Drivers recuperate as series heads to Pikes Peak

Just one week after staging one of the best races in recent Indy car history - which was also one of the most frightening - the Indy Racing League returns to action on Saturday at Pikes Peak International Raceway, Colorado.

Drivers recuperate as series heads to Pikes Peak

Practice for Sunday's Radisson 200 is Saturday morning with qualifications set for Saturday afternoon.

Scott Sharp's victory in last Saturday night's Casino Magic 500 has been overshadowed by the two separate crashes which left two drivers hospitalised with leg injuries. The most serious involved Davey Hamilton, who has severe injuries to both legs and feet. Hamilton underwent surgery on Thursday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

The surgery, which ended late in the evening, consisted of a muscle transfer from Hamilton's back to his right foot. Hamilton will undergo more surgery on his left foot on Saturday, including muscle transfer and bone repair. He will recuperate for approximately one week before additional surgery is performed. Doctors are fighting to repair the severely damaged tissue in Hamilton's feet to keep them from possible amputation.

Hamilton was injured on Lap 73 of the Casino Magic 500 on June 9, after the car hit the fence exiting Turn 2 in the 200-lap event. A trust fund has been established to help Hamilton and his family with the extensive medical bills during his recovery. Contributions can be sent to: Wells Fargo Bank, Davey Hamilton Recovery Trust Fund, 108 E. Plaza St., Eagle, ID 83616, (208) 939-7498, Account No.8885491772.

Robby McGehee, another driver injured in last week's race, was released from Parkland Hospital in Dallas on Thursday and has returned home to St. Louis to continue his rehabilitation from a broken lower left leg. McGehee was injured in a crash on Lap 196 when race leader Greg Ray went low down the backstretch to pass McGehee's lapped car. Ray's car clipped McGehee's, sending it up the track where it crashed into Eddie Cheever. All three cars were knocked out of the race.

Richie Hearn will drive the Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry, substituting for Hamilton.

"This is certainly not the way you want to get a ride, but I am appreciative of the opportunity," Hearn said. "I've worked with crew chief Mark Killgo before and have known both (team manager) Larry Nash and engineer Tim Neff, as well, so it's a good group of guys.

"It's going to be a busy two days. We could all use some solid results, so I'm looking forward to it."

Hearn, 30, has made six Indy Racing League starts during his career, with five coming in 1996. He won the Indy Racing event in Las Vegas in September 1996 while driving for Della Penna Motorsports. He also won a pole that year at New Hampshire. His last Indy Racing start came in May 2000, when he finished 27th in the Indianapolis 500 while driving for Pagan Racing. Hearn competed in CART from 1997-99.

"This is the hard part about being a team owner," Sam Schmidt said. "My concern and focus has been and will continue to be on Davey's recovery. However, we also need to continue to honour the commitments we have made to our sponsors and to the Sam Schmidt Foundation.

"I have asked Richie to drive the car because he has done a ton of testing on ovals, and with the two-day schedule we needed as much experience as possible. Besides that, Richie is very motivated to do well. He genuinely wants a career in the Indy Racing League and needs the chance to prove himself. Richie already has a pole and a win in the Indy Racing League, and there are not many who can say that."

The Sam Schmidt Motorsports car will carry a special message for Hamilton this weekend on its sidepods.

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