driven by Ricky Rudd and Dale Jarrett, held a Q&A session this morning at
Atlanta Motor Speedway to discuss the condition of crew member Bobby
Burrell, who was injured in a pit road accident last week at Homestead,
and the issue of helmets on pit road.
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28/88 Ford Tauruses
HOW IS BOBBY? "He is
going to be transferred to C***te today. NASCAR was going to have a
plane there to bring him back at 10 a.m. to bring him to C***te, but
the hospital wants to be careful so they're gonna have a nurse on board
to monitor him as they fly. They're gonna bring him back to Carolinas
Medical. Dr. Petty and some of the guys got together with the doctors
there and they want to get him back in C***te. He's doing great.
Each day has been a big improvement, so I'm starting to feel like he's
gonna be fine."
IS HE CLEAR-HEADED OR STILL GROGGY? "He's very clear.
He's very sharp and didn't forget anything. After he woke up he
remembered everything, except what month it is and in racing you really
don't do things by months."
WILL YOUR GUYS BE WEARING HELMETS ON
SUNDAY? "I'd like to say that was definitely gonna be my vote, but I
think from each one of us with what we saw and what we witnessed, it was
a decision that each one of the crew guys made. Some people said that I
made that decision, but I think it's really the guys who were smart
enough to say, 'hey, that (a helmet) would have protected Bobby.' That's
what they'll wear from now on."
WHAT KIND OF HELMETS? "A lot of our
energy from our crew chiefs and crew this week have been meeting with
helmet manufacturers and trying different helmets on. We have skateboard
helmets, we have hockey helmets. We'll have helmets of some sort this
week, but that will be an ongoing thing to try and make it better. For
myself, I'm one that never liked to put gloves on or helmets on, but I'm
all for it."
HOW IS THE MORALE ON YOUR TEAM? "We witnessed something
that was extremely scary and probably won't go away. I was on pit road
for 30 years and I always tried to heads up. If I was the jackman, I
tried to really be watching after the crew, but it's gonna take the
responsibility of the drivers to help out here too. I think that
awareness will be high and we'll all look at the safety measures, but the
bottom line pretty much comes down to the guy with the steering wheel and
COULD ANYTHING BE DONE TO THE PIT STALLS THEMSELVES?
"We've tried a lot of things. We've tried an even-odd. We've tried to
make it safer. We've actually slowed it down and stopped it and made the
pits open up. NASCAR has responded through the years to make the thing
safer -- the speeds. We'll continue to work on this. Yeah, there are
some places where I think it's too tight for 43 cars, but the race tracks
that are short are good to us, so what do you do? I'm sure NASCAR at the
right place and right time will work on it. Right now, I say one of the
best things is the driver being heads up."
DO YOU THINK AN AIR JACKS
WOULD BE BETTER THAN THE JACK USED NOW? "I disagree with that. I think
all the dimensions of our sport and having the different players in it is
what makes this sport what it is today. I was a jackman and on pit road
in Nashville when we used to have that figure-s thing and that was very
scary, but I think have the jackman and tire changer there -- the jackman
is actually the guy that can be the watchout for a lot of things. I
don't advocate putting hydraulic jacks on the car."
THOUGHTS ON OTHER
THINGS THAN HELMETS. "There are a lot of things we can discuss. There's
probably not a real simple and clear way to do it. Maybe you could look
at the speed deal, but this really comes down to the drivers. When
they're cut loose in a segment that they can run as hard as they want to,
the drivers really need to be aware and watch out for who they run in to
and who they hit. I was on pit road for 30 years and I knew drivers that
I had to watch out for more than others. I've laid my jack up in the
windshield of drivers that I didn't respect and these drivers just need
to respect these guys on pit road."
DO YOU BLAME SOMEBODY FOR WHAT HAPPENED ON
SUNDAY? "I would blame them if they don't pay attention and do a better
job of driving."
DO YOU THINK WARD GOT KNOCKED INTO THE 28? "Certainly,
I was looking right down clocking our stop and it was extremely ***.
There wasn't anything slow-motion to it, it was there before anybody
could do anything. If I was the jackman and I was looking right at it,
I'm sure I probably couldn't have responded for my guys. It came from a
car trying to pull out and it quickly changed direction. There was no
braking, but Ward was helpless."
DO YOU ADVOCATE STRONGER PENALTIES FOR
DRIVERS FOR SOMETHING LIKE THAT? "I think if it's there for all of them
and you don't pay attention, you could look at yourself pitting the next
time by would be a good program to have."
ARE YOU ADVOCATING A MANDATE
FOR HELMETS? "No and I really didn't mandate it for my guys. I think
good common sense tells you that in a situation we had with Bobby on
Sunday, if he would have had a helmet on he would probably be right here
today with us. I think it's the guy's (on pit road) response. NASCAR
isn't going to tell us everything we need to do. I think it's really up
to the teams to decide how safe we make it and helmets are a good
ARE YOU ASKING NASCAR TO INSTITUTE STIFFER PENALTIES? "No, I
really just want to say to the drivers, 'Know what you've got in your
hands and pay attention and be heads up.' It's not really something that
NASCAR can do. Sure, NASCAR can impose a penalty. I think that the
dimension of pit stops make a lot of difference to our racing. The 28
has been one of the best teams on pit road and we make up positions on
pit road. I don't want to change that. I just think that we want the
drivers to drive a little more carefully. I think everybody can take a
lesson from looking at Ricky Rudd. He absolutely will not accelerate
through his pit stall. He keeps that pit road speed and slows from the
time he enters. He's actually at a slower pace. It's just a little more
common sense with the drivers. I think it's a heads up for them and I
think it'll be safe. There will be a right time for NASCAR as to whether
they can extend things or widen things, but we love the dimension of the
pit stops. One of the big thrills of my life every Sunday was jumping
out on pit road with a jack, a gas can or an air wrench and it's quite
thrilling -- not the fact that you're about to get run over, but it's
thrilling and fun and it's good competition and we want to keep that."
SOME GUYS HAVE SAID THEY CAN OVERPROTECT THOSE GUYS WITH A BODY SUIT OR
ELIMINATE PIT STOPS? "Well, they can stay home if they're worried about
that. That's not what we're worried about. We want to go out and be
able to see and hear. I love riding a motorcycle without a helmet. I
know that's probably ridiculous. My daughter raises Cain at me for doing
that and that's what she does, she works at a trauma center in Phoenix
and she sees a lot of head injuries. I've communicated with her this
week and she can tell me about Bobby's headaches and why they're hurting
and all these kind of things. When I was on pit road, we didn't even
have radios back then. I wanted to be able to hear the cars coming.
Once you've got a radio on and you have a good coordinator in the pits,
it's not a problem having a helmet on."
WHAT ARE SOME SAFETY THINGS
YOU'D LIKE TO SEE FOR NEXT YEAR? "I think we will have some time to sit
down and look over and learn from the past, which they've done for many
years. I don't think they've ever been negligent about making rules, but
it's pretty tough. When it's in the driver's hands, I think you've got
to scold the drivers a little bit."
WHAT ABOUT THE CREW CHIEFS? "If the
crew chief is the guy that has the radio command, he should be in charge
of his guy and if his guy drives carelessly, then they should be on his
DO YOU EXPECT SAFER CHANGES TO THINGS OTHER THAN PIT ROAD
NEXT YEAR? "We've responded. I'm certainly happy to see the head
restraints because that's been one of our major problems. I think that's
gonna add a lot to our safety, so we're all working on it. I think if it
was all a clear cut solution, we would have been stupid not to have it
done a long time ago, but the response is there. I feel good that NASCAR
is keeping safety as a number one priority."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS A PROPER PIT ROAD WIDTH?
"I know that some pits are not long enough to hardly parallel park your
car, and those are real tough deals, but at those races the drivers have
to be more careful. I really think they need to take the situation into
play. I think 32 feet or something like that is a pretty nice length
because is gives your guys room and allows a guy to go in front or
behind, but, unfortunately, with 43 cars it sort of wraps around twice.
I don't know. I'm sure they'll work on that."
WHAT ABOUT THE WIDTH OF
PIT ROAD? "The width for the driving lanes, I think if they made them
10-wide, they would probably be trying to drive out 11-wide, so I think
it comes back to the drivers using common sense on that. If somebody is
a nose ahead of you, give him that position."
WHEN WILL BOBBY BE BACK?
"He told Doug Yates Sunday night. Doug was with him and we didn't know
his condition. We didn't know if he was alive or what, but when I went
to the hospital they asked me if I wanted to see him and I did. They
held me up for an hour and I got nervous about that, but what they told
me was that he (Bobby) is such a scrappy and tough guy, he wanted to bust
out of his deal. They had to sedate him a little bit so he'd calm down,
but I think it was late Sunday night when Doug got to go in and see him.
Doug said to Bobby, 'You're gonna let me change tires this weekend.' And
Bobby said, 'No you're not, I'm changing.' So that's the spirit he was
in on Sunday night. Every bit of news from day to day is an
improvement. He ate his first food yesterday and took a shower. He's
up. He's walking with a little bit of assistance, but we really feel
good about him and the hospital feels good about him. It was wonderful
to hear the doctor tell me that Bobby was gonna be okay because when I
saw him on pit road and by the time I got to the hospital I was very
uncertain about his condition."
IS THERE A MENTAL GAME THAT TAKES PLACE
ON PIT ROAD? "It's sort of like an intersection -- sometimes you'll hide
your eyes and figure the other person will be smart enough not to move.
That's not the game we want to be playing on pit road. I was out there
and I've run in front of cars. It's nice to have a jack in your hand,
especially when we had 100-pound jacks. I think guys feared that a
little bit. You've just got to have the respect from a driver. They
know who they are. All these guys on pit road know which guys try to
intimidate, try to run over your toes and scare the heck out of you. I
don't like that game. I think those are the ones that should get slapped
around a little bit."
WHAT ARE TWO OR THREE THINGS THE DRIVERS CAN DO
ENTERING AND LEAVING BETTER? "When you knock somebody out of control and
there are people on pit road, that's wrong behavior. Each driver has to
use more give-and-take on pit road. If they'll do that, use their speed
and don't accelerate through the pits -- if you have your crew chief or
whoever telling them to keep it tight and watching out of the guys by
using your mirrors and windshield, I don't think we'll have the problems
like we had on Sunday."
WHO DOES YOUR CREW CONSIDER A PROBLEM? "I'm not
out there now, but I was out there for many years and I knew the guys
that were gonna run at you. Some of it was in fun, but this is a serious
business and we don't need to be making those kind of moves at our guys.
They always have that deal where you'd have the jack or air wrench full
of oil and you'd mess his windshield up. You had all those kind of
games, but we don't need that stuff. The drivers among themselves need
to get together and say, 'Listen, if I have a good stop and I'm getting
out first, give me the lane.' They just need to use a little courtesy
there. If your pit stop is good and you got ahead, respect him and don't
go knocking him around out there because you'll knock an innocent person
into someone. Ward Burton was scared to death. He was there. He cared,
but he had no control. He can't fix what happened. He can't do that,
it's got to be the guy that drove into him."
WILL THEY VOLUNTARILY BACK DOWN? "If they
don't voluntarily back down, I think it's up to our teams to point them
out and then we'll go to the trailer and say, 'Listen, this guy deserves
HOW ARE BOBBY'S HEADACHES? "His headaches are severe. His
eyes hurt. They didn't realize how bad his back was. His back is
black. I think in this whole deal we're so lucky that we didn't get any
kind of injuries. Of course, the head injury is one that we're most
concerned about, but a helmet won't protect against spine injuries and
that kind of thing -- a helmet won't just fix it. We've got to have
drivers paying attention."
http://SportToday.org/ -- your source for motorsport news on the Internet