Zach Price, the rear tire changer on Ryan Blaney’s Ford Mustang, will not be on pit road this weekend at Kentucky Speedway as he continues to recover from a leg injury.
Price was struck on pit road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Sunday. He was performing his duties when a chain reaction in the middle of the field as it came to pit road caused a pile-up, resulting in Price being hit by Brennan Poole’s car. After scooting back toward the pit wall, Price was taken by ambulance to the infield care center and then on to a local hospital for evaluation.
Team Penske did not offer specific details on Price’s injury while announcing he would miss the next race.
“Zach Price continues to recover at home from a lower left leg injury sustained following Sunday’s pit road incident at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said the team. “Curtis Thompson will serve as rear tire changer for the No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang this weekend at Kentucky.”
During his weekly SiriusXM NASCAR Radio appearance, crew chief Todd Gordon said the incident could easily have been much worse. Gordon, speaking before Price underwent further evaluation in North Carolina, said he thought it was a fracture in the knee area, and something he was confident Price can make a full recovery from.
“He’s doing all right,” said Gordon. “His knee got banged up between our car and the car that hit him.
“A really frightening moment for me. I was really terrorized when I saw him dragging himself back across the pit box, arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face that he was better off than I thought he was to start with.
“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least up in the air. The jackman [Graham Stoddard] got on top of the car — just one of those terrible situations. I would say I felt like those accidents happen mid-pit road, and that’s actually why I picked (a stall) way back there, to be behind it, but unfortunately, it gathered us up.”
Blaney was pitted in pit stall 39, which is near the entrance to pit road on the Turn 4 side. Indianapolis is one of the most-narrow pit roads on the NASCAR circuit, with Gordon saying it’s only two-cars wide.
The accident started as Michael McDowell turned into his pit stall, which was in front of Blaney. Those collected included Poole, Justin Allgaier, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, and Chris Buescher.
Drew Blickensderfer, McDowell’s crew chief, said that not having team spotters positioned on the Pagoda was a contributing factor to the accident. Under COVID restrictions, the spotters were spread out in the grandstands at Indianapolis, rather than their typical vantage point.
“When we pulled into our pit real early, everybody checks up behind you, and it gets worse and worse and worse,” said Blickensderfer. “Michael didn’t do anything wrong. 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. 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 1, 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.
“I was scared for my guys. I immediately called off the pit stop and told them to take cover. A tire was flying at our car and hit our 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 OK and every car was just sitting there smoking and stopped three feet from us, it was like, ‘OK, assess the damage. What do we have? Finish the stop.’ 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.
“I knew the 12 guys were on the right side of their vehicle and once I kind of saw my guys were OK I immediately went to kind of look to make sure those guys were OK. That’s when racing stops and compassion comes out to a fellow crew member that could be hurt.”