Da Matta in intensive care after injury
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist
If you haven’t already heard about it, Champ Car World Series driver Cristiano da Matta is in intensive care at the Theda Clark Medical Center in Wisconsin after being injured in a testing accident Thursday at Road America.
Da Matta was entering the track’s turn six at high speed when a deer ran in front of his car and caromed into the cockpit after being struck by the right front of the RuSport Lola. Da Matta was extracted from the car by track safety crews and airlifted to the hospital where he was operated on for a subdural hematoma. As of Friday, he was in intensive care in critical condition, but doctors said he was making progress.
Da Matta’s car has been withdrawn from the upcoming Grand Prix of Denver, although his teammate Justin Wilson will compete in the Denver race. Ironically, da Matta had just scored his best finish of the season in San Jose the previous Sunday, running second to Sebastien Bourdais. It was Da Matta’s first podium finish of the season, and moved him from tenth to seventh in series points.
RuSport has requested that those wishing to send flowers or gifts instead make a donation in Cristiano’s name to Hole in the Wall Camps, an official charity of the Champ Car World Series. Donation information is available at http://www.holeinthewallcamps.org.
The San Jose Champ Car race was remarkable not only for podium finishes by da Matta and teammate Justin Wilson, but also for a confrontation between fellow Canadians Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani. Tracy, in what commentator Derek Daly repeatedly termed, “the stupidest move I’ve seen in years,” ran off course, spun his car around, and re-entered the track directly in front of Tagliani, who had nowhere to go and hit Tracy, destroying Tag’s car and his race.
Tagliani confronted Tracy in the pits, yelling at him and grabbing his uniform. He broke off contact, then returned to confront Tracy again. This time, Tracy reacted, reportedly bruising his hand punching Tagliani’s helmet. Tag proved to be the smarter of the two, following the racer’s adage, “in a fight, don’t take off your helmet.”
On the other side of the open-wheel racing fence, Danica Patrick will have a rival for press coverage at next weekend’s IRL race at Kentucky. Sarah Fisher, the first and youngest (at 19) female to compete in the IRL, will be back driving a Dreyer and Reinbold entry.
Fisher has seven top-10 finished in 48 IRL starts, including a series-best second place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2001. That’s better than Patrick’s fourth-best finish, although Patrick led the Indy 500 in 2005, becoming the first woman to accomplish that feat. In any case, I don’t expect either of them to seriously challenge the Penske juggernaut, or the resurgent Andretti-Green team, or even the up and down Ganassi organization. But it will be an interesting sideshow.
The NASCAR Nextel Cup visits Indianapolis today, and it should prove to be an interesting race. Rookie Denny Hamlin will have the same car that won twice at Pocono, another track that features turns with little banking.
And as the clock winds down on the Chase to the Nextel Cup, three drivers are battling for the 10th and final spot. Going into today’s race, the position is Tony Stewart’s, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. is only 15 points behind Stewart, with Greg Biffle another 29 points back.
And seventh place Kasey Kahne is just 48 points ahead of Stewart, with Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon within three points of Kahne. I’m sure this is exactly the kind of scenario Brian France was hoping for when he dreamed up the Chase concept three years ago.
I recently reported that Las Vegas had signed a Champ Car race for 2007, noting that the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix concept for 2009 might be in jeopardy as a result. Well, a couple of readers asked me for an update on the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix and I attempted to contact founder Rick Strandlof.
The website for the race is not currently online, and the phone number I have for the organization is not working. So Rick, if you’re reading this, please contact me and let me know what’s going on so I can share the information.