James Hinchcliffe 'thankful' after surgery, scary wreck at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS -- IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe was awake and communicating Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after his upper left thigh was pierced by a piece of the car duringa frightening crashat IndianapolisMotor Speedway.

"Words can't describe how thankful I am to the Holmatro Safety Team," Hinchcliffe said in a statement released by the IndyCar Series on Tuesday. "Those guys, in addition to the doctors and staff at the hospital, are my heroes. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from IndyCar fans, my family and fellow drivers. We are all one big family and it feels like that today."

Kirsten Dee, Hinchcliffe's girlfriend, said on her Facebook page that the Canadian driver was "doing amazingly."

The driver remains in stable condition and has been ruled out of IndyCar Series competition for the forseeable future. Team owner Sam Schmidt told The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday that Hinchcliffe, one of IndyCar's most popular drivers, suffered damage to a leg artery, but that it could have been so much worse.

"If this would have happened at most of the places we race at things might have been different," Schmidt told The Star. "If he would have had to go from the ambulance to the track medical center to a helicopter to 30 minutes (to the hospital), I hate to say that would have been a challenge.

"The situation here is that he went straight to (IU Health Methodist Hospital) and it's close. And we've got great people here."

Dr. Timothy Pohlman, who performed the surgery, said Hinchcliffe's condition was critical upon his arrival at the hospital after it took IndyCar safety team members several minutes to extract Hinchcliffe from the car.

Hinchcliffe had just completed a lap at 221.3 mph when he lost control of the car after the suspension broke, and Schmidt told The Star that the car slammed into the third turn wall at a force of about 125 Gs, nearly flipping the car over.

Hinchcliffe's upper left thigh was pierced by the car's right front rocker, and the piece of equipment needed to be removed, Schmidt said.

Schmidt told The Star that stopping the bleeding was vital and that doctors had "a big one to plug" during surgery after the piece of the car's suspension penetrated Hinchcliffe "like a knife." The owner told The Star no bone was affected, but soft tissue was damaged.

Replays showed sparks trailing from the No. 5 Honda when it shot directly up the track and struck the SAFER barrier with the right front wheel first. The car spun around one and a half times and briefly overturned before landing on its wheels and stopping in Turn 4.

John Oreovicz of ESPN.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Hinchcliffe undergoes surgery after crash
Hinchcliffe undergoes surgery after crash
John Oreovicz discusses the mechanical failure believed to be responsible for sending James Hinchcliffe to IU Methodist Hospital for surgery on his thigh; it was the fourth crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the past week.

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