Bad break derails Wilson's season

Last modified: 8/13/2011 12:00:00 AM
LOUDON - The crash looked harmless enough. But at 6-foot-4, any crash can become a dangerous one for IZOD IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson. And that was the case last week during a practice session at Mid-Ohio when Wilson clipped the barrier in turn 1. It didn't look as though the injury would be detrimental enough to take the car out of the race, but it was obvious Wilson was in severe pain when he was unable to exit his vehicle.

The diagnosis was a stable burst fracture of the fifth thoracic vertebra. Basically, Wilson broke his back and thus will be out of tomorrow's MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In fact, according to IndyCar Medical Director Dr. Michael Olinger, Wilson will have to wear a brace on his back and will be sidelined for at least three months.

"Obviously, I have a little bit of a backache, but I'm just frustrated to not be at the race (this week)," Wilson said after being released from an Indianapolis hospital on Tuesday. "I think that we just started to get our season turned around and the car was really good at Mid-Ohio and I'm disappointed about that. ... I'm just disappointed to not be in the car, but my back is the most important thing. I'm going to try and get that to heal and get back to 100 percent as soon as possible."

Scott Goodyear, a former CART/IndyCar driver turned ESPN analyst, can relate with Wilson. Goodyear had his career cut short when he broke his back for a second time in the 2001 Indianapolis 500.

"I know exactly where he was at Mid-Ohio; the terrain changes pitch there, and I know that he went through there and hit the pavement," Goodyear said. "Because he's so big, is that the problem that he had? Maybe. For a shorter guy like me my feet would be off the floor of the car, Justin probably has his feet on the floor of the car so he stays out of the jet stream. If Justin Wilson was 5-9, maybe that wouldn't have been an issue whatsoever."

With Wilson on the mend, the driving duties will fall to Tomas Scheckter this weekend in Loudon. He has made 14 career starts for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. His only start this season was in the Indianapolis 500, where he finished eighth in the pilot seat for KV Racing.

 Can't get enough

Ryan Hunter-Reay took a spin around a virtual New Hampshire Motor Speedway between practice sessions on Thursday. Using a computer simulator called iRacing, Wilson used a version of his Honda Dallara as he replicated the same laps he took moments prior during an IZOD IndyCar practice session.

"You don't get the crazy feel of rotation in the corner that you get in the IndyCar, but that the only difference," Hunter-Reay said. "It's amazing how close the track is to what it really is out there. The seams, the lines, the reference points, all that stuff."

 Modified qualifying

Well, at least Ryan Newman won't be around to steal this one. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran won the last three Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire - although his victory from July was stripped when he failed the post-race inspection - but won't be around for tomorrow's Granite State Classic.

Bobby Santos, who was also fastest in practice, took the pole in yesterday's qualifying session, getting around the Magic Mile in 29.912 seconds at a speed of 127.334 mph.

"We had an awesome qualifying run, just fast enough to get the pole," Santos said. "I'm really excited to get the pole here at New Hampshire. It's always exciting to come here. I love this place, I always love coming here, so it means a lot to get a pole here."

Eric Beers, Todd Szegedy, Justin Bonsignore and Rowan Pennink rounded out the top five.

 ACT qualifying

Eddie MacDonald and Joey Laquerre will start first and second, respectively, for today's American-Canadian Tour All-Star Challenge. Laquerre and MacDonald each won their respective heat races yesterday to qualify on the front row.

"Today has gone really well. We practiced where we wanted to be ... and we thought it was going to be pretty tough in the heat race," MacDonald said. "We had a few good breaks, were able to get up to the front and get the win in the heat."

Dover's Wayne Helliwell Jr., Austin Theriault and Donald Theetge rounded out the top five qualifying spots.

"I had a lot of really good breaks in the (heat)," Laquerre said. "I was lucky to make the passes that I could."

The 75-lap challenge race will have a competition caution on lap 25 to invert the field from first to 36th, which should make the final 50 laps very interesting with the slower cars running up front and the faster cars in the back.

 Quoteable

"Right away I said this was a ballsy track. ... It's quite interesting; I don't think I have ever been in a similar place." - IZOD IndyCar driver Oriol Servia, on NHMS.

(Gavin Faretra can be reached at 369-3340 or gfaretra@cmonitor.com.)




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