Meira breaks back in crash with Matos

INDIANAPOLIS -- Veteran Vitor Meira has broken two vertebrae in his lower back and will spend at least two days in an Indianapolis hospital after a scary crash late in the Indy 500.

In the closing laps, Meira, last year's runner-up, collided with rookie Raphael Matos, sending Meira's car sliding along the wall on two wheels.

Track officials say Meira will be fitted for a back brace at Methodist Hospital, where he was taken for further evaluation. He's not expected to have surgery. Earlier in the race, Meira's car caught on fire on pit road.

Matos bruised his right knee and was released from the infield medical center.

Theirs was the last, but hardly the only, accident of the day.

Another Indy, another way for the Andretti curse to strike.

And another heartbreak for Tony Kanaan.

The Brazilian driver's streak of leading the Indianapolis 500 seven straight years came to an abrupt halt Sunday when he hit the wall hard coming out of the third turn on the 98th lap.

"Something broke in the middle of the straightaway," said Kanaan, who was running third at the time of the wreck. "I just put my head on the headrest and took a ride. I'm pretty much beat up."

In Kanaan's first seven tries on the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval, the annual prerace favorite has five finishes of 12th or better, including third in 2003, second in 2004, eighth in 2005 and fifth in 2006.

Last year, he went from leading the race to crashing out of it just past the halfway point when teammate Marco Andretti crowded him in a turn. Kanaan brushed the wall, collided with Sarah Fisher and finished 29th.

Sunday's race had barely started when Mario Moraes drifted to the outside and made contact with Andretti, sending both cars into the wall going into the second turn.

"The kid doesn't get it, and he never will," Andretti said, blaming Moraes for the crash. "He's just clueless out there."

When a TV crew told Moraes what Andretti had to say, Moraes was visibly upset.

"I know the 26 hit me, OK? I was in front," he said. "I was holding my line, and he just hit me. I don't know from where."

Neither driver was hurt, and Andretti went back out on the track on lap 61.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the next driver out, hitting the wall in turn four on his 20th lap.

"It was completely my fault," Hunter-Reay said. "I think A.J. [Foyt IV] was having some handling problems. I slowed down too much, and I was just following too close. Once I got into his wake, I was just a passenger."

Graham Rahal, son of former Indy winner Bobby Rahal, crashed on the 56th lap. He started fourth and was running fifth when his car went high coming out of the fourth turn and hit the wall. He was not injured.

It's the second year in a row Rahal has been sidelined by a crash. Last year, as a 19-year-old rookie, he crashed on the 37th lap, also in the fourth turn.

"I got mid-corner and the car just went straight. It was the same exact thing as last year," Rahal said. "I felt I was being patient. I thought I wasn't going to have any problem and all of a sudden it just went."

Davey Hamilton can relate after getting loose and wrecking later on the 83rd lap.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.