IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson has surgery for back fracture

INDIANAPOLIS — IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson had surgery to repair a fractured vertebrae that he suffered in practice for the Indianapolis 500, and car owner Don Cusick said Thursday that he was “in great spirits and feeling better.”

Wilson was about halfway through a two-hour practice Monday when he was hit from behind by Katherine Legge as they went through Turns 1 and 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Legge’s car hit the wall with the rear, but Wilson was turned nearly head-on when he made contact. The safety team needed about 10 minutes to remove him from the car.

Wilson was taken to Methodist Hospital and underwent surgery Wednesday for a posterior fusion and internal fixation of the fracture. The procedure took about three hours and it was unclear when Wilson would be released.

“I feel a lot better day,” Wilson said in a video posted from his hospital bed. “The recovery journey starts now and the race recovery for the 2024 Indy 500 starts now. … I’m so thankful to everyone who has reached out. It means a lot. It helps me keep my spirits high. I’m so disappointed I couldn’t race this weekend but the focus is on the future.”

Cusick said earlier Thursday that Wilson already was cracking jokes.

“When he came out of the anesthesia,” Cusick said, “he told the surgeon he was dreaming about running qualifying laps.”

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, who partnered with Cusick Motorsports for the No. 24 car, announced Tuesday that Graham Rahal would drive it in the 107th running of the Indy 500 on Sunday. Rahal failed to qualify this past Sunday, when he was bumped from the field in the final seconds by his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate Jack Harvey.

Rahal, who will keep his streak alive by starting a 16th consecutive Indy 500, has had a busy week. He was fitted for his seat and has had to quickly learn the nuances of driving a Chevrolet-powered car after spending most of his career with Honda.

In fact, it took some negotiations between the engine manufacturers — and the sponsors of both Wilson’s team and his own — for Rahal to move over from the Rahal Letterman Lanigan garage to Dreyer & Reinbold’s for the race.

Rahal and Legge, whose team was able to repair her damaged car, were granted a 15-minute special session Thursday to ensure their cars were OK. Then they will have a final two-hour practice Friday to fine-tune their race setups.

“I feel for Stefan. I’ve said that numerous times here. I feel for him tremendously because I do know how much this means to him and how much work he puts in year-in and year-out to be here,” Rahal said. “This is the truth, in some other situations, I don’t think that it would have excited me as much, but being that it was Stef and being that it was a Wilson, and in the situation that it was in, I just felt like it was my calling to jump in and help.”

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