By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A medical update was announced Tuesday regarding Ryan Blaney’s right tire changer Zach Price, who was injured following a pit road accident during last Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Zach’s wife Tasha confirmed to IndyStar’s Gregg Doyel that he has a tibial plateau fracture on his lower left leg and will be out for 3-4 months to give the fragmented bone to heal.
Fortunately, surgery won’t be necessary for Zach as he’ll be on crutches for the next 3-4 weeks and can gradually put more weight in it as long as he doesn’t have to hyper extend it. Zach will have a follow up appointment next month where they’ll take x-rays to see how he’s doing.
In the meantime, Team Penske will have Curtis Thompson serving Blaney for this Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway (July 12 at 2:00 p.m. EST on FS1).
As previously reported, Zach was injured following a pit road meele on Lap 15 when he got pinched between the right side of Blaney’s No. 12 Menard’s/Atlas Ford Mustang and Brennan Poole’s No. 15 Spartan Mosquito Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
The impact knocked Zach’s helmet off and landed on the ground, but was able to crawl away from the action. Zach was taken to a local hospital, but gave a thumbs up and a smile on pit road before being stretched off for medical treatment.
This incident unfolded when Michael McDowell brought his No. 34 Carparts.com Mustang onto pit road and with pit lane at Indianapolis being one of the narrowest on the calendar, chaos ensued behind him. It eliminated six drivers out of the race and brought out the 13th red flag of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
McDowell’s crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said during Tuesday’s video conference that a key reason why such incident happened was the fact the spotters were in Turn 1 instead of the Pagoda due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making their jobs difficult when navigating pit road at Indy.
“When we pulled into our pit real early everybody checks up behind you and it gets worse and worse and worse. Michael didn’t do anything wrong,” said Blickensderfer. “He turned and because of how narrow it is, you don’t get to turn to the left and slow down, you kind of slow down as you’re turning into your box, and that just keeps on stacking up.
“So, I think one preventive measure is as narrow as Indy is, you know you always have the risk of that. We need spotters to help saying, ‘Hey, they’re checking up in front of you,’ so the guy three, four, five back they don’t just pile into it, but with primary spotters only down in turn one, they have no view of what’s going on there, so that really hurt. We need to get them back on the Pagoda as soon as possible, which will help that situation.”
Like many folks at the track and watching it at home, Blickensderfer was scared about what was unfolding and immediately called off McDowell’s stop as a tire hit by Justin Allgaier came flying into the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports’ pit box, hitting McDowell’s spoiler.
“There were a lot of things going on and it was one of the first times as a crew chief, I’m obviously talkative, that I kind of got quiet because once I knew that my guys were okay and every car was just sitting there smoking and stopped three feet from us, it was like, ‘Okay, access the damage. What do we have? Finish the stop,'” said Blickensderfer.
“I didn’t know who was hurt behind us or what was going on, so it was definitely a bad thing to be a part of. When I went over the wall I’ve been hit by cars. That is easier than watching it go on because you’re in the moment and you’re playing it, but watching all that go on it was scary.
“I knew the 12 guys were on the right side of their vehicle and once I kind of saw my guys were okay I immediately went to kind of look to make sure those guys were okay, but that’s when racing stops and compassion comes out to a fellow crew member that could be hurt.”
McDowell finished seventh while Blaney’s day ended due to a Turn 3 crash in Stage 2, credited with a 32nd place result.