Dario Franchitti suffered two vertebrae fractures, a broken ankle and a concussion in a crash in which 13 spectators were injured near the end of the Grand Prix of Houston on Sunday.
Franchitti, the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, was hospitalized overnight and could be released as soon as today, with the vertebrae not expected to require surgery. However, he did have surgery on his ankle Sunday night, USA Today reports. Franchitti was injured on the last lap of the race when his car collided with two others, went airborne and struck a catchfence. Flying debris struck 13 spectators, with two requiring hospital treatment.
The wreck triggered flashbacks to the October 2011 Las Vegas crash in which Dan Wheldon was killed.
“The smells and the visuals, for me, and even talking to Will [Power, the Houston winner], you have the remnants of Vegas popping into your head with you coming around the corner and you can’t drive through it because there’s a field of debris,” driver Scott Dixon said. “There was no near the amount of damage that we saw [in 2011], but seeing the replay was a big shock.”
Power broke his back in the crash in which Wheldon was fatally injured. “I just saw Dario’s car and him sitting in it with a lot of damage, and yes, that’s what it reminded me of,” Power said. “I hate seeing that. We try to keep these cars on the ground.”
There were calls for improvements to catchfence technology after Wheldon’s crash and again after a crash at Daytona last winter. The Houston race was held on a street circuit around Reliant Stadium with temporary catchfences placed atop concrete barricades.
“I don’t know what else we can do, especially when the fence separates from the block like it did in this case,” Graham Rahal told USA Today. “Dario is our guy on the safety committee, and I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it. The biggest concern is when the fence comes apart from the concrete and goes into the stands like that. I don’t know what else can be done. I don’t know that the track did anything wrong or could have prevented it. It was just a worst-case scenario.”
Ashley Judd, to whom Franchitti was married in 2001, tweeted that she was en route to Houston. The pair reportedly had separated earlier this year.
Thank you for the prayers for @dariofranchitti I have only clothes on my back & the dogs but that's all that we need & we are on our way.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) October 6, 2013