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."