INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — James Hinchcliffe has a bruise on the bridge of his nose, a black-and-blue reminder of his big wreck.
He can hide it with the helmet he’ll need now that he’s back in the race car.
Hinchcliffe was cleared to drive Thursday by IndyCar’s medical team following a concussion Saturday in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
He passed the post-concussion tests and should be all set to qualify this weekend for the Indianapolis 500. He couldn’t wait another day, hopping in the No. 27 Honda with 2 minutes left in practice to turn his first lap of the month on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I went overkill on resting because I really wanted to get back out here,” he said. “I think a big part of it was my nose is so big it absorbed a lot of the impact and it left my head relatively unscathed.”
He can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t so funny Saturday when debris from Justin Wilson’s car flew into the cockpit, striking Hinchcliffe in the head. He was taken away from the track on a stretcher, transported to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.
“Luckily, I don’t remember most of it,” he said. “It’s a scary situation any time an injury like that happens.”
Hinchcliffe suddenly pulled off the road course at IMS following a restart and could be seen holding his head with both hands as he exited his car.
“Everybody’s been giving a lot of credit for the heads up decision to pull off, but that must have been a subconscious thing because I have no memory of that,” he said. “I guess I was very lucky to come in time to not get into the wall there.”
Series officials said concussions are handled on a case-by-case basis and that drivers with head injuries must pass an ImPACT test before they’re cleared to compete by series medical director Dr. Michael Olinger.
The 27-year old Canadian passed his after doing nothing more this week than some light training. He woke up Sunday with a headache but said he was fine by Monday. He was back in the gym Wednesday and ready to resume racing for Andretti Autosport.
“I went overkill on the rest,” he said. “Everything that they asked me to do I did, and then some. I’ve been wearing my sunglasses for like 96 straight hours, staying away from all electronics. Anything they asked me to do I went overkill because I knew the goal was to get back and I really wanted to qualify this car, and it looks like I’m going to be able to do that now.”
E.J. Viso replaced Hinchcliffe in practice this week and got a double dose of bad news: He was out of work and the engine in the No. 27 Honda blew during Thursday’s practice.
“I really expect that the help, effort and input I gave during these past few days are going to reflect in a good way in the coming days and during the Indy 500,” Viso said. “I feel really proud to be able to help Andretti Autosport and I hope to be driving with them again sometime in the future.”
Here are five other things to know from Thursday’s practice:
PRACTICE: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves turned a lap of 227.166 mph — becoming the first driver to top 227 this week. Ed Carpenter was second at 226.257 and Will Power Townsend Bell and Ryan Hunter-Reay round out the top five. Kurt Busch, attempting to race in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, was ninth. There were 34 drivers on the track who turned 2,516 laps. Castroneves said he’s ready for the weekend’s two-day qualifying runs. “You don’t realize how tough it is at this place,” he said, “so to do two days in a row, it’ll be really tough.”
HELIO SWAP: Helio Castroneves is trading in the firesuit for a chance to show “who wears the pants in my family” on “Celebrity Wife Swap.”
The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion appears on the May 27 episode on ABC. Adriana Henao, the mother of Castroneves’ 4-year-old daughter, Mikaella, moved into the home of Larry Birkhead in December, while he opened his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home for Birkhead. Birkhead had a daughter with late former Playmate Anna Nicole Smith. “I think it was a great experience for Adriana to try a different family,” Castroneves said.
HELMET AUCTION: Takuma Sato will put his Indy 500 helmet up for auction. Sato, who drives the No. 14 Honda, will give up his race-worn helmet to raise money for “With you Japan” charity, which Sato founded to help the victims of the 2011 tsunami that wreaked havoc on the island country. The helmet’s red, white and blue scheme echoes Sato’s distinctive helmet but also integrates elements from Japan’s only IndyCar race winner and the Speedway’s first four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who owns the No. 14 car. The helmet will feature Sato’s car number plus bricks to represent the historic Brickyard. The four white stars atop the helmet were included as a tribute to Foyt’s four Indy victories as a driver.
CALLING THE ACTION: Former Indy car driver and team owner Robbie Buhl will join chief announcer Paul Page and Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson as an analyst for the IMS Radio Network broadcasts of Indy 500 qualifying and the race.
HAWKSWORTH BACK: English rookie Jack Hawksworth only turned one lap a day after he became the first driver to crash on the oval this month. He waited for the call to the track in the IMS media center while his Bryan Herta Autosport team worked on the No. 98. “I’m going to give it the beans and see what we’ve got,” he said.