Scheckter to replace Wilson at New Hampshire
9 August 2011
South African driver Tomas Scheckter is to make a return to IndyCar at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, taking over the Dreyer and Reinbold car normally driven by Justin Wilson.
The decision follows the announcement that Wilson himself has been ruled out of racing for three months after sustaining a stable burst fracture of his fifth thoracic vertebrae when he rain wide through turn 1 during Saturday morning practice ahead of the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
After being airlifted back from Ohio on Sunday, Wilson left hospital in Indianapolis on Tuesday following several days of evaluation and treatment under the care of IndyCar's medical director medical director Dr. Michael Olinger and specialist consultant Dr Terry Trammell. It was confirmed that Wilson would not be required to have surgery and there was no injury to his spinal cord, so he will be treated with a back brace and serial x-rays.
"I'm feeling good and I'm already thinking about getting back to racing," Wilson insisted. "Obviously, I have a little bit of a backache, but I'm just frustrated to not be at the racetrack. I think that we just started to get our season turned around and the car was really good at Mid-Ohio," he said.
"I'm just disappointed to not be in the car, but my back is the most important thing," he continued. "I'm going to try and get that to heal and get back to 100 percent as soon as possible and get back in the car." The medical staff have insisted that a three month lay-off from racing is the minimum, and with the end of the IndyCar season at Last Vegas only a little over two months away it means he will not be returning to the seat for the rest of the year.
"I'm feeling good and I'm already thinking about getting back to racing," said Wilson. "Also, the response has been incredible and it's really nice to see that on Twitter from the fans, or drivers and ex-drivers."
"We wish that Justin could be with us this weekend, but right now we are happy that he is okay and we just want him to have a speedy recovery," said Dreyer & Reinbold Racing co-owner Dennis Reinbold.
Last weekend at Mid-Ohio, DRR were lucky enough to find Simon Pagenaud at the track and able to step into the cockpit with 90 minutes notice. Pagenaud not only had extensive sportscar experience, he had been testing with Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Mid-Ohio the previous week and already had experience of stepping into the DRR car after subbing for an injured Ana Beatriz at Barber Motorsports Park in April.
DRR have followed a similar strategy for this coming weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway at Loudon, turning to another familiar face from their past line-up - this time one with proven oval racing experience in IndyCar.
South African driver Tomas Scheckter has been racing in IndyCar since 2002 and has 116 starts and two race wins to his name, his best year being in 2003 with Ganassi Racing when he finished seventh in the championship. He appeared in 14 races for DRR in 2009 and 2010.
He last raced in the series in May at Indianapolis for the KV Racing Technology-SH Racing team, comfortably qualifying on Pole Day in 22nd and finishing a strong eighth position ahead of more fancied runners such as Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Helio Castroneves - and all three DRR entries.
"For us, Tomas made the most sense because we had great runs with him last year and he has a ton of oval experience," said Reinbold.
"We know him and he knows us, and it will take him only two or three laps to know what he needs out of the car and how we can adjust it," DRR general manager Larry Curry concurred. "It was more of a choice based on who was available and who we had a relationship with. That was pretty simple actually."
"Obviously, it's not the circumstances that you want to get in the car, and I want to wish Justin a quick recovery," said Scheckter. "It will be great to be back with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and it will also be good to be back on an oval. It looks like a really cool oval that's new to everybody. I'm looking forward to it and I feel at home with the team and I can't wait to get back in the car."
"[You] should have some fun at NH," Wilson tweeted when the news was announced, adding that the team had "been working hard. I'm gutted to miss it but glad u can help out."
"Thanks," replied Scheckter. "Will do my best looking after the 22 ... Glad to be in car again."
Scheckter is only signed on for this weekend's MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 running on the one mile oval at Loudon, and the team confesses that they have not made a decision about who will be driving the #22 for the remaining five races of the season, which include three street courses (Infineon Raceway, Baltimore and Motegi) for which Scheckter would not necessarily be the preferred candidate.
"We are talking about a lot of things on how we want to approach the rest of the year with the three road courses," acknowledged Curry.
A possible solution might be to have road specialist Pagenaud return and step in for the three road courses, while Scheckter could return for the final two races of the season on the ovals of Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October - subject to both drivers' availabilities.
In the meantime, DRR also have two test sessions scheduled: an August 18 outing at Sonoma with Beatriz joined by Schecker, and one on August 22 at Las Vegas with Beatriz this time accompanied by Davey Hamilton.