Unable to see out of his left eye after plane crash, NASCAR’s Roush returns to the racetrack

By Chris Jenkins, AP
Friday, August 13, 2010

Having lost vision in 1 eye, Roush back at track

BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR team owner Jack Roush was back at the racetrack Friday, having permanently lost vision in his left eye but otherwise feeling lucky to survive yet another plane crash.

And yes, he expects to fly again.

Roush, who crashed his jet just over two weeks ago while trying to land at an air show in Wisconsin, said he ruptured his left eyeball in the crash and doesn’t expect to ever be able to see out of it again.

“Everything will come back, except for the eye,” he told reporters at Michigan International Speedway. Roush then joked that he uses his right eye to examine spark plugs anyway.

Wearing sunglasses and his trademark Panama-style hat, Roush was present on pit road for qualifying. He had left the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., earlier this week.

In addition to his eye injury, Roush said he broke his jaw, sustained a compression fracture in his back and hurt his left cheek.

Roush, an aviation buff who survived another crash in 2002, praised the plane’s safety characteristics and acknowledged his remarkable good luck.

“I’ve been extremely lucky to have been able to survive,” Roush said. “I feel in some ways unworthy. I don’t know that I’ve done enough yet for the chances I’ve had.”

And Roush said it was “very likely” that he will be at the controls of a plane again, although he doesn’t know when.

“There’s not a reason why you can’t fly with one eye,” Roush said.

Earlier Friday, Roush Fenway driver Greg Biffle said he wouldn’t be surprised if Roush showed up at the track. Roush’s automotive company is based outside Detroit.

“You know Jack, the iron horse,” Biffle said. “He’ll want to be here for sure, but whether he’s feeling up to it or not, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Former Roush driver Mark Martin said he talked to Roush recently, and said the accident resulted from a “conflict with traffic” at the air show.

“He’s in a jet and there’s some very small aircraft at different speeds and those kinds of things,” Martin said. “He just got in a situation where he was uncertain about how he was going to make it all work, got slow and tried to get slowed down and got a little too slow and whatever. It was one of those situations where it was a bad deal.”

Roush said he has prepared a statement on the accident for investigators.

“It was basically a landing incident, based on a conflict in airspace with another airplane after I’d been given clearance to land,” Roush said.

Martin said he still has a close friendship with his former boss.

“We talked for a long time,” Martin said. “It was really good to talk to him. The bond between he and I is really, really strong because of the things that we went through in the beginning of Roush Racing, and as hard as they were, so many of those years, as hard as they were, they were also the kinds of things that bond people for life.”

Martin is especially glad that Roush, who is used to the hectic schedule of running a racing team and automotive-related business when he isn’t flying, isn’t in the hospital any more.

“I know that’s really tough on him,” Martin said. “I know he’s a tough guy, but he can deal with the injuries probably better than he can deal with being in the hospital, you know? So, I’m glad he’s out.”

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