As Kenny Brack's car pinwheeled down the backstretch at Texas Motor Speedway, there was only faint hope that the driver would be alive when emergency workers reached the wreckage.
Brack became airborne at close to 220 mph and slammed into steel fencing above the wall, shredding his Team Rahal race car.
The former Indy Racing League champion and Indy 500 winner survived the October crash in the IRL season finale, but was pulled from the smashed cockpit with fractures to his back, a thigh, his breastbone and ankles.
He has yet to watch a video of the crash: "It's not something that bothers me. I already know the outcome."
Brack knows exactly what happened - and just how lucky he is to have survived the worst crash of his racing career.
"You know, it just hit in a certain way that made it really, really violent," he said earlier this week during a teleconference. "But the car did its job. At least it protected its driver as much as it could."
Ten days after Brack's crash, Tony Renna was killed in an eerily similar crash during a private test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Renna - a youngster seemingly getting his big break with the elite Chip Ganassi Racing - died instantly after flying through the air and slicing across the catch fencing.
Brack's crash began with a bump from another car in heavy traffic. Renna was alone on the track.
The two crashes prompted an investigation by the IRL that led to engine rule changes for 2004 intended to cut horsepower by about 10 percent and slow the cars by at least 10 mph.
Brack plans to be back in a race car sometime in 2004 and said there will be no hesitation about getting back on the track once his recovery is complete.
"Oval racing is the most dangerous form of motorsport there is because of the speeds and the lack of runoff areas and stuff like that," he said. "That's something that we have to deal with every lap we run.
"OK, maybe you get a little injured or whatever, but you still walk away with everything intact, so to speak, and it's possible to come back to a normal life and a career in racing."
Brack has been through a series of surgeries, and his indomitable spirit has helped him through a painful rehabilitation.
The 37-year-old Swede finally got back to his home in Columbus, Ohio, last month.
"Obviously, as soon as I got out of the hospital bed, got home, that's when the recovery really started," Brack said. "I think you can see several hundred percent difference in the last month in my energy level and mobility."
Brack is now getting around with the help of crutches, and he expects those to be gone soon.
"My right ankle isn't healed up completely, yet. We're waiting to take the last X-rays, which will be in a couple of weeks. Once I can weight-bear on the right leg, I will be walking like anybody else that has got two legs and no injuries."
All that time in bed did lead to another problem for Brack, who was back in a hospital over Christmas and New Year's having his gall bladder removed.
That proved to be convenient, though, as Brack only had to be wheeled a few floors down on New Year's Eve to be with wife Anita at the birth of their first child - daughter Karma.
"It was a good thing I was in the same hospital. That was obviously the high point of our year," Brack said.
Now he is concentrating on getting fit enough to get back in the race car, which will be driven by Buddy Rice until Brack returns.
Brack has remained positive and determined to return to racing throughout his ordeal.
"I still think that I'm very competitive on the track. You know, it's my life, basically," he said. "I just want to try to get back into that position."
And he's anxious to accomplish that goal.
"I wanted that yesterday," he said. "But I've got to wait until my bones are completely healed and I feel completely a hundred percent healed back up. ... You kid yourself, you might have another bad wreck or you're not going to do the team any good. So, I'll wait. But, hopefully, it will happen soon."
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