FORT WORTH, Texas – When he woke up Saturday morning, Michael McDowell said he was a nervous about climbing out of bed.
“You know how it is when you’ve been sick and you don’t really know how you are until you get up,” McDowell said of the aftermath of his spectacular crash in Friday’s Samsung 500 qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.
“But I felt really good, better than I did last night. Once the adrenaline wore off I had a few bumps and bruises. But today it’s sort of like going back to the gym after the first day. I was just a little sore.”
The racing world was still shaking its collective head at McDowell’s wreck in Turn 1, which began when his No. 00 Toyota snapped loose after apparently running across a slick spot from fluid dropped by a car that went out three cars before McDowell’s did.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage’s office is high above Turn 1 in an office tower and he said Saturday that things on his desk shook when McDowell hit the wall several stories below.
But thanks to the steel and foam energy reducing barriers; the head-and-neck support devices, seats and other safety features in the car, safety advances in the new Sprint Cup car, and, as McDowell said a little help from above, the 23-year-old driver walked away and was back practicing in a back-up car Saturday morning. He’ll race Sunday.
“I feel like it was a gift from God for sure,” McDowell said. “Surviving something like that is amazing.”
McDowell said it was hard on his wife to see the countless replays of the crash on television all night Friday. His father wasn’t at the track and McDowell said he had to talk to his dad several times to make him believe his son was OK.
“It’s tough to watch any race car driver go through something like that,” said McDowell, who appeared on several national television shows late Friday and Saturday morning to discuss the wreck.
“I will tell you this, though, I am done being the crash-test dummy for the COT.”
Gossage said a crew worked for three hours Friday night replacing a 12,000-pound, 28-foot section of the SAFER barrier in Turn 1 that was damaged by McDowell’s harrowing crash during qualifying.