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Bobby Burrell Back From Head Injury

February 14, 2002

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Bobby Burrell returned to action this week as front tire changer for Ricky Rudd, nearly three months after a head injury sustained at Miami-Homestead Speedway.

Burrell was in Rudd’s pit for Thursday’s 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway, but never made it over the wall since the race ran caution free.

``I’m pretty much back to about a 100 percent,″ Burrell said after watching Rudd finish fourth. ``I kind of have my ups and downs, depending on how I feel, but as far as doing pit stops, I’m pretty much better.″

He and two other crewmen were injured when Ward Burton’s car banged off Casey Atwood’s and veered into them while they were servicing Rudd’s, which was up on a jack in its stall. Burrell was thrown head first into the concrete pit wall and slumped on the ground unconscious.

Jackman John Bryan was treated for a knee injury and released from the hospital later the same day. Tire carrier Kevin Hall and series official Kenny Lawson were treated for minor injuries at the track’s infield medical center.

Bryan and Hall also were back in the pits Thursday.

``It feels good to be back,″ Bryan said. ``I kind of thought I was going to make it back, but I didn’t know about Bobby. I’m just glad we’re both back out here.″

NASCAR later issued new mandates for the over-the-wall crew and its pit road officials, requiring they all must wear helmets and firesuits. Before the accident, only Cal Wells’ team wore helmets when pitting a car.

``If there’s any good that can come out this and we can help some of these other guys, then I’m glad it happened, to be honest with you,″ Bryan said. ``It was going to happen sooner or later.″

Burrell, who doesn’t remember the pit road collision, participated in offseason pit stop practice with the team, and Rudd said the crew’s first four-tire stop was an incredibly fast 12.5 seconds. He said their return couldn’t come at a better time.

``I wondered if Bobby was going to make it or not,″ Rudd said. ``Without him and those other guys last year, our performance kind of fell off. The crew just wasn’t the same without those guys, but now they seem like they’ve pulled back together.″

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