Burns a concern for De Silvestro

- The Associated Press
Thursday, May. 26, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – Simona De Silvestro has a simple game plan this weekend — gut it out.

De Silvestro burned both hands last week when her car slammed into a wall in practice, went airborne and flipped several times before coming to a rest upside down and in flames.

On Friday, she plans to spend the final hour of Indianapolis 500 practice on the track, fine-tuning her backup car. She's hoping adrenaline helps numb the pain in her burned hands, especially during Sunday's 3-hour race.

"The race will be tough," she said. "It's hurting quite a bit now, but it's important for me to do as many laps as we can. There's no backup plan that I know of."

HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins wouldn't think of it after qualifying weekend.

After De Silvestro's No. 78 car skidded down the track last week, Wiggins said the team considered using a replacement driver for qualifying. Two days later, though, the tough 22-year-old Swiss driver produced one of the gutsiest qualifying runs in years at the famed Brickyard.

On her final Pole Day qualifying attempt, De Silvestro put up a four-lap qualifying average of 224.392 mph, good enough to put her safely in the field.

It made her an instant favorite among fans and colleagues.

"I don't think it's the hand injury as much as the fact that she got back in the car so quick after a bad accident. It's amazing," points leader Will Power said. "She was very brave."

Now can she complete 500 miles with the most talked about hands in racing?

For Wiggins, it's Simona or bust.

Because changing drivers would require changing the custom-fitted seat — a move that would take them out of contention — Wiggins said the team has not lined up a backup driver.

"You look at the grid and the number of professional drivers, and there's just not too many people who can just jump into a car," Wiggins said. "It did go through our minds at one stage of qualifying, but we've moved on from there."

Clearly, De Silvestro is hurting.

On Sunday, doctors peeled the burned skin off her hands, now covered in bandages from the middle of her fingers past her wrist. She expects the bandages to stay on for another 15 to 20 days.

De Silvestro and her medical team also are trying to come up with solutions to make Sunday's race more bearable.

Doctors have tried to dull the pain with "freeze" treatments and have given her special gloves, which De Silvestro planned to test during Friday's practice.

If all else fails, well, there's always her ability to tough things out.

"It will be different, but I think you'll get used to it," she said. "I think once you're in the race adrenaline takes over, and you'll get used to it."

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