Rice Injured At Indy

Buddy Rice’s bid to capture a second-consecutive Indianapolis 500 pole ended Wednesday when he crashed heavily early during the second day of open practice.

Rice climbed from the No. 15 Argent/Pioneer Honda Panoz after he hit the Turn 2 wall, but suffered a concussion and severe back bruises. The defending Indy 500 winner will miss both of this weekend’s qualifying sessions and can start no better than 22nd in the 89th running of the classic May 29th.

“He’s very sore but nothing is broken thankfully,” said team owner Bobby Rahal. “They will not allow him to qualify this weekend, which I know he’s very disappointed with. We think he’ll be ready to go on Wednesday.”

Kosuke Matsuura had the fastest lap early in the session, 224.393 mph in the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Honda Panoz fielded by Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, and was also involved in the incident.

“I was behind Buddy Rice and he spun just in front of me in Turn 2,” Matsuura said. “I almost crashed. I had damage to my car from his debris, and it took a long time to fix these problems, and we were not able to get back out.”

Rahal Lettman Racing will still be a threat for the pole, though. Rookie Danica Patrick continued to improve, posting the second-fastest lap Wednesday with a draft-assisted speed of 226.944 mph.

“We all are feeling for Buddy right now,” said Patrick, who started second and finished fourth in the recent IRL IndyCar Series race in Japan. “That was a tough, hard hit. I had a concussion earlier this year at Homestead. It isn’t fun, but I’m sure that he will be sore. I expect him to be back at the track soon, and he’ll help us get ready for this weekend. I am in a learning process still, and we’ll continue to work on many things for Thursday.”

Andretti Green Racing remains the team to beat for the pole. Tony Kanaan was fastest in Wednesday’s rain-shortened session with a draft-assisted lap of 227.453 mph in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Honda Dallara, taking the fastest lap of the month from teammate Dan Wheldon, who ran 226.808 mph on Tuesday.

“I'm focused on the race setup,” said Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti, who was fourth-fastest Wednesday at 226.253 mph. “Tony’s working on the qualifying setup. I think he got a pretty good tow there, but each of us is getting a little bit closer to where we need to be. We're working on those different things, but we’re each getting happier on each run.”

Scott Dixon, who had tried out the Dallara chassis in Tuesday’s practice, switched back to a Panoz and led the Toyota teams with the third-fastest lap of 226.816 in the No. 9 target Chip Ganassi entry.

Richie Hearn continues to be the darkhorse for opening-day qualifying. He led the Chevrolet teams with the sixth-fastest speed of the day — 226.090 mph — in the No. 70 Meiher/Coca-Cola Racing Special fielded by Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

“The track has a lot of grip,” said Hearn, who will be making his first start of the season. “The track is really good and very fast. I think it will help make the field tighter and make qualifying more exciting. It’s a fast track and speeds should be good on Saturday.”

Tuesday’s practice saw 28 drivers record times, with the slowest a 213.587 by Jeff Ward, a motorcycle champion who will be competing in his first IndyCar Series race since 2002.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 will continue through Friday. Qualifying to set the MBNA Poletop 11 positions begins at noon (CDT) Saturday, following a two-hour practice session. The next 11 positions will be set Sunday, with the remaining 11 slots to be filled on Saturday, May 21. Bump Day will be Sunday, May 22. Miller Lite Carb Day, the final practice session, is Friday, May 27. The 89th Indianapolis 500 takes the green flag at noon on Sunday, May 29.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013
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