INDIANAPOLIS — Graham Rahal will replace injured driver Stefan Wilson in Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500. The announcement was made Tuesday at 10 a.m. Eastern Time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by Cusick Motorsports and Dryer & Reinbold Racing.
Wilson sustained a fractured T-12 (thoracic) vertebra in his back when he was rear-ended by the faster car driven by Katherine Legge of Rahal Letterman Lanigan in Monday’s 2-hour, full-field practice session at the 2.5-mile oval. The crash was in turn one and is the only crash that has happened since practice for the May 28 Indy 500 began on May 24.
“We are very sad that Stefan was injured Monday and now is unable to compete this Sunday in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports/CareKeepers Chevrolet,” said Dennis Reinbold, DRR team owner. “Stefan put so much effort into this race that it is just heartbreaking for this to have happened.
“However, we are announcing that Graham Rahal will now drive the No. 24 car this Sunday. We have known Graham for over a decade as he drove our car in 2010 at Iowa Speedway. He suffered through a tough weekend here, but we believe Graham can perform very well this Sunday,” Reinbold continued.
“I want to thank Bobby Rahal and his entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan team for granting us the opportunity to have Graham join us this week. We also want to thank everyone in the IndyCar Series garage area for offering their assistance after Stefan’s unfortunate incident on Monday.
“So many people came to us and asked if we needed anything yesterday. It shows the camaraderie within the NTT IndyCar Series. We are anxious to get Graham on the track now in the No. 24 machine.”
Rahal was the only driver bumped from the lineup during Sunday’s Last Chance Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I certainly feel for Stef,” Rahal said. “I know how much he puts into this. To see what happened is never good.
“It shows the emotional roller coaster this place can be. I certainly iived it the other day. When I got the call from Dennis Monday afternoon, I felt for some reason my calling was to be here and help as best I could and to fill in. This is Stef’s ride and Stef’s seat so it is an honor for me to get the call.”
Rahal is a Honda driver and this is a Chevrolet team, but both manufacturers were able to come to an agreement.
“They made this happen,” Rahal said. “It’s also special for me to come back. I drove for Dennis 13 years ago at Iowa. I’ve always admired what he has been able to do with the team, as proven this month. Trust me, I’m excited at the opportunities ahead as well.
“But make no mistake, this is Stef’s ride and I’m fortunate to be in position to help and fill in and have a great effort on Sunday.”
Graham’s father is Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winning driver and a two-time Indy 500 winner as a team owner.
“First, I feel bad for Stefan that he is hurt. I’m sure he was very excited after qualifying for the race and had done a great job all month,” Bobby Rahal said. “It’s a real shame that this happened. I wish him the best and hope he has a speedy recovery. I’m sure we will see him again.
“I have to say this came out of the blue. I’ve known Dennis for years personally. I have always liked and respected him as a fellow racer and also a car dealer. When Dennis called, we went to work to make this happen. The most amazing thing is how all these different groups, out of respect for the sport and the Indy 500, agreed to agree and go forward even though it may have been somewhat of a difficult decision.
“The fact that everyone pulled together to make this happen for Dennis, and also for Graham, makes us very thankful. I am also thankful that Dennis asked Graham to join him and his team and appreciate the commitment and excitement from Mike, Dave, United Rentals and Fifth Third Bank to see this happen. We wish them the best in the race.”