CONCORD, N.C. - Bill Elliott did the math: If he could survive 600 elementary school children on Monday, there's no problem spinning in circles for 400 laps today.
"I think I can deal with this inconvenience this weekend," Elliott said.
His "inconvenience" is three broken bones on the top of his left foot. Although most athletes would be reduced to couch potatoes given the circumstances, Elliott will hop into his Dodge a few hours before sundown today to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
It remains iffy whether he can endure the physical demands of the longest race on the NASCAR tour, but Elliott will start from the No. 32 position today thanks to the innovative crutch of a carbon fiber foot protector.
The carbon-fiber soles slip over Elliott's foot, absorbing the impact of braking and using the clutch while restricting the foot from bending. That's imperative because any give might cause the bones to separate and require surgery involving a pin to hold the bones in place. (Unlike regular folks navigating through freeways, NASCAR drivers generally use their right foot for the gas pedal and their left foot to brake and depress the clutch).
Elliott was fitted on Tuesday after meeting with Dr. Terry Trammell, chief orthopedic consultant for the Champ car series, in Indianapolis.
Although Elliott is hardly the fastest guy along driver's row - he is hopping along this week on one crutch - speed only counts when the green flag drops.
"My foot's not hurting me," Elliott said after Friday's qualifying session. "I've just got to figure out how to brake correctly with this new deal. We'll just see how it goes. It'll all work out."
Elliott broke his foot May 17 in a six-car accident during The Winston all-star race. He was scrambling on the final lap of the second segment trying to advance to the final round. NASCAR measured the impact at 48 G's as Elliott had his foot on the brake while hitting the wall, extending the tops of his toes and the ball of his foot.
Working under time constraints, owner Ray Evernham is trying to give his driver as much technical support as possible, including the possibility of pinch-hit relief from truck series driver Ted Musgrave, who could be used to fill in should Elliott not be able to finish.
Early yesterday, Evernham and his crew were trying different master cylinders to give Elliott "a little bit more travel in the brake pedal and a little bit more sensitivity," Evernham said.
"Our biggest issue we're going to be fighting this weekend as far as speed is whether or not Bill can have some feeling on how much braking he's using. Our biggest concern is vibration. Six hundred miles worth of vibration in one of these cars going through some broken bones is going to be a lot of pain, I think. Hopefully he'll be all right.
"Ted Musgrave is still standing by just in case, and Bill's got a touch of the flu. It's not been a great week for the No. 9 bunch."
Elliott, 47, is having a middle-of the-pack year. He has four Top 10 finishes in 14 races and ranks 19th in the Winston Cup standings.
He has managed to work through numerous technical difficulties this week, including going to his son's school to donate $10,000 to the library on Monday. That's when the 600 children were busy bopping by Elliott for a peek at one of stock car racing's venerable faces who grew up in the hills of north Georgia and has a endearing homespun demeanor.
"I've driven with an injury before," Elliott said, "but with what we've worked out I think everything will be fine."
George Diaz is a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Today at Concord, N.C.
1. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 185.312.
2. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 184.300.
3. (4) Mike Skinner, Pontiac, 183.999.
4. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 183.986.
5. (0) Jack Sprague, Pontiac, 183.530.
6. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 183.468.
7. (25) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 183.231.
8. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford, 183.231.
9. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 183.156.
10. (10) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 183.125.
11. (18) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 183.119.
12. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 182.952.
13. (30) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 182.753.
14. (7) Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 182.593.
15. (1) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 182.580.
16. (54) Todd Bodine, Ford, 182.482.
17. (42) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 182.242.
18. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 182.235.
19. (41) Casey Mears, Dodge, 181.996.
20. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 181.953.
21. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 181.910.
22. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 181.671.
23. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 181.586.
24. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 181.561.
25. (74) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 181.476.
26. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 181.421.
27. (71) Kevin Lepage, Chevrolet, 181.421.
28. (23) Kenny Wallace, Dodge, 181.360.
29. (14) Larry Foyt, Dodge, 181.275.
30. (49) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 181.117.
31. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 181.044.
32. (9) Bill Elliott, Dodge, 180.953.
33. (32) Ricky Craven, Pontiac, 180.892.
34. (2) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 180.838.
35. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 180.542.
36. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 180.499.
37. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, provisional.
38. (31) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, provisional.
39. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, provisional.
40. (21) Ricky Rudd, Ford, provisional.
41. (22) Ward Burton, Dodge, provisional.
42. (43) John Andretti, Dodge, provisional.
43. (01) Mike Wallace, Pontiac, provisional.
Failed to qualify 44. (02) Hermie Sadler, Pontiac, 180.307.
45. (11) Brett Bodine, Ford, 179.778.
46. (37) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 177.614.