Ralf Schumacher's injuries in last month's United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis were apparently much more serious than earlier reports indicated.
Tests showed that he fractured two vertebrae in the crash, and he is expected to miss as much as 12 weeks of the Formula One season. At best, Schumacher will return to driving the Williams BMW for the season's final two races in Japan on Oct. 10 and Brazil on Oct. 24.
The younger brother of world champion Michael Schumacher was injured June 20 when he spun while going 198 mph because of a tire punctured by debris on the track from a previous accident. In addition to the fractures, he suffered a concussion.
The German driver was pinned in the wreckage for three minutes before being pulled from the car by the safety crew. Race officials have been criticized because more than 90 seconds elapsed before the first attendant reached his car.
A family doctor said there was no danger that his injuries were career-ending. Schumacher was notified of the severity of his injuries on his 29th birthday.
Marc Gene, a Spanish test driver for Williams, will take Schumacher's place in Sunday's French Grand Prix, but no decision has been made on a replacement for future races. Schumacher is eighth in F1 points this season.
With the Sprint Car Racing Assn. having another week off, Rickie Gaunt and his Smiley Crane teammate, Charles Davis Jr., will drive in the USAC/CRA Firecracker 50 Saturday night at Perris Auto Speedway. Gaunt has won five straight SCRA races.
Veteran Rip Williams continues to lead the USAC/CRA standings in quest of his first series championship. Williams has 723 points to 667 for Damion Gardner, 621 for Mike Kirby and 615 for Troy Rutherford. All will be in Saturday night's race.
The SCRA canceled its Saturday night race at Prescott Valley Raceway in Arizona, citing delays in construction of the facility. The next SCRA race will be July 10 at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif.
Greg Pursley had his four-race winning streak broken last week at Irwindale Speedway, but the Santa Clarita driver continued to hold his lead in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series Sunbelt Region standings. David Beat, who races at Cajon Speedway, is second.
Pursley will be back in action next week when the super late models return to Irwindale. This week's feature is the Firecracker Twin 50 for late models.
Also on Saturday night's card are super trucks, super stocks, Figure 8s and fireworks.
Mark Taylor, the promising young British driver who won the Infiniti Pro Series championship last year, has parted company with Panther Racing. He had been Panther's 2004 replacement for two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. after Hornish moved to Penske Racing.
Jimmie Johnson, with wins in the Coca-Cola 600 and the Pocono 500, edged Buddy Rice, Indianapolis 500 winner, in second-quarter balloting for Speed Channel driver of the year. In a special fan vote, Jeff Gordon was the winner, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson.
Johnson had 12 first-place votes from the selection panel. Other first-place votes went to Rice and pro stock drag racer Greg Anderson.
A trust fund has been established for the family of drag racer Darrell Russell, who was killed in an accident Sunday at an NHRA meet outside St. Louis. Donations may be sent to Darrell Russell Memorial Fund, Partners Bank of Texas, P.O. Box 60369, Houston, Texas, 77205.
After snow prevented half the field from completing the 12.2-mile Pikes Peak Hill Climb, race officials declared Robby Unser and Paul Dallenbach co-champions. The decision was based on 5.5-mile times up to Glen Cove. It was Unser's ninth overall win. His father, Bobby, won the Race to the Clouds 15 times.