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Jones recovering from crash

Steve Yingling

Davy Jones found out exactly how much he means to the racing world and Lake Tahoe earlier this year.

The 32-year-old veteran racer from Glenbrook nearly died when his car inexplicably smashed into a wall at more than 160 mph during a Indy Racing League practice run Jan. 23 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.

“We had to buy another suitcase when we left Indianapolis (Methodist Hospital’s trauma center) because there was so many letters. The entire racing family has shown a great deal of support,” said Jones’ wife of six years, Mary Elizabeth.

Recovery has been slowed by a torn neck ligament, forcing Jones to wear a halo until at least May 1.

“It’s a nuisance. It’s like wearing a cast or any brace. You don’t have much choice, but it’s a small price to pay for what could have happened,” said Jones of the halo, which is supported by his head and ensures no neck movement. “Doctors have told me that I will come out of this 100 percent and I won’t have any side effects or defects.”

Obviously, the halo has been the center of attention in the family household, which also includes 3-year-old Madeline. Yet, Mary Elizabeth put her husband’s halo in perspective one recent evening.

“I’ve complained about sleeping on my back once or twice, and she told me, ‘I feel really sorry for you, but you ought to try sleeping on your back when you’re nine months pregnant,” Jones said.

Jones arrived at the Orlando Medical Center in critical condition and unconscious. He soon regained consciousness and complained of neck pain and weakness in his left arm.

“They realized in Orlando that I had torn ligaments in my neck,” said Jones, who was flown to Indianapolis the following Monday for additional tests and the start of rehabilitation.

“As far as the incident itself I don’t have any recollection. I remember everything leading up to that session … getting strapped into the car. All I remember is all positive,” Jones said.

Hence, Jones feels no reluctance about resuming his racing career.

“It’s not like I have any fears to overcome,” he said. “It’s my profession and my livelihood and the risk is there. On the other hand, this could have happened to anybody, a football player, a hockey player…”

A cloud of mystery still hangs over the crash. Conditions were almost perfect – sunny and mild – when Jones’ Galles racing car swapped ends before colliding with the wall.

“It’s a fairly easy part of the course. Whether I hit some oil or something broke, nobody really knows,” Jones said. “I personally feel I’m a very experienced driver. I really have a good feel for the car, so any subtle movement I come in and make a change. That’s part of being a good racer. For the car to drastically switch ends going into the corner, there’s something wrong there.”

Besides his slow-healing neck, Jones has been trying to rebuild the muscle mass on his left side.

“When I had the neck trauma, the nerves shut down on the left side of my body and the muscles got really weak. It’s coming along just fine; I’m ahead of schedule. Now I’m just waiting until the last week of April to have the MRI and get the halo off,” he said.

When the halo is removed will determine if Jones has any chance of driving in the Indianapolis 500 in late May. Jones was overtaken deep into last year’s 500 and settled for second.

“At one point, my goal was to be back in the car for Indy. If everything went perfect in recovery, I’d be pushing myself to be qualifying during the second week,” Jones said. “But there’s no need to push myself to get back into the car. Realistically, I’ll return for the 24 Hours of LeMans. I had a great season lined up, but all well that ends well.”

When that time arrives, Mary Elizabeth will be ready to give her husband back to the racing world.

“Once you marry a race car driver, (the danger) is always in the back of your mind. It’s always there, but you just don’t think about it because the technology that goes into racing makes it fairly safe. This isn’t a regular happening,” Mary Elizabeth said. “He was the quickest then and he’ll be the quickest when he returns. It won’t slow him down a bit.”


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