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Indy wrecks knock out 10 cars

Meira survives fire, later breaks vertebrae

Michael Marot Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Vitor Meira will need some time to recover from the Indianapolis 500.

The 2008 runner-up survived a dangerous fire in the pits and later broke two vertebrae in his lower back during a frightening crash in Sunday’s race. IndyCar officials said he will spend the next two days at Methodist Hospital, where doctors plan to fit him for a back brace. He does not need surgery.

“It was just an unfortunate incident,” rookie Raphael Matos said after colliding with Meira. “We had a good car, and the team had worked so hard. It was just unfortunate to end like that.”

The Meira-Matos incident was the most serious crash on a day full of them.

In all, 10 cars went out of the race in accidents, and an 11th, Marco Andretti’s No. 26, eventually left because of handling problems after returning from an earlier crash.

In the closing laps, Meira and Matos were running side-by-side heading into the first turn when the two locked wheels. Matos hit the SAFER barrier and stopped in the middle of the track, resulting in a bruised right knee.

Meira, by far, got the worst of it. His car slid along the wall – two wheels on the ground and two wheels above the concrete wall – before finally flipping over on four wheels and stopping.

And that was after the car was engulfed in flames on pit road.

The tone of the day was set early when 22-year-old Marco Andretti and 20-year-old Mario Moraes didn’t even make it through the first turn before making contact. Graham Rahal, also 20, crashed on lap 56.

Each of the youngsters blamed someone else for the crashes.

“I should have been smarter than that,” Andretti said. “That kid (Moraes) is in way over his head with where he is now. I’m sitting next to him, and he just drives up into me. There was no one in sight of him.”

Andretti’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, one of the pre-race favorites, limped away after twice hitting the wall hard when his rear suspension broke just before the midway point. He had been running third at the time.

But the wrecks crossed all demographics.

Davey Hamilton, the oldest starter at 46, crashed on lap 83. Justin Wilson, 30, and Nelson Philippe, a Champ Car veteran and Indy rookie, both crashed, too, and Ryan Hunter-Reay and rookie Robert Doornbos also left after contact.

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