“I want to start by apologizing to everyone -- to NASCAR, my team and to everybody that made this deal happen. This is something that I feel I’m really serious about as an individual and a driver in NASCAR. What happened that night, I take full responsibility for it. It reflected poorly upon my team, on my sponsors and everyone else and I want to sincerely apologize. It’s up to me moving forward to put this behind me and to make better decisions in the future and to really learn from this. I know that a lot of these words are real easily spoken, but its actions in the future that I’m going to be judged by. And with that I’ll open it up to any questions y’all may have.”
How does it feel to be back at the track?
“I feel good about it. It will be great to get back on the race track. I know its poor circumstances coming back, but I’m real excited to get back in the seat. I know the team’s really pumped up. They’re all ready to go. I know I’ve got my full support behind them, but I know there’s a lot of guys out here that I will have to earn my respect back from them and I’m looking forward to that.”
What rules have been set in place since the incident?
“There’s some internal sanctions that have been put upon me by NASCAR and also by the team, RAB Racing that I’ve been working on and will continue to work on in the future. Like I said, this is something I take very seriously and I’m really working to get back on my good track.”
How do you learn from this?
“Just continue what I’m doing -- making better choices. This was just a horrible lack of judgment on my part, but just continue with everybody’s recommendations and just keep an open mind.”
Do you plan to use your position as a driver to speak out against drunk driving?
“I think that’s really important. I haven’t done that yet, but going forward I know that that’s something I would like to address as far as this happened to me and it can happen to anybody. I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody. It’s something very serious. I could have injured people, hurt people really bad and it’s very selfish of me. I think that putting that out in the open is something other people could learn by.”
Can you talk about what happened that night?
“That night I was having a few drinks with some friends and that morning I had to get up really early to go to Charlotte to go get some seats done and I left really early in the morning. It was really foggy. It was really rainy outside and I ran off the road and I hit my head pretty bad. You know, I was disoriented. I went up to somebody’s door because I left my cell phone back at the house and when that all happened -- that's where I was. But I don’t want of those conditions to undermine the decision that I made, because it’s on me. It was up to me. I’m the one who got in the car. It was just a perfect storm that everything happened that night. I want to send my deepest apologies to anybody.”
Did you go home and then leave for Charlotte?
“I live a pretty good ways away from Charlotte, so I always have to leave pretty early, especially that morning.”
Why did you previously decide to leave racing and now return?
“Well, back in Richmond I just felt like it was something that I needed to do. I needed to step back and re-evaluate how I felt about continuing on with the sport. I didn’t really know where I was at the time and I just needed that time to step back and re-think what I wanted out of life and coming back into it I really just wanted to give it another shot and certainly didn’t want to leave it the way I left it. So to answer your question, I really want to get back into it to show some people that I can really perform out there and give it another shot.”
Did you talk to your crew and team about what happened?
“I did. I’ve sent my deepest apologies to them. I know this is something very serious. I could have cost everybody their jobs that night on the truck side of it. That’s something that I’m sure they didn’t take lightly and I don’t take lightly either, but I’ve apologized and moving forward they’ve convinced me that they’ve had their full support for me. Did a test session recently for Rockingham – “Little Rock” (a test track) -- to get ready for this and everything went great and I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
How difficult is it to come out here and face the media after the accident?
“It takes a lot. This is something that’s really hard to do. I just want to go back to what I said, this is something that there’s no excuse for and I really don’t really have -- there’s nothing I can say to express how sorry I am. Facing the media, this is something that your ‘average Joe’ doesn’t have to do, so it is really -- it’s a tall order and I’m here to accept responsibility and go forward with it.”
What have you been doing in the last year and half?
“I’ve just been helping my granddad out. I’ve kind of been taking it easy a little bit, just so I could really get within myself to really know what I wanted to do. I know now that stepping back from it for forever is not the answer. This is something that I’ve been really serious about all my life and I found about half way through the off year that this is something that I need to get back doing, because I just wasn’t happy without it.”
Do you feel like you have an alcohol problem having two citations?
“That’s something else. I know that it looks terrible having had that previous citation, but there’s a lot of things that have been implemented into this year through NASCAR, through my team that were going to continue to evaluate me and evaluate where I am and, to answer your question, I don’t know the answer as far as the problem goes. Going forward, I’m sure that I will learn that and we’ll go from there.”
Why do you want to race?
“All my life, I’ve always aspired to become one of the big guys out there in the Cup Series and that’s something that’s hung on after all these years. Through all the bad things that have happened, that desire is stronger than all the hardships that I may have to face to get there. It’s worth keeping it up -- keeping going.”
Was there a moment you thought you lost the opportunity to return after the accident?
“There was. There certainly was. I didn’t know what to think. I knew that there was a lot of people out there -- that there was this image that was just a shadow that I cast upon myself and the team and it just really has done a horrible service. For a second there, I did -- I thought that there was a chance this could all be over, but I’m very thankful that I have a team that’s behind me still. My family, friends -- everyone has stood by me through this.”
Do you still have any court dates remaining?
“As far as that, I don’t really have the answer for you. All the charges are still pending as of right now.”