Danica runs over crewman on pit lane in Indy practice accident
INDIANAPOLIS -- IndyCar racing's biggest name was emotionally shaken Friday as Danica Patrick was involved in an incident on pit lane during Friday's practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when her car hit a crew member from another team in pit lane.
Patrick, who gained fame as the first female driver ever to win in a major close-course racing series when the IndyCar driver drove to victory at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 19, came into the pits and hit Charles (Chuck) Buckman, the chief mechanic for Brazilian driver Mario Moraes at Dale Coyne Racing.
According to Dr. Mike Ollinger, the director of Medical Affairs for the Indy Racing League, Buckman suffered a concussion along with scalp and facial lacerations. He was transported to Methodist Hospital for treatment where he is being held overnight.
"I really don't remember how it happened," Buckman said. "All I remember is I was talking with someone on Marco Andretti's team and then everything is blank from that point.
"I will be OK and hopefully back to work in a day or two."
Sources in Gasoline Alley indicated Patrick and some of her crew members were distraught after the incident, which threw the crew member over her car before he went face down to the ground.
"It's really, really unfortunate what happened today," Patrick said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. Hopefully he can get back to the track soon and do what he loves."
Patrick would not accept any questions after making her statement and Andretti Green Racing team members said they would not take any further questions on the incident "in the days to come."
Her teammate, Marco Andretti, commented on how congested pit area was during Friday's practice session after he was second quickest during Friday's session at 226.710 miles per hour. Scott Dixon was the fastest at 225.968 mph.
Andretti had a clear view of what happened.
"It's a dangerous situation; a crowded pit lane, a lot going on," Andretti said. "You don't like to see that kind of thing but it's not Danica's fault. Stuff happens. Racing is dangerous. We're very concerned and hopefully it will turn out good."
Friday's practice was called because of rain at 3:53 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. It was scheduled to run until 6 p.m. It was the first practice held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the last two days were complete washouts.
Because of that, when the track went green at 12 noon there was a significant amount of traffic trying to get up to speed before Saturday's Pole Day for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. With lots of traffic on pit lane and pedestrian traffic behind the pits, it made for a congested situation.
"He was actually walking down pit lane (running an errand) down by the Andretti Green pits," said Dale Coyne Racing chief mechanic Mitch Davis. "The Green guys said he was walking along, looked back at Marco Andretti, stepped to the right and when he did he stepped right in front of her. He was going back to the garage to get something.
"Danica's team is torn up."
Mike Hull, the managing director of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, was at Methodist Hospital to check on rookie driver Alex Lloyd, who crashed in the first turn early in practice and was taken to the hospital after he complained of neck pain. He relayed information to Davis on Buckman's condition.
"Mike Hull told us that he has a big old grapefruit knot on the side of his head but he's awake and alert," Davis said. "He's in a lot of pain but we're OK with the pain just as long as he's alive.
"We can help him deal with the pain."
Dale Coyne Racing has Brazilian drivers Bruno Junqueira and Moraes on the team. It is one of the new teams to IndyCar that came over from Champ Car after unification but Buckman and Davis are longtime crew members in the IndyCar Series.
"Wrong place, wrong time," Coyne said. "He was just walking down pit road to go back to the garage to get some stuff. I talked to the Green guys afterwards and they were motioning people to stop. There was some confusion who was stopping and who wasn't. They got everybody stopped but Chuck and he took one more step at the same time she turned in and just clipped him.
"It knocked him out and the face cuts will heal but it's the concussion they are concerned about. At least he didn't get thrown down like a rag doll. He got clipped by the front wing and got thrown over the top of the car and then did a face into the ground."
Coyne thought maybe the speed limit in the pits should have been slower for Friday's practice session because of how much traffic was in the pits and the urgency they felt with more rain expected.
"Saturday morning will be the same situation," Coyne said. "These things have happened before and will probably happen again but luckily he will be OK."
Brian Barnhart is the president of competition for the IndyCar Series and said it was disappointing because he had brought up this situation in the 10 a.m. Drivers Meeting on Friday.
"Right before I dismissed them I reminded everybody that today was a very hectic day, tomorrow is a very hectic day and tomorrow will be a hectic day with more cars in pit lane, more exposed personnel and you get clusters of people out there," Barnhart said. "In this case, there isn't anything differently that Danica could have done.
"You just have to be careful out there because there is a lot going on. One reason Chuck was out there was because of the congestion behind the pits. It is a function of being crowded and people in pit lane. That's why it is a restricted area and you have to sign a release to be out there because dangerous things can happen. Sponsors want access to pit road and want to bring their clients out there. We have 33 full month combinations and because we haven't been on track for two days, it was kind of like a race day out there. It was really crowded on pit road."