I can't remember exactly when I started thinking about retirement. It was before the 1992 crash, and it may have been before '91 Indy, to be honest. But I walked into the garage one morning on a race weekend and said to the boys, “OK, where are we at?” instead of walking in and saying, “Right, I was thinking about it last night and I think we should try this, this or this.” That's the way I'd always done, so this was the first indicator that I hadn't really thought about it all that much the night before, and opened my eyes to the possibility that my desire was tapering off. Then I started keeping tabs on that and monitoring it, because I knew that once the desire really started going away, my performance was going to go with it, and then if we weren't competitive, it wouldn't be any fun, quite apart from the fact that I'd be cheating the team and the sponsors.
Getting upside down at Indy in 1992, there was another indicator that my desire was slipping, and it happened actually during the crash. I didn't recognize it as such at the time, but later I was sitting wondering how much longer I could keep doing this. When I started to mull it over it came back to me. And it was a thought I'd never had before during an accident…
I remember every split second of the accident. We were getting up to speed, and fortunately we weren't right up there yet, because it was the first run in the T-car, and we were just working on it. I think we were running 213-215 laps, slower than we could have been, because I wasn't full tilt yet. But I rolled into Turn 2 and, thinking back, it was a similar experience to when the wheel came loose the year before. As soon as I turned in, the car stepped out on me and it felt like we had caught a gust of wind which had pinned the nose, so I caught it and straightened out and I remember thinking, “Whoa, that was a pretty big gust.” But then it went back into a slide again, without any pinned feeling, without any shaking at all, so I caught it again, and at that point I knew it wasn't wind and I knew there was a problem.
So, I wound as much lock into it as I needed, and it stopped there for a second like it was coming back, so I squeezed a little bit more and then thought, “No, if I wind any more in, I won't be able to unwind it fast enough if it grips.” So at that point I thought, ‘No, OK, we're done,' and so I locked the brakes.
My next thought was, “Oh damn, this is going to hurt” and my next thought was, “I hope it gets around either slowly or quickly” – slowly so it hits on the side, or quickly so that the nose goes around in time to clear the wall so that it hits on the other side. So as it started around, I glanced over my left shoulder, looking for where the wall was to get an indication of how I was going to hit, and I couldn't see it because of the tire smoke. I was going backward, and the smoke was coming through the car, so I had no reference to figure out how I was going to hit. So I thought, “OK, I've gotta get my feet up,” but I wanted to stay on the brakes as long as I could so I gave it a quick beat – boom, boom, now – and yanked my feet up.
And that was about the time it hit. As soon as it did, I felt the car do something odd that I hadn't ever felt before but then immediately my feet and legs started killing me from the slam, which had banged my knees together and my feet over against the side of the chassis so hard that there was instant pain in my feet and legs. That took my mind off of that weird feeling I'd sensed at the moment of impact.
Now, I probably had my eyes shut, and, of course, the impact knocks the wind out of you and the noise sounds like a bomb going off. One of the things I noticed the first time I ever crashed was how loud it was. I'm thinking about my feet and legs, because they're still sensitive from the Sanair  crash and then all of a sudden I felt a jolt in the car that got my attention off my pain. I open my eyes and look up and suddenly I see these sparks flying at me. I realize “Damn! I'm upside down!” and that made me think back to the odd feeling I had when I hit initially; it had been climbing over the left rear.
Now, fortunately, it was in a slow rotation down the straightaway, and from where I am, all I'm seeing is grass, pit wall, grass, pit wall, grass, pit wall and I'm waiting for another bang, but then I realize I'm just going down the straight, and I think, “Good, stay on this line…” I hear cars slowing down going by me….but now I've got liquid running in on me. So I think, “Oh s***,” because I know I can't just unbuckle my belts – I'm pretty much still hauling ass down the straightaway; a car doesn't slow down very quick just on the rollover hoop. So when the fluid comes in, I put my hand to the buckle just to be ready, and ready to take a deep breath, because if it ignites, I'm going to have to hold my breath until the car stops. I remembered from the pit fire in '81 how dangerous it was to breathe in those circumstances.
Finally it slows down and I realize that if it hasn't ignited by then, with all the heat from the engine and the sparks flying past, that fluid can't have been fuel. I can almost breathe a sigh of relief by the time it comes to a stop – I'm just about getting my breath back – and I'm able to appreciate that there's no rush. I just wait until someone comes to get me. I can remember seeing out between the lip of the cockpit and the ground, back toward Turn 2, I think, the wheels of the fire truck come up, stop, see some feet hit the ground and then come running up to the car. Whoever it was yells, “Hey Rick, are you all right?” and I say, “Yeah, I'm fine, but just get me the hell outta here!” So they rolled the car back over and got me out. So, an interesting experience to say the least. I took my helmet off, and it was pretty much ground down to where there was a hole in it.
But during the accident, there was one other thought. Right after it went upside down and was sliding down the straightaway, I thought, “I don't need this s***!” but right about then was when the liquid was running in and my mind went to that. But later that day, I was kicking around the idea of retirement and that mid-accident thought came back to me. It was another indicator that the end was getting close. In previous crashes, I'd thought first about doing a quick personal inventory of what was working – hands, feet, legs, arms – and then, “OK, where's the backup car?”