Jack Roush out of hopital, back at track
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush returned to the track on Friday for the first time since a July 27 plane crash that robbed him of vision in his left eye.
Roush arrived at Michigan International Speedway around 3:30 p.m. wearing his traditional fedora and dark sunglasses covering his left eye that was stitched closed.
Roush said the eye likely was damaged when his head hit the side of the airplane on impact with the ground. He said it likely would not keep him from flying again, although he will have to re-evaluate certain things such as whether he will carry a co-pilot moving forward.
"I've got to get recovered," Roush said as he stood on pit road with a stopwatch in hand. "I have to go through my recovery. Wiley Post was a one-eyed pilot and there's no restriction. Maybe if you're an airline pilot you can't have one eye, but there's not a reason why I can't fly with one eye."
Otherwise, the man known as "Cat in the Hat" was feeling pretty good for somebody who had survived his second plane crash.
"It is great medicine, for sure," Roush said of rejoining his organization.
Roush received a round of applause from fans as he entered the garage and later as he walked down pit road for qualifying. Being able to make his comeback at what he considers his home track, not far from the home of his automotive business on the outskirts of nearby Detroit, made it especially gratifying.
"I fly over it a couple of times a month just to check and make sure everything is still in place," Roush said of MIS.
Roush's appearance surprised many of his employees who said earlier in the week it was extremely doubtful he'd be at the track this weekend. Several didn't find out until moments before he walked through the door.
"The heat is a little overbearing, but I'm without pain," Roush said.
Roush underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic to treat facial injuries, most to his left eye and broken left jaw, suffered during the crash at Oshkosh, Wis. He must wear a back brace for three to six months while recovering from a compression fracture. He still has packing in his nose from extensive facial surgery.
"I'm still uncomfortable with the fact that I can't breathe clearly through my nose," Roush said. "Everything will come back and I was blessed to have great vision in two eyes, and now I've got great vision in one."
It was the second close call in an airplane for Roush, who crashed into a lake near Talladega Speedway in Alabama eight years ago and nearly drowned before being rescued by an former Marine who lived nearby.
Roush said he filed his accident report for the latest incident on Friday, saying he was put in conflict with the flight plan of another airplane close to the ground "and I was unable to address the conflict and keep the airplane flying."
"I ground-looped the airplane," Roush said. "It wasn't something silly I was doing erratically or something else that you would say was risky or foolish. It just happened." A few days after the crash Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle gave the organization its first win of the season. Roush watched most of the race but not all of it from the Mayo Clinic.
"I was still pretty doped up," Roush said.
Roush admitted he is lucky to be alive.
"I feel very lucky," he said. "I've had several bites at the apple here. I'm really proud at the way the organization has rallied. We were gaining in our performance moving from not where I wanted to be in an area of the top-10 into the top-5.
"Roush Fenway Racing will outlive me, and it will out-live anybody else that is with the company today. We've got the plans in place for that. This was a little test case. How can you do without Jack? Well it's bigger than me. It's bigger than anybody."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.