Graham Rahal Will Replace Stefan Wilson In Indianapolis 500

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Graham Rahal will be in the field for the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. However, it will be due to very unfortunate circumstances for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Stefan Wilson.

Wilson was injured in a crash during Monday’s practice session. It was eventually revealed that he had suffered a fractured vertebra and was ruled out of the Indy 500. On Tuesday, the team announced that Rahal — who failed to qualify for the race on Sunday — would be Wilson’s stand-in.

This is the latest twist in what has been a difficult month of May for Rahal and his teammates at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Rahal Was Bumped From The Indianapolis 500 On Sunday

It was clear RLL’s cars were significantly off the pace in practice, but the first day of qualifying proved that to be the case. Of the team’s 4 drivers, only Katherine Legge punched her ticket to the Indianapolis 500 on the first day of qualifying. She’ll start 30th for Sunday’s race.

That left her teammates — Rahal, Christian Lungaard, and Jack Harvey — to duke it out with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s rookie Sting Ray Robb for the three spots on the last row of the grid.

With just a few minutes to go in the one-hour session, it appeared Lundgaard and Robb had made the field, with Rahal sitting on the bubble.

What appeared to be Harvey’s final run, wasn’t quite enough to make the field. But as time expired in the one-hour session, he laid down a 4-lap average that was just barely enough for him to make the Indy 500 at the expense of his teammate, Rahal.

It was a shocking end to qualifying and one that made Rahal the unfortunate victim of a team-wide failure.

IndyCar’s Clean May Came To An End On Monday

On Monday, the 33 cars that qualified for Sunday’s race were back on track for another practice session. Up until the end of the second to last practice session, it had been a clean month of May with no serious crashes. However, that changed when Legge appeared not to notice the checkered flag and the cars slowing ahead of her.

This led to her driving straight into the back of Wilson, which sent them both hard into the wall at the exit of turn 1.

Legge came out unscathed and will race on Sunday in what will be her third Indy 500 start.

Wilson, however, was placed on a backboard and gave a thumbs-up to the crowd before taking to an area hospital. Later in the day, the team announced that Wilson — who was due to start Sunday’s race in 23rd — had fractured a vertebra in the middle of his back. He was officially ruled out for Sunday’s race.

Rahal Accepted Offer To Stand-In For Injured Wilson On Monday

“We are very sad that Stefan was injured Monday and now is unable to compete this Sunday in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports/CareKeepers Chevrolet,” said Dreyer & Reinbold Racing owner Dennis Reinbold on Tuesday.

“Stefan put so much effort into this race that it is just heartbreaking for this to have happened. However, we are announcing that Graham Rahal will now drive the No. 24 car this Sunday. We have known Graham for over a decade as he drove our car in 2010 at Iowa Speedway. He suffered through a tough weekend here, but we believe Graham can perform very well this Sunday.”

It’s an incredibly unfortunate situation for Wilson. He was set to make his first IndyCar appearance of the season on Sunday.

“First and foremost, the only thing that matters is that Stefan is doing well considering the circumstances,” said owner and sponsor of WIlson’s team, Don Cusick. “We are completely gutted for Stefan and now will miss his favorite racing event, the legendary Indy 500. We wouldn’t be here without him and we are committed to supporting him every step on the way to recovery and beyond.

Cusick said Rahal accepted the team’s offer to deputize for Wilson on Monday. Rahal was teammates with Wilson’s late brother, Justin Wilson. He died in 2015 due to injuries sustained in a crash during an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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