Giebler hospitalized after Indy practice crash; Rahal qualifies

INDIANAPOLIS -- Phil Giebler, a late entry with only a handful of laps behind the wheel, was hospitalized with bruised lungs Saturday after a crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

The Speedway's medical staff said he was awake and alert and would remain overnight at Methodist Hospital.

"We just pushed it too hard, too fast," team owner Eric Zimmerman said, adding that car could not be fixed. "That's racing."

In separate crashes, rookies Hideki Mutoh and Mario Dominguez and veteran Max Papis hit the wall but were not hurt. Each were taken to the infield hospital for routine exams and were released and cleared to drive.

Despite steady 22 mph wind, gusting over 30 mph, the cars were lined up when Saturday's qualifying began at noon.

Graham Rahal, son of 1986 Indy winner and IRL IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal,
was among 22 drivers who qualified.

"I really wanted to race here last year," said Rahal, who drove in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series in 2007 for eight-time champion Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. "Last year, I was here with Carl [Haas] and Mike [Lanigan], up in Mike's suite. I was trying to convince them to run a car with my dad this year."

"It would be a joint venture. We would use my [crew] guys and my dad's cars."

Fortunately for Rahal, pursuing that deal became unnecessary when the unification was announced in January, putting all the top American open-wheel teams and drivers in one series.

The first 11 drivers, including most of the big name drivers, made it into the field a week ago on the opening day of qualifications. The second scheduled day of time trials, on Sunday, was rained out, leaving most of the lineup to fill this weekend.

Townsend Bell was the fastest of the day's early qualifiers with a four-lap, 10-mile average of 222.539, barely bumping Rahal's 222.531 out of the 11th spot.

"We just nipped him," Bell said of Rahal. "He had a big first lap then slowed down a lot. We had a decent first lap then slowed down a little."

Darren Manning was next at 222.430, followed by Bruno Junqueira at 222.330, Rahal's teammate and fellow rookie Justin Wilson at 222.267, 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice, Bell's Dreyer & Reinbold teammate, at 222.101 and Davey Hamilton at 222.017.

Giebler, who hit the wall in the second turn, was the Indy 500 rookie of the year last year. He didn't have a ride this year until this week, when a deal developed with American Dream Motorsports. He got on the track for the first time Saturday morning, then managed a top lap of just more than 218 mph before the crash.

The 28-year-old Californian started last and finished 29th as a rookie last year.

Mutoh, at 223.887 mph the fastest rookie qualifier, also hit the wall in the second turn shortly before Giebler's crash. He was examined at the infield hospital and cleared to drive.

Runner-up in the developmental Indy Lights series last year, the 25-year-old Japanese driver joined Andretti Green Racing this season after last year's Indy 500 and IRL champion Dario Franchitti left for NASCAR.

Dominguez, a 32-year-old Mexican, went low going into the first turn and slid into the outside wall with the right side of his car with about 15 minutes left in practice Saturday morning before qualifications. Then, just as the checkered flag was being waved to end practice, Papis went hard into the wall in the third turn.

Dominguez, the Champ Car rookie of the year in 2002, drove six seasons in that series and was third in his only previous start this season at Long Beach, Calif. Papis, a 38-year-old Italian, drove in two previous Indy 500s, with a best finish of 14th in 2006.

Rookie Alex Lloyd and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who both drive for Rahal Letterman Racing, co-owned by Graham's father, both came back from crashes earlier this month to qualify Saturday at 221.788 and 221.579, respectively.

Other drivers who came back from earlier crashes to qualify Saturday include rookies Will Power, E.J. Viso and Jaime Camara.

Sarah Fisher, making her first drive as an owner-driver, qualified 22nd, while Milka Duno was 27th. With Danica Patrick a first-day qualifier, that means there will be three women in the Indy lineup for the second straight year.

Information from ESPN contributor John Schwarb and The Associated Press was used in this report.