February 12, 2011
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. -- There's a ritual our public figures who have sinned must pass through, a very public shaming/apology/plea for acceptance. Sometimes it works and it's heartfelt, sometimes it just puts the howling masses at bay for a few weeks or months. But it's necessary, if only to prove to the public that you're not heartless, callous or just plain stupid.
On Saturday afternoon, Michael Annett met with the media, six days after an accident which could have been so much worse. While texting, he rammed into the rear end of another car stopped at a traffic light. Testing showed that he had a blood alcohol level of .32, four times the legal limit in North Carolina.
Driving while intoxicated, it was a huge mistake on my part. It's something no one should never do. It was a horrible judgment call on my part," Annett said at the press conference. "This is definitely the worst week of my life and the lowest I've ever felt as a person. This can go two ways: it can be the end of me or it can be the start of a new life and a better person."
For several days, talk swirled about what actions NASCAR or team owner Rusty Wallace should take with Annett. And when the hammer came down, it came down gently: a full season's probation, no races missed. There was plenty of outcry that the penalty should have been more severe; Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman, for instance, received harsher penalties for tweeting and uttering statements critical of NASCAR.
Still, the punishment is what it is, and it's now up to Annett to live up to his assurances of sobriety and new direction.
"It scared the hell out of me," Annett said. "I'm going to make sure it never happens again ... If they say I should do 20 hours [of community service], I'm going to do 40."
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