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Rookie Dan Drinan Crashes In Indy Practice

May 18, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Rookie driver Dan Drinan may owe his life to a race car that was too slow to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

The former midget car driver suffered a concussion, a broken left hip and foot and a bruised lung Saturday when his car crashed hard against the first-turn wall in practice.

It appeared to hit a lot harder than the crash that killed Scott Brayton a day earlier. But it also was at about 30 mph slower.

``He was just lucky nothing more happened to him,″ car owner Bud Hoffpauir said. ``There was a lot of speed difference between Scotty and Dan, so that probably made a difference, and there was a difference in where they hit on the track.

``He slid a long way before he hit, and Scotty didn’t. Scotty hit almost immediately,″ Hoffpauir said.

Drinan, 35, a former mechanic for Brayton, remained at Methodist Hospital’s Trauma Center and was awake, alert and stable after the first-turn crash. The hip will require surgery within the next few days, Speedway medical director Dr. Henry Bock said.

Brayton, who qualified last week for the pole position in the May 26 race, was killed on Friday when he crashed in the second turn.

``We were trying to get up to speed so he would be fast enough to attempt to qualify. It was just faster than the car was capable of going,″ Hoffpauir said of the 1991 Lola.

Drinan, one of six rookies who practiced before Saturday’s qualifying, had driven only eight laps before the crash. His top speed was 209.908 mph, and he had just completed a lap at 202.243 when he went low in turn one and spun once into the wall with the right side of the car.

Brayton hit the wall at more than 230 mph.

``I haven’t seen the replay, but I think it was a snap-loose condition where the back end just came around real hard and then the front end hit the wall and knocked the back into the wall,″ Hoffpauir said.

After hitting the wall, Drinan’s car went 75 feet along the wall and another 650 feet away from the wall. He made another complete spin and stopped in the warm-up lane entering the second turn.

``He was complaining of his left hip, which was hurting because it’s broken. ... But otherwise, he’s OK,″ the car owner said.

The car had extensive damage.

``The tub’s not repairable,″ Hoffpauir said. ``We’d have to find a different tub, which isn’t too easy since it’s a ’91 tub and there’s not too many of them left. The IRL is attempting to get us a car so we can go to the next IRL race in New Hampshire. Other than that, that’s about all we can say.″

Drinan, of Indianapolis, was a mechanic and fabricator for Mario Andretti’s 1984 Indy-car championship season. He later was a mechanic for Michael Andretti, Brayton and Tom Sneva before going behind the wheel himself.

He was the U.S. Auto Club’s most improved driver in the national midget series in 1992 and held the points lead until he was injured in a crash at Springfield, Ill.

In 1993, he broke Jeff Gordon’s midget track record at Indianapolis Raceway Park and set a midget track record at Phoenix in 1994. Drinan won five races and finished ninth in the USAC midget standings in 1995.

Driving for Loop Hole Racing, he passed his rookie test and practiced for the second IRL race at Phoenix in March but was not able to qualify because of engine problems. In 188 laps of practice at Indianapolis, his top speed was 215.957 mph.

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