Rookie Alex Lloyd will sit out weekend qualifying on medical advice after hitting the wall during Indy500 ‘Fast Friday’ practice.
Lloyd, scheduled to drive for Rahal Letterman in the race by arrangement with his regular team Ganassi Racing, lost the back end of his car after running wide while exiting turn one and made heavy contact with the barrier.
He was awake and alert at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield care centre, but went to Methodist Hospital for precautionary tests – which came back negative – after complaining of neck pain as well as a headache.
“I’m disappointed for Alex and his team and crew,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal before it was known that Lloyd would have to miss qualifying. “He’d been doing such a good job and was going well, but we’ll fix the car and get ready for tomorrow.”
However, Lloyd is now not expected to drive again until Wednesday. He should be fine for the race itself.
Lloyd was not the only driver to suffer a mishap that day – Andretti Green’s Danica Patrick clipped Dale Coyne crew chief Chuck Buckman as she pitted, knocking him out briefly and sending him to hospital with concussion.
It was a better day for some of the other British drivers. Dan Wheldon, one of the pre-race favourites, was frustrated at the weather but otherwise happy: “There’s not been much track time, so it has been unfortunate for the fans and certainly people who want to be on track, which I’m one of.
“Everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing has worked very hard to get good race cars and fast race cars so we can qualify up front. I think we’d be letting those guys down if we didn’t really go for it. We definitely feel that we have a car capable of the pole. We just have to see how everything plays out tomorrow.”
Justin Wilson, making his IndyCar debut at the track with Newman/Haas/Lanigan, felt he’d made cautious progress: “Today was OK. The weather conditions were very different from when we ran earlier in the week so the McDonald’s car was feeling very different. We slowly worked through it, and I thought we were reasonable at the end. I was happy with the balance at the end, and the speed was getting better.
“It just takes time to adapt to these different conditions. We don’t have the experience to call upon to make the big jump. We’ve got to take one small step after another.”
Writing a column in his local paper back home in England, the Northern Echo, Foyt Racing’s Darren Manning said: “Since the two American open-wheel racing series combined, it’s a hell of a lot more competitive. A lot of good drivers and good teams came over, so there’s more competition for every spot.
“If you’re just two or three miles an hour off the pole, you’ll be way down in the field. Even getting in the top 22 of this 33-car grid will be difficult with all these new cars. So, there’s a lot more competition, but I like it like that!
“We’ve already figured out what direction we need to go, so as long as we get some running time in Friday, even on Saturday morning, we’ll be all right for qualifying this weekend. We could have gone a couple of miles faster with what we had Tuesday, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can get in the top 11 during Pole Day qualifications on Saturday.”