- Marty Smith, ESPN
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NASCAR iron man Ricky Rudd, who made his 900th career Cup Series start Sunday at California Speedway, separated his left shoulder and was briefly knocked unconscious in a wicked wreck during the Sharp Aquos 500, the veteran driver told ESPN.com Monday.
"It knocked me out for just a little bit, but not real bad," Rudd said. "It was one of those deals that sort of stunned me. It happened so quick I'm not sure what happened, but I was out for just a second."
The shoulder is the major concern, and leaves Rudd concerned about his status for next weekend's Chevy Rock 'n Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He said he wouldn't grade his chances of competing as very high, which is significant, considering Rudd once taped his eyelids open with duct tape so he could race.
"If you try to raise your arm at all, you can't do it," he said. "It just takes your breath."
Monday morning, Rudd was waiting to have an MRI by Carolina Panthers team doctors to determine the extent of the shoulder separation.
"[Sunday] night the guy looked at it and said, 'The collarbone's not broken,' and I said, 'Well, that's a good thing,' and he said, 'No, that's not really a good thing,'" Rudd said. "[He said] you've got a separated shoulder and I didn't know what that meant. Around your rotator cuff there's a lot of ligaments and tendons, and depending on severity they may have to do surgery. The only way to know that is an MRI."
He doesn't remember the accident. It happened behind him when Jeff Gordon clipped the rear of Rudd's No. 88 Ford during a multicar pileup on Lap 181. Rudd was transported to a local hospital, treated and released.
"I didn't see anything," Rudd said. "I didn't see it coming because it was behind me. Next thing I know I'm handing a right down the straightaway and headed straight for the fence. There was no time to even brace for it.
"That lap or two is out of my memory. I was awake when I stopped. But I tried to unbuckle and couldn't because my shoulder just wouldn't work."
Rudd said he thinks his shoulder was caught underneath the headrest that prevents side-to-side movement of the driver's head during an accident. He also said the evolution of the wreck may result in some "re-engineering" of his race seat.
"It hurts pretty bad, but it could have been a lot worse," Rudd said.
Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.