PM
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2013 Bristol Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Michael Annett
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 15, 2013 - 03:43 PM
2013 Bristol Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Michael Annett

Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang, was at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday as he continues to recover from injuries sustained in a season-opening accident at Daytona International Speedway. He spoke about the accident and the timetable for his return.

MICHAEL ANNETT - No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang - HOW ARE YOU? "I’m good. I was doing better until I got a cold yesterday and found out that sneezing is about the most painful thing there is, but, other than that, I’m doing good. I feel great. Honestly, I feel like I could be putting my suit on right now and going over to the car and get ready for practice. Unfortunately, my sternum doesn’t feel the same way. The pain is gone pretty much right now, but, like I said sneezing and there are certain things I do where I get a little bit cocky and think I can do more than I can and tweak it a little bit, but, right now, it’s just about time and everything healing back. They put two plates in, so it’s just gonna take time for those to fuse with the bone and the bone to decide it wants to stay in place where it’s at now."


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IS THERE A TIMETABLE FOR YOUR RETURN? "Initially, they said eight weeks right away. I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning down at CMC (Carolina Medical Center) Main and meet with the surgeon. They’re gonna do another scan and we all heal differently. They said eight weeks, but they also said I would be in the ICU all night and I was in there for 30 minutes. They said I’d be in the hospital until Sunday and I was released two days early, so, hopefully, we can turn that eight weeks into six or seven, but I think Monday is gonna be a telltale sign of how quick everything is healing."

WHAT HAPPENED INSIDE THE CAR TO ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN? "The biggest thing is we don’t know. Not only is RPM and the seatbelt manufacturer and NASCAR just really working hard to find out what did happen because the biggest thing is when a driver does get injured or a fan gets injured, or anything happens, NASCAR doesn’t stop until they fix it. But the best answer is we don’t know because my injury is something we haven’t seen in the past 12 years at least. They don’t know, but they’re gonna do everything it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again."

DO YOU HAVE A CARBON FIBER SEAT? "Yeah, I was in a carbon fiber seat, six-point harness. We’ve had meetings. We’ve met with a lot of people and everything did what it was supposed to. There are things they’re working on right now to improve on what we already have and that’s obviously something we’re gonna look into, but, at the time of the accident, everything was installed properly. Nobody did anything wrong. It was just that everything came together the worst way possible - the speed, the impact, the angle of the impact. Twelve years ago I wouldn’t be able to be standing here talking to you guys if we didn’t have the safety devices we have now."

SO DID YOUR BODY JUST COME FORWARD INTO THE BELTS? "Yeah. The steering wheel hadn’t moved, it wasn’t bent. There wasn’t a mark on the helmet, a mark on the suit. It was pretty much my body stayed where it was supposed to and my sternum tried to come out of my chest. That’s all we do know."

DO THEY KNOW THE IMPACT NUMBERS? "Yeah, they do, but it’s just something they don’t like to release. We know what it was and it was definitely high. The manufacturers of all the safety equipment we wear did its job and that’s why they test them at the numbers that I did hit at."

CAN YOU RECAP YOUR INJURY AGAIN, PLEASE? "I’m feeling great. Honestly, this is the best I’ve felt in the past two weeks. We joke around about NASCAR being a family, and it’s actually nice to be here and see people like you and getting asked these questions just because when you’re away from the track you get forgotten about pretty quick, so it’s fun to be back. I would love to be putting on my suit and helmet and getting ready for practice, but I’m still gonna be able to go up on the spotter’s stand and help Reed out with the car and help our buddies at Roush out, and Pastrana, who has never been here, so I’m just trying to be a part of it and be around my guys."

MICHAEL ANNETT CONTINUED -- WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THE ACCIDENT? "I remember everything. That was the most fortunate thing was that my head was fine. I remember from the time that, I don’t know if I screwed up or I remember what happened and how I reacted to the situation and hitting the wall and getting out and walking to the ambulance - everything. That was the first test we did was an MRI to make sure that there was no hint of a concussion - just all the things that NASCAR mandates now. Like I said, there were just so many things we have in the car now that I’m lucky to be standing here with the injury that I do and say I can be back in six to eight weeks."

ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING TO STAY IN THE RACING MINDSET? "I’ve thought about that. Obviously, you keep hearing about iRacing and those computer simulations, but, to me, we didn’t really do anything in that three months during our off-season, so I think that’s just the hardest thing is I was so ready to get back. I don’t really consider Daytona getting back quite yet because you don’t use the brake, you don’t really do much other than just hold it wide-open, so it’s just adding onto that off-season. Hopefully, when we get closer to when we think I’ll definitely be coming back, we’ll try to do some testing and things like that just to get the feel back. Unfortunately, if I do come back in eight weeks, the first race back is Talladega, so I still won’t get to use the brake pedal."

DID YOU KNOW IMMEDIATELY YOU HAD SOME SORT OF INJURY? "I think the first think, as all drivers do, as soon as you wreck you’re disappointed first, especially with where we were running at that time pushing Elliott. I think we were running second, third or fourth with three or four laps to go, so as soon as you come to a stop you first make sure the car is not on fire and get out as quick as you can. I started walking to the ambulance and kind of do the normal ‘shake it off’ and let the adrenaline sit down. I got my helmet off and unzipped my suit and just kind of felt everything and it honestly felt like there was a golf ball on my chest. The infield care center medic was kind of waiting around like we always do for three or four guys to get in the ambulance and save some trips and I kind of looked at him and said, ‘We’ve got to go. We’ve got to get in there quick.’ So we got to the care center and they started the exam. They called the ambulance and said, ‘We’re going over to Halifax pretty quick,’ so we knew it was pretty serious at that time."

ANY IDEA WHY THE CRACKED STERNUM WASN’T DIAGNOSED AT HALIFAX? "The biggest thing is that at Halifax they did all the tests they normally do in a trauma situation. They did the scan there and everything came back negative. In trauma situations they don’t necessarily pick out one thing. They wanted to make sure the heart, the vessels, and everything was clear and they did that and made sure I was stable, and then it just became a part of the NASCAR clearing process - kind of like I said about getting the MRI done - and then they sent me over to Ortho Carolina, who has orthopedics and surgeons over there, and they do a more elaborate test and got the whole chest and that’s when they noticed the separation. When that test came back the first thing the doctor said was, ‘I’ve never seen this before, and I can understand how they missed it because this is something that we just don’t see.’ It’s a testament to NASCAR and everything that they’ve implemented when something like this does happen. I was 10 minutes down the road at CMC Main with an orthopedic surgeon and a heart surgeon - cardiovascular, everybody, over there looking at that scan and within 10 minutes of them seeing that scan, I was in a gown and had surgery scheduled the next morning. That’s just a testament to how quick the NASCAR liaisons and everybody gets us through this process once something bad like this does happen."

WHO IS THE SEATBELT MANUFACTURER? "It’s Schroth and, like I said, everything did its job. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here. We sat in a meeting this week and saw pictures of a brand new set of belts and then my belts after the wreck and everything was correct. It was six-point harness. NASCAR is working on implementing a seven-point harness, which is something I’m definitely gonna look into, but, right now, everything did its job and everybody on the team did their job."

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE READY TO COME BACK? "The plates are staying in for sure. I didn’t even ask that question. I guess I just always heard about people getting plates. I think Pastrana has 30 in him, so I knew the plates were probably staying in. If they took them out, that would just slow down the healing process. But the biggest thing is that scan Monday. Those two bones and all the tendons and tissue that need to hold them together need to fuse back together. Pain-wise and feeling-wise, I could race tomorrow afternoon, but it’s not about comfort when everything is going good, it’s when everything goes bad that I need to be healthy."

MICHAEL ANNETT CONTINUED -- YOU WERE A HOCKEY PLAYER AT ONE POINT. IS THIS COMPARABLE TO ANYTHING YOU HAD HAPPEN IN THAT SPORT? "In hockey the coaches definitely didn’t care about you as much as they do in NASCAR. In hockey, I remember getting stitches on the bench and popping shoulders back in place and we were on the ice in 30 seconds. So they definitely care about you more here, and that’s the biggest difference. The only thing I could relate to is when somebody asked earlier about if I knew something was wrong, you definitely know when something is out of place or broken. I knew right away, like I told that infield care medic, I said, ‘We’ve got to go.’"

WHAT POSITION DID YOU PLAY? "I played defense. I’m obviously not a big guy, so I was definitely getting a lot of shoulders put back in place."

WHEN YOU SAY GOLF BALL ON YOUR CHEST, WAS IT LIKE YOU HAD SWALLOWED ONE OR SOMETHING? "Yeah, it just honestly felt like a golf ball underneath the skin. They thought it was just a contusion. One thing I can say is from the day that it happened the swelling from that definitely went down by three-quarters to at least a half-inch. You see that sometimes. If you bang your knee, you’ll have a golf ball there in 10 seconds. That’s just part of going back to it’s just a contusion. When you have that much swelling it’s hard to see on some of those scans."

DID YOU SEE ANY OF THE FANS WHO CAME IN FROM THE ACCIDENT WHEN YOU WERE AT HALIFAX? "The first inclination I had was when they were putting me into the scan. The trauma surgeon came in and grabbed one of the nurses and said, ‘We’ve got eight traumas coming in,’ and immediately I thought, ‘There’s either a wreck on the interstate or there are some fans involved because there aren’t eight NASCAR drivers hurt.’ So I knew something then. They got me stable and put me into a room and at that point I saw the TV and said, ‘Leave me alone. I’m comfortable. Get out there and help them because they’re a lot more important right now.’ It was probably about 30 minutes after it happened that I knew."

DID YOU SEE OR MEET ANY OF THEM? "No. They put me into that scan room, but initially where I went is where they brought all of those fans. They took me to a CT room and from there you moved to a more stable room, where they don’t give you as much attention. Then there are eight trauma beds, so from that room they brought me on an elevator up to the room I stayed in overnight, but it was definitely an interesting experience. I never thought a few years ago I would by lying in a hospital bed and the King walks in and pokes you on the chest and asks you ‘what’s going on here.’ So it was an interesting day, but something I’ll never forget. When I look back on it, it’s a pretty cool thing about some of the people that came to see me."

CAN YOU DO ANY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND IS THERE SOME TEST YOU HAVE TO COMPLETE BEFORE YOU COME BACK? "The biggest thing is they said, ‘Please, don’t lift anything. Don’t use your arms to move your body weight.’ That was the one thing I really notices from that Sunday to Tuesday when we really knew what was wrong was that’s what hurt the most and how many things are connected to your sternum. But there is no specific test. We were actually just joking up there on the trailer. Sammy Johns asked me when I was gonna be able to get on a zero gravity treadmill, where you don’t really feel anything but you’re still getting some cardio. I said, ‘I’ve been on the elliptical for the past two weeks working out,’ so it’s just things like that that we’re hoping are moving forward a lot quicker than people think they will."

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