- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) Jack Roush's plane crash was a grim reminder of air accidents that took the lives of two Winston Cup drivers.
Roush was critically injured after the small plane he was piloting during a 60th birthday celebration with friends crashed in southeast Alabama late Friday, two days before the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. There were no passengers on board with Roush.
Geoff Smith, general manager of Roush Racing, said at a news conference yesterday that the team owner remained in critical but stable condition at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.
He said Roush had a head injury and broke both legs.
Smith said the team would continue to participate in weekend racing events as doctors worked to save Roush's life.
"All of us have the understanding that in our lives that we are to go forward and compete this weekend, which is what we're all prepared to do and have been practicing," Smith said.
The longtime NASCAR entrant had two cars entered in yesterday's Busch Series event and four running in today's featured Aaron's 499 on the 2.66-mile oval.
The accident recalled two other crashes involving Winston Cup racers.
Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 series champion, was killed in the crash of a private plane on the way to a race in Bristol, Tenn., in 1993. Davey Allison died when he crashed his helicopter on the Talladega Superspeedway property later that same year.
NASCAR drivers, owners and officials regularly crisscross the country in private planes to keep up with their schedules.
A statement from Bill France Jr., chairman and CEO of NASCAR, said in part: "Jack Roush is an innovator and leader in the NASCAR industry. His tireless efforts have helped the sport achieve the success it enjoys today. All members of the NASCAR family are praying for his recovery."
All four Roush drivers qualified Friday for today's race, with Mark Martin 19th, Kurth Busch 20th, Jeff Burton 25th and Matt Kenseth, a two-time winner this season, having to take a car-owner's provisional for a 37th-place start in today's 43-car field.
It was a relatively disappointing showing for the reborn Roush team, which endured a rough 2001 season but goes into today's race with three drivers in the top 10 in points and Burton 11th.
In an interview with the Associated Press several weeks ago, Roush recalled last season, his 15th in NASCAR.
"I was so blue and so brokenhearted, I almost cried at the banquet," he said. "I just could not stand to think that we had missed the opportunity to do better than we did."
The revival started with a slight shake-up at Roush over the winter.
At Burton's suggestion, Roush took Jimmy Fenning, a veteran crew chief who had been paired with Martin, and moved him to Busch's team to turn things around after a mediocre rookie campaign.
Martin was assigned Ben Leslie and Burton and Kenseth's teams were left intact.
"It was a tough year and when we looked over the winter, we said, 'OK, what can we do to take all the elements we've got and put them together differently so that we can work better?'" Martin said.
It had all been working great so far this year.
"It feels like 2001 should have been," Roush said. "I'm relieved that the process that we have and our structure and our morals and all the things that wind up holding our world together is working this year, and I don't have to retire. I can keep doing this awhile."

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