Mario Andretti escapes injury in wreck

April 23, 2003 at 10:02 PM
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INDIANAPOLIS, April 23 (UPI) -- Mario Andretti made a frightening return to the cockpit of an Indy car Wednesday when he was involved in a crash with Kenny Brack, just a minute before a test session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was about to end.

According to Fred J. Nation, executive vice president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp., Brack had a mechanical problem on his final lap of an open test session. Andretti ran through a debris field and went airborne, nearly clearing the 22-foot catch fence that separates the track from the grandstand.

Andretti's car flipped three or four times and hit the fence, which sent it back toward the track. The rear axle tore away from the chassis and more than one tire was missing as the car landed on its right side.

Andretti was able to walk away and said he plans on being on the track on May 4, when it opens for Indianapolis 500 practice. He reached a top speed exceeding 226 miles per hour. The top speeds of the day in the private test session were over 229 mph.

Andretti drove the Dallara/Honda/Firestone normally piloted by IRL IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan, who is recovering from a broken arm. Another driver for Andretti/Green, Dario Franchitti, will miss the Indianpolis 500 due to a spinal fracture suffered in a motorcycle crash.

Michael Andretti, the son of the 63-year-old driving legend, co-owns the car fielded by Andretti/Green Racing. He will make the final start of his career on May 25 at the "Brickyard."

Mario Andretti began the season supportive but disagreeing with his son's decision to leave CART and join the IRL as an owner-driver. He offered his support from afar but has remained loyal to CART, attending all the races on that circuit while staying away from his son's IRL events.

At the IRL season-opening race in Homestead, Fla., Michael Andretti said he hoped his father changed his mind and decides to "join the family" at his IRL team. With Kanaan's status uncertain for the first weekend of qualifying at the Indianapolis 500, Mario Andretti has offered to help prepare the car and put it in the field.

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