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Kenseth's spotter gives update on family's health

Matt Kenseth

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Chris Osborne says he hopes to be well enough to make the trek to Daytona International Speedway next month when the NASCAR racing season officially gets underway, but to do so his body must first win a race with the clock.

Osborne, spotter for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth in the Sprint Cup Series -- as well as fellow JGR driver Daniel Suarez in the Truck and XFINITY Series -- sustained severe injuries to his right leg and foot when he and his family were hit head-on by another driver on Dec. 17.

Son Austin Osborne suffered a concussion, partially collapsed lung, cracked sternum, broken nose and the loss of "some teeth," according to Osborne, who spoke with NASCAR.com on Jan. 8.

"And he's bruised around his side and waist like somebody had beat him about half to death with a baseball bat," Osborne said.

Osborne's wife, Melissa, sustained "the brunt of the impact," he said, and underwent more than eight hours of surgery to repair major injuries to her pelvis, right hip, right shoulder, right arm and elbow. If all goes well, she is scheduled for release from the hospital Jan. 14, 28 days after the accident.

Therapy sessions began this past week for his wife, and Osborne said she is "working so hard."

"If the people in rehab want her to do three sets of something, she says how about four?" he said. "She's making huge gains from what the doctor first told her when she first had her surgery … the timeframe that it was going to be. I think they've cut probably four to six weeks off of the time that she may possibly be mobile again, by no means healed, but at least be mobile. …

"Anything that we all took for granted, and obviously our family did before December 17, she's having to learn to do just with one side and one arm. She's just made tremendous gains in everything she's done. People up there are just tickled to death with the progress she's made. … She's an incredible woman."

Osborne, who returned home following his own surgery, has been undergoing physical therapy sessions as well. How quickly he progresses, he said, will determine if he makes the trip to Daytona next month. It's a decision he's willing to leave up to his doctor.

"Family and our health come first, that goes without question," he said. "But I think and talk about work every day with different people. And I'll be honest with you -- it's going to be a tight timeframe.

"When I can bear weight on my leg. If I can only do 25 percent of it at a time, 25 percent for a week or so and then 50 percent for a week, if that's the case then looking at the calendar … I don't know if I'll make Daytona. But I'm working so hard and … that's my goal. Until the plane leaves and I'm either on it or not, that's my goal."

SpeedWeeks in Daytona is a 10-day marathon with its constant buzz of practice sessions, qualifying and races -- all three series open the season at the 2.5-mile track next month. Easing back into his role atop the spotters stand won't be an option.

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"That's an awful lot of time on my feet." Osborne said, adding that it's been a subject of discussion each time he's met with his surgeon.

"He's very pleased with everything; we haven't had any setbacks … knock on wood," he said. "I know from the timeframe he gave me (initially) to the timeframe that he gave me this past week that we've already probably knocked off four weeks. But the doctor is only going to let me go as fast as my body will let me go with the healing process that it's going through.

"If I miss one race, I'm going to absolutely hate it but if I miss one race and I heal right instead of rushing it and messing something up … and have to miss three or four races again because of something they have to re-do, then I'm not only hurting myself, I'm also hurting the race team and Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez and everyone else around me. So I'm trying to make that transition as minimal as I possibly can … but I don't want to toss myself on the back end of it either."

MORE: Which team faces the biggest transition in '16?

Friends have established an assistance fund to help offset medical and other expenses for the family. Others have brought food, supplies and helped Osborne -- who wears a compression sock, brace and boot to help with the healing process of his right leg -- tend to his injury. Even the calls, visits and texts of support, he said, have meant so much to his family.

"I'm a very independent person, I absolutely hate asking anyone for help … but the outpouring of support has just absolutely blown us off of our feet at the people who continue to try to help our family in any way, shape or form," he said. "It's very humbling, I can tell you that.

"There's now way, if I lived another 200 years, that our family will be able to thank the people that have helped us through this because … if it wasn't for the strength in the family and friends that have been behind us since the moment this accident happened, this would be an awful lonely and tough journey to make."

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