Following his horrific accident on the final lap of last weekend's IZOD IndyCar Series race in Houston, Dario Franchitti has been ruled out of racing in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on October 19 while he undergoes surgery and treatment for his injuries.

Franchitti suffered a concussion in the high-speed wreck as well as two bruised ribs and two fractured vertebra, which are not expected to require surgery. However, Franchitti did need a surgical procedure to stabilise the fracture to his right ankle, and will need a further operation to permanently treat the injury once he is flown back from Houston to Indianapolis where he will be treated by the series' orthopaedic consultant Dr Terry Trammell.

Franchitti is expected to make a full recovery over the winter and has sent a statement expressing his appreciation for all the messages he'd received since the accident: "Thank you to everyone for all the well wishes," he said. "They mean a lot to me. I would also like to send my best to all the fans involved in the accident and hope that everyone is alright."

A number of fans were also injured on Sunday by debris from the accident flying into the grandstands. IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan (who will join Franchitti and Dixon at Ganassi in 2014) spent Monday at the Houston hospital visiting Franchitti and also spending time with the fans still receiving treatment at the same facility.

"Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by [Sunday's] accident," IndyCar said in a statement earlier in the week. "Thank you to the people of Houston for their support of the Grand Prix and their concern for Dario Franchitti, the fans and race personnel. IndyCar is thoroughly reviewing the incident. Reducing the risks that are associated with racing is one of our highest priorities and receives our constant and on-going focus."

With Franchitti out of commission for the season finale next weekend, the Ganassi team have called up veteran racer (and another longtime friend of Franchitti) Alex Tagliani to take over the race seat of the #10 car for Fontana.

"Obviously the situation is not ideal with Dario being unable to compete in Fontana," said team owner Chip Ganassi. "As we look to the season finale we needed a driver with experience and the ability to step in and get the job done in the #10 car, and Alex was a logical choice for us.

"As a driver you never want an opportunity like this to come under these circumstances," said Tagliani. "But I'm up for the challenge and looking forward to working with my friend Scott and the whole Target team.

"I'm thinking of Dario as everyone else is, and wishing him a quick recovery," he added. "This team has a championship on the line and I'm ready to step in a help them win it."

In a tweet. Franchitti himself endorsed Tagliani as "the right man for the job, he can win the race in the 10 Target car and also help [Dixon] try to win the championship!!"

"You get the ride knowing one of your friends has been injured, and that's hard," Tagliani told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "It's an atmosphere we all want to avoid, when you are called to replace the primary and you are in the mix of it.

"The good thing and the positive thing is Dario is fine and we exchanged emails, and his emails were positive and had a good vibe and it puts you at ease that he is in a good spirit after such a horrible crash."

Tagliani started the season driving full time for the Bryan Herta Autosport/Barracuda Racing team, but he stood down form the #98 in the latter half of the season after a disappointing string of results, which allowed BHA to look to the future by trying out Luca Filippi for a possible 2014 run. In the meantime Tagliani has been trying his hand at sports car racing and finding it's very much to his liking.

"I've had a blast in the sports car, I really enjoyed it," he said, eyeing possible opportunities in next-year's United SportsCar Championship, formed by the merger of GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series. "We were in the fight every single weekend and I think there's some opportunities there," he added, although he also hasn't ruled out a full-time return to IndCar in 2014.

Allmendinger returns to Penske

As well as the return of Tagliani, Fontana will also see AJ Allmendinger back in the race seat of the #2 Penske car. It will be the sixth IndyCar outing of the year for the 31-year-old Californian, who made his series debut at Alabama in April and who finished in seventh place in his maiden appearance in the Indianapolis 500.

"I'm looking forward to racing the IZOD Chevy in the IndyCar season finale," said Allmendinger. "It's always a great opportunity to compete for Team Penske and I had great time and a solid result racing the IZOD car in the last 500-mile race back in May at the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully, we can close out the season with another good finish for Team Penske and for Chevrolet."

It's likely to be Allmendinger's last appearance in the IndyCar series for the foreseeable future, as he returns to a full-time race seat in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in 2014 with JTG Daugherty Racing.

"AJ has been a good addition to our team this season and he was terrific racing the IZOD Chevrolet in the Indianapolis 500," said team owner Roger Penske. "With his experience racing on the Auto Club Speedway oval in the past we believe he will be very competitive as we try and end the season with a strong result for Team Penske."

Allmendinger has competed several times at Fontana in stock cars but never in an open wheel series, despite winning five races in the Champ Car World Series from 2004 to 2006.


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