Newman/Haas Racing had to think long and hard about a replacement driver for Champ Car World Series point leader Bruno Junqueira, who suffered fractured T-12 and L-1 vertebrae when attempting to pass A.J. Foyt IV, a driver who was five laps down...
Newman/Haas Racing had to think long and hard about a replacement driver for Champ Car World Series point leader Bruno Junqueira, who suffered fractured T-12 and L-1 vertebrae when attempting to pass A.J. Foyt IV, a driver who was five laps down to the leaders at the time. Junqueira was in sixth place when the incident occurred.
Dr. Terry Trammell performed surgery on Junqueira's back to stabilize the injury this past Monday at Methodist Hospital and stated the driver sustained no further physical or neurological damage from the accident.
Junqueira believed he had a good opportunity to win the 89th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race held May 29th: "The Centrix car was good in the race and I was saving fuel, going further than everybody," the veteran said. "I was just behind Dan [eventual winner Wheldon], drafting him for good fuel mileage. Unfortunately when I passed A.J. he didn't see me," Junqueira explained.
"It was a big crash but I will recover fast to race again as soon as possible. This is disappointing for the Champ Car championship because I was leading and very confident about the next races," he said.
"I was fastest at the Milwaukee test (held nearly a month ago) and the Newman/Haas cars were so good in Portland. It's a disappointment but I am thinking positive and can improve myself to come back even stronger than ever."
On Tuesday, while Newman/Haas Racing was still debating a replacement driver Junqueira spent his day watching the French Open tennis tournament on TV and playing racing games on his new PS2.
Junqueira also spent time with many visitors, including teammate Sebastien Bourdais, Champ Car president Dick Eidswick and news manager Eric Mauk. Representatives from Honda and sponsor PacifiCare also stopped by and watched as Junqueira stood for the first time since Sunday's accident.
With the two-day Time Warner Cable Road Runner 225 presented by US Bank scheduled for practice and qualifying this Friday and racing on Saturday, time was of the essence to choose a suitable substitute. For that reason, Oriol Servia was named to replace Junqueira in the #2 PacifiCare Lola/ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone entry at the historic Milwaukee Mile.
"We have watched Oriol race over the years in the Champ Car series and believe we can put together a competitive effort with him this weekend despite the limited time to prepare," declared Carl Haas, co-owner with Paul Newman of Newman/Haas Racing.
Haas had engineer Craig Hampson on Tuesday to feel out Servia's readiness to join the team, then called on his own Wednesday to inquire. Servia indicated he does not have a contract with Dale Coyne, for whom the Catalonan drove in 2004 and also in the first two races of this season.
"Oriol was running in second place in Mexico and we believe he is a good fit for our program in Milwaukee." Servia has a contract for just this race but, pending a good result the deal could go on for longer. "I will do what I have to do. If I do a good job, things can get better," he smiled.
The 30-year-old Spaniard has made 87 Champ Car starts driving for PPI Motorsports, Sigma Motorsports, PWR/Patrick Racing, Patrick Racing and Dale Coyne Racing over the years.
Servia has five career podium finishes and his highest was second place at both Milwaukee and Montreal during the 2003 season (with Patrick Racing). Servia's best career start came at Montreal and Denver in 2003 when he began those contests in second place.
"It is a great opportunity for me to be able to step into the PacifiCare car that is leading the championship," allowed Servia, who won the Dayton Indy Lights title in 1999. "I'm grateful that Newman/Haas Racing thought of me. Bruno is my friend and I felt really bad for him when the accident happened. I know he will get well soon and we can cycle together again."
Servia did a seat fitting at Newman/Haas Racing's Lincolnshire, IL shops early Thursday morning and was impressed by the team. "They work so hard and this crew is the same bunch of guys who won the championship with Cristiano [da Matta in 2002].
"I can't wait to jump into the car tomorrow. This is a very short weekend but it is fantastic for me. The team tested with Bruno and they were fastest of all. This is the best car I've been in, ever," Servia exclaimed.