Vitor Meira's wild Indianapolis 500 resulted in him being detained in hospital with spinal injuries, although the long-term prognosis is positive for the Brazilian.
Having escaped a pit-lane fire, the AJ Foyt driver failed to see the chequered flag when he clashed with leading rookie Raphael Matos heading into turn one for the 173rd time. The pair touched wheels before being fired into the wall, while a second clash between the cars saw Meira spin and hit the wall again, backwards, his ABC Supply-sponsored Dallara then sliding along the SAFER Barrier while still on its side the wall before flopping back onto the track.
The two Brazilians had been running 19th and 20th at the time of the incident, Meira pushed back by his fire while Matos had twice topped off with fuel in an attempt to run to the flag while the leaders had to stop again.
The rookie's Luczo Dragon entry, which had been a frontrunning factor for much of the day, was badly damaged in the incident, and saw Matos taken to the infield care centre complaining of back pain. Meira, meanwhile, was transported to Methodist Hospital with similar symptoms, which were later diagnosed as fractures of the L1 and L2 vertebrae. Both drivers were awake and alert, and able to move their extremities.
Dr Michael Olinger, medical director for the Indy Racing League, has said that his immediate care plan for Meira involves non-operative management, while noted racing orthopaedic surgeon Dr Terry Trammel fitted the Brazilian with a back brace. Meira will remain in the hospital for at least the next two days, while Matos was later released and cleared to drive by IRL officials.
The turn one SAFER Barrier had to be repaired after the incident, with welding required at the damaged areas, having been targeted several times earlier in the day. Justin Wilson's fraught race ended when he spun his Dale Coyne Racing entry and hit the wall on lap 162, while rookie Robert Doornbos retired after hitting the turn two wall.
Nelson Philippe, Davey Hamilton, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay all came to grief at turn four, while the first caution resulted from an opening lap turn three collision between Marco Andretti and Mario Moraes. The Brazilian retired on the spot, while Andretti briefly returned to the fray before calling it a day with handling issues.
Additional reporting by Lynne Huntting