Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett said the investigation into why he suffered a fractured and dislocated sternum in a crash at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 23 hasn’t uncovered any answers.
“The best answer is ‘we don’t know,’ because my injury is something we haven’t seen in the past 12 years at least,” the Richard Petty Motorsports driver said on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Annett said Petty Motorsports, NASCAR and the company that produces seat belts all are working to figure out what led to him needing surgery for injuries that doctors expect will sideline him for eight weeks.
“I was in a carbon-fiber seat, six-point harness,” Annett said. “We’ve met with a lot of people, and everything did what it was supposed to. There are things they are working on right now to improve on what we already have.
“But at the time of the accident, everything was installed properly. Nobody did anything wrong. It was just that everything came together in the worst way possible — the speed, the impact, the angle of the impact.”
Annett said 12 years ago, before NASCAR began implementing safety changes following the 2001 death of Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500, he probably wouldn’t be alive to talk about the 11-car crash that halted the race for 20 minutes.
“The steering wheel hadn’t moved, it wasn’t bent,” he said. “There wasn’t a mark on the helmet, a mark on the suit. It was pretty much my body stayed where it was supposed to and my sternum tried to come out of my chest. That’s all we know.”
Neither Annett nor NASCAR would not reveal the g-forces at the time of impact.
“We know what it was and it was definitely high,” Annett said. “The manufacturers of all the safety equipment we wear did its job and that’s why we test them at the numbers that I did hit at.”
Annett said he plans to meet with doctors on Monday in Charlotte, N.C., to see exactly where he stands on the recovery process. He hopes to get back in the car, being driven by Reed Sorenson in his absence, a week or so earlier than projected.
“I was doing better until I got a cold and found out that sneezing is about the most painful thing there is,” Annett said. “But other than that, I’m doing good. Honestly, I feel like I could be putting my suit on right now.
“We all heal differently. They said eight weeks, but they also said I would be in the ICU all night and I was there for 30 minutes. So hopefully, we can turn that eight weeks into six or seven.”