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Wednesday notebook: Mears returns to Brickyard

Casey Mears returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday just a day after the ferocious crash in the first turn wall in the final hour of practice for the Indianapolis 500 that sent him to Methodist Hospital.

Mears, a rookie for Galles Racing and the nephew of four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, hit the wall at an estimated 86 G-forces at the time of impact.

"I made a mistake, but I know what I did, so I can take that and use that knowledge when I get back into the car," said the 22-year-old. "Everyone keeps telling me that this place is all about patience, and I know that first hand now. The entire team has been working so hard, and they have all remained extremely positive. They have a lot of experience here, and that is really going to come into play with our programme during the next few days.

"We are hoping to get back on the track on Friday, and Dr. (Henry) Bock (Speedway Medical Director) has said he will clear me to drive after my soreness goes away, which has already started to happen."

Team owner Rick Galles is now down to three cars - one each for his three-driver team that also includes two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and rookie Didier Andre. That means no backup cars for any driver.

"The main thing that matters to me after Casey's accident yesterday is that he is OK," said Galles. "The safety of our drivers is always our number one priority on this team. Casey hitting the wall as hard as he did and not having any serious injuries just shows strength of the safety in the IRL cars. We are planning to have Casey run again on Friday if all goes well, and we would like to try and qualify him this weekend. The crew has done a fantastic job, and their resilience just shows what true racers they are."



Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears was going to drive Ray Harroun's Marmon Wasp - the car that won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 - around the 2.5-mile oval in a special ceremony on Wednesday. But Mears, who continues to suffer from crushed feet and ankles from a crash at Sanair Speedway in St. Pie, Quebec in 1984, which required re-constructive surgery, was unable to work the accelerator pedal in the vintage machine.

"I couldn't twist my ankle over to get to the throttle," said Mears. "There is a cup you put your foot in and because of my ankle being fused together, I couldn't get to it.

"It would have been fun to drive it, but it's one of those things. Driving that car made me feel young. It's twice as old as I am. It's amazing what they did with them. I couldn't imagine 500 miles on a race track made of bricks. It would have been tough."

Three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford took over the driving duty in the Marmon Wasp, which won the first 500-mile race at an average speed of 74.602 mph.

"Having the opportunity to drive something like that is a great thrill," said Rutherford. "It's something I'll never forget. To think about what Ray Harroun did, driving that car for six hours, 500 miles at 74 miles an hour, it's a phenomenal feat."



After his car suffered minor damage from debris that came off Casey Mears' car when it crashed on Tuesday, Arie Luyendyk was able to have the fourth-quickest speed on Wednesday at 223.499 mph.

"We didn't get on the track until after 3 o'clock (today) because there was some damaged pieces from when I ran over debris from Mears' accident (yesterday)," said Luyendyk. "I did a 221 (mph) lap with a setup that wasn't very comfortable. We made some changes late in the afternoon and that's when I did my best lap (223.499 mph)."



Robby Gordon, who began the season in NASCAR Winston Cup as the driver of the Kodak Chevrolet before he was fired after just five races, drove A.J. Foyt's car to the sixth-fastest lap on Wednesday at 223.032 mph.

"I'm pretty happy, the speeds keep climbing, and I am getting more comfortable," said Gordon. "A.J. and I are communicating better about setting up the car to suit my driving style. Today the car felt the best it has so far. We've got two more days to work on it for qualifying. Scott Sharp's lap was pretty impressive though."

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