The unforgiving SAFER barrier that lines the four distinct turns of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway claimed its first victim of the month early this afternoon.
He came to rest on the inside of the circuit where safety personnel immediately came to Rice's aid. At the time, Rice's best speed 222.804mph (on his fourth of nine completed laps) placed him solidly in the top ten.
Kosuke Matsuura, at that time quickest of all drivers at 224.393mph in his #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz/Honda impacted the debris and spun without hitting the wall. Matsuura's stricken car was flat-towed back to the garage area for repairs.
Matsuura had a birds-eye view of what happened to Rice: "When we exited the pit lane, he was in a hurry and overtook me immediately. He then overtook Helio [Castroneves] and tried to overtake [Sam] Hornish.
"On the third lap," Matsuura explained, "he spun in the middle of Turn 2 and hit the wall. The track was covered with his parts and so I spun to avoid the crash (as Rice moved down the track)."
Although Matsuura did not hit the wall, he sustained damage to his engine block, gearbox, bell housing and underwing.
Rice exited his nearly destroyed car with minimal assistance and went to the infield care center, where Indy Racing League medical director Dr. Henry Bock decided to send the Arizona native to Methodist Hospital by ground transportation for further evaluation.
Dr. Bock indicated Rice was awake and alert while undergoing on-site treatment. Following further examination Bock and the physicians on call at Methodist Hospital decided to admit Rice fore further observation. He sustained a severe back contusion and concussion, according to Dr. Bock.
Rice's further participation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 will not be decided until next week," Indy Racing League officials stated.
Thursday, May 12 at 1:40 p.m. EST
Buddy Rice was released from Methodist Hospital after an overnight stay for observation at 8:54 a.m. EST. Rice was examined in the morning prior to his release. However, he will still have to undergo futher examination to determine if he he is fit enough to participate in on-track activities early next week.
More on Rice and Rahal Letterman Racing will be covered in the Thursday practice report this evening.