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Driver Salazar Tears Artery in Crash

April 18, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Indy Racing League driver Eliseo Salazar could be sidelined up to nine months following surgery to repair a torn artery in his chest.

Salazar was in stable condition on Wednesday, a day after he crashed during a practice test session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL’s medical services director, said Salazar was alert after he hit the outside wall in turn one. But he told The Indianapolis Star that tests at Methodist Hospital showed the tear could have been fatal if it had not been treated quickly.

Because Salazar’s sternum had to be opened to repair the torn artery, his recovery could take nine months, Bock said.

Salazar, who drives for A.J. Foyt Racing, was driving teammate Airton Dare’s car when he crashed during the private tests with nine other drivers.

The 46-year-old Chilean is fifth in the IRL point standings. He finished seventh in last year’s Indy 500. Salazar’s best finish in six Indy 500 starts was third in 2000.

Foyt began looking for a driver to replace Salazar for this weekend’s race at Nazareth, Pa., as well for the Indianapolis 500 next month and rest of the season. Donnie Beechler, who drove for Foyt at last year’s Indy 500, turned down a chance to replace Salazar, the Star reported.

Beechler was replaced by Dare before this year’s opening race.

Defending IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. was shocked when told that Salazar is out for the year.

``That’s unbelievable,″ Hornish said of Salazar’s injury.

``I’ve never heard of something like that. You think of somebody breaking legs or ribs, but not that (artery) thing,″ he told the Star.

Salazar, who has one victory in 47 IRL starts, was in his third season with Foyt. He also missed races after injuries in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

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