Wilson fractures vertebrae at Indy 500 practice

INDIANAPOLIS — Stefan Wilson fractured his back during a heavy crash with Katherine Legge in practice for the Indianapolis 500 on Monday, and the injured driver will not be allowed back into his car for the 107th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

The two British drivers were going through Turns 1 and 2 about an hour into the two-hour session when the entire field appeared to slow down. Legge closed fast on Wilson and hit the rear of his car, sending both skidding into the wall. Legge hit with a glancing blow to the rear of her car, but Wilson was pointed nearly head-on when he made contact with the SAFER barrier.

The safety crew spent about 10 minutes carefully extricating Wilson from his car. He was placed on a stretcher, immobilized and wearing a neck brace, and he gave a quick thumbs-up before he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing said Wilson fractured his 12th thoracic vertebrae and would remain hospitalized for observation.

“I can tell you that he’s doing well,” said Dr. Julia Vaizer, chief medical director for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was unclear who will step into Wilson’s car for Sunday’s race, though JR Hildebrand has been at the speedway. He has made 12 consecutive starts here, nearly winning as a rookie in 2011 before finishing second, but he could not put together a ride for this year.

Three of Hildebrand’s starts in the Indy 500 were with Dreyer & Reinbold, including an 11th-place finish in 2018.

Wilson’s brother, Justin Wilson, was the last IndyCar driver killed on a track. He was competing in a 2015 race at Pocono when Sage Karam crashed ahead of him, and a piece of the car struck Wilson in the helmet and sent him into the wall.

Legge is the only female driver in this year’s Indy 500 field, and she was the only driver from struggling Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing who made the 33-car grid on the first day of qualifying. Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey joined her Sunday when Harvey bumped teammate Graham Rahal in the final seconds of a dramatic qualifying run.

Legge’s team said it would attempt to repair her car in time for Carb Day on Friday, when teams get one last chance on the track before the race. It was already removing shattered pieces from the chassis by the time Monday’s session ended.

“I know it’s another blow to the team,” Legge said. “After yesterday, those guys don’t deserve it. It’s not right.”

Will Power paced the field with a lap of 229.22 mph on Monday, providing a jolt of confidence to Team Penske, which put only the 2018 Indy 500 winner in the Fast 12 of qualifying. Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato and pole sitter Alex Palou were next for Chip Ganassi Racing, as the team thrived in the same kind of heat expected on race day.

“We’ve been having vibration problems. I think we somewhat got on top of that,” said Power, who turned 88 laps, the second most in the session. “I think the car is pretty good. I think we’re in a good spot, a really good spot.”

Pato O’Ward, who will start fifth for Arrow McLaren, shut down practice early as the team tried to diagnose a problem.

“We just found a big disparity from set to set,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because, you know, one run will be fine and another will be, ‘What is this?’ We just need to analyze and see what’s going on, see if it’s a problem from our side or not.”

Dale Coyne Racing also was scrambling after an electrical problem developed in David Malukas‘ car.

“We only managed one or two runs. We’re trying to figure it out,” Malukas said. “We’re going to have a lot to do on Carb Day.”

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