BOAT MIGHT LIMP, BUT HE CAN STILL DRIVE BY JEFF WOLF/PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY FOUNTAIN, Colo. - It almost hurts to watch Billy Boat walk 20 feet from his golf cart to his motorhome and then climb three stairs to get inside. The ...
BOAT MIGHT LIMP, BUT HE CAN STILL DRIVE BY JEFF WOLF/PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
FOUNTAIN, Colo. - It almost hurts to watch Billy Boat walk 20 feet from his golf cart to his motorhome and then climb three stairs to get inside. The noticeable limp was a temporary of byproduct of being t-boned less than seven weeks by a race car that resulted in a broken left leg and cracked pelvis.
Hard to believe that less than 30 minutes earlier he posted the third quickest time during practice for Sunday's Radisson 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs.
Boat, of Glendale, had a best time of 20.586 seconds at an average speed of 174.876 mph in the A.J. Foyt-owned Conseco racer.
"It feels good to be back in the car and at a race," Boat said. "My leg feels better in running in the top three than it did in the top 15." He was 15th fastest in the first practice session of the day.
"We went out in our backup car (in the second session) with a different setup. Back to A.J.'s setup from last year. We tried something new in the first session that didn't work. We went back to what we know."
Boat's injuries came on June 28 in the New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway. This race is his first. Although he remains on crutches, he logged some laps in Atlanta two weeks ago that was much sooner than even his doctors predicted.
"The longer you stay out of the car the harder it is to get back in,'' he said. "I've received a lot of letters and over 300 e-mails. That kind of support made it easier to come back this quick."
Boat was an innocent victim in the accident at New Hampshire. Rookie J.J. Yeley of Phoenix spun in front of Boat then sent Boat into the outside wall. Boat's car bounced across the track toward the infield where he was speared by Raul Boesel's car.
The nose of Boesel's car was in Boat's lap.
"That's a vision you don't forget," Boat said. "It's a good thing I'm thin."
He underwent major surgery and had a stainless steel plate and five screws placed in his left femur and spent five days in the hospital. After a couple days in bed at home, he started working out.
"When I first tried to push the clutch (at Atlanta) I could hardly press it down," said Boat, a father of four. "Since then I've just worked on my leg strength. I won't have any problems here because you really don't use the clutch that much, but I couldn't drive on a road course right now."
Boat was a legitimate contender for the IRL season championship before the accident. He started third, second, first, second and first in his five Pep Boys IRL races this season. He won June 6 at Texas and finished third at Phoenix. But in the other three races, his Dallara/Aurora placed 21st at Orlando, 23rd at Indy after capturing the pole and 21st at New Hampshire.
He suffered a broken tibia and fibia about 10 years ago when his Sprint Car tumbled, and while the injury was not as severs as his recent one the recovery took nearly six months.
"That just shows how much more aggressive doctors are and what improvements have been made in the last 10 years," Boat said.
Boat is 12th in the IRL standings with 122 points. Before his two-race layoff, he was fourth and just 45 points behind then-leader Tony Stewart. Boat has led three races for 132 laps and won $1,233,800 this season.
He hasn't given up in the quest for a good finish in the final standings.
"We just have to go out and finish good and get as many points as we can," he said. "That's all we can do."