Michael Annett (yellow car) gets sandwiched in Daytona 400 crash (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
Just happened with the safety equipment inside Michael Annett's Daytona Mustang when he crashed three weeks ago is still unclear.
But the 26-year-old Nationwide racer has been sidelined ever since.
Annett, who has been racing NASCAR for nearly five years now, is to get another medical checkup Monday in Charlotte, and he's hoping he can beat the doctors' estimation that he would be out eight weeks recovering.
NASCAR took Annett's car to its Charlotte R&D after the crash for further analysis, because Annett's injuries are not typically seen: a dislocated, fractured sternum, which led to surgery.
What happened? "We don't know," he says, "because my injury is something we haven't seen in the past 12 years at least.
"I was in a carbon-fiber seat, with six-point harness. We've met with a lot of people, and everything did what it was supposed to.
"There are things they're 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 the worst way possible: the speed, the impact, the angle.
"Twelve years ago I wouldn't be standing here talking, if we didn't have the safety devices we have now."
Annett said the steering wheel didn't move or bend in the crash. "There wasn't a mark on the helmet, or a mark on the suit.
"My body stayed where it was supposed to... and my sternum tried to come out of my chest. That's all we do know."
NASCAR has not released the black-box G-force impact figures, but Annett says the number "was definitely high.
"The manufacturers of all the safety equipment we wear did its job... and that's why they test them at the numbers I hit."
Annett says the pain is pretty much gone. "It's just about time and everything healing back. They put two plates in, and it's going to take time for those to fuse with the bone....and the bone to decide it wants to stay in place where it's at now.
"I think Monday is going to be a telltale sign of how quick everything is healing."
Annett says he wasn't knocked out, and a NASCAR-mandated MRI showed "no hint of a concussion."
Annett's crash, obviously, was a hard one, and he was taken quickly to the hospital across the street. However with the last-lap crash that ripped down front-stretch fencing, Annett's accident was somewhat overshadowed.
"As soon as you come to a stop, you first make sure the car is not on fire, and get out as quick as you can," Annett said. "I started walking to the ambulance, did the normal 'shake it off,' and let the adrenaline sit down.
"I got my helmet off and unzipped my suit.... it felt like there was a golf ball on my chest.
"The infield care center medic was waiting around, like we always do, for three or four guys to get in the ambulance and save some trips.... and I looked at him and said 'We've got to go. We've got to get in there quick.'"
After being released from Halifax Medical Center the next day, Annett returned to North Carolina, where he was checked out again at Ortho Carolina. "They do a more elaborate test, and got the whole chest, and that's when they noticed the separation.
"The doctor said 'I've never seen this before, and I can understand how they missed it, because this is something we just don't see.'
"Within 10 minutes of them seeing that scan, I was in a gown and had surgery scheduled the next morning.
"That's just a testament to how quick the NASCAR (medical) liaisons get us through this process once something bad like this does happen."
Michael Annett: sidelined maybe eight weeks with broken sternum (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)