Another problem during practice

There was another practice-session crash on race day last week at Kentucky. Once again, Rusty Wallace says practicing on the day of a race is detrimental to the sport.

Updated: August 16, 2006, 1:11 PM ET
By Rusty Wallace | Special to ESPN.com

My opinion on the morning practice session the day of the race is it's totally useless. I have no idea why there needs to be a morning practice session whatsoever. The drivers have practiced and qualified for two days, they've put in all the work, and with a 19-car field, you don't need to risk anyone getting hurt right before the race.

Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira
Gavin Lawrence/Getty ImagesDanica Patrick (foreground) and Vitor Meira were able to recover from a practice session crash just hours before the race.
This problem became apparent in Homestead, Fla., in the first week of the season, when Paul Dana was killed after a collision during the warm-up. Luckily, nobody got hurt last week at Kentucky, but the accident between Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira tore up their cars, although they were repaired in time to race. It's a very risky -- and unnecessary -- thing to have. I wish for the sake of the organization that they'd just say enough's enough.

They used to have morning practice sessions because teams used to change engines all the time; and when you put a new motor in the car, the driver wants to try it out and make sure everything is fine. But now with the one-engine rule (they don't change engines) they don't need to have it.

It's a thing of the past and it's detrimental to the sport.

Despite the accident in practice, Patrick had a solid run. She's a solid driver and is very good for the sport. What she needs to do in her final two races with Rahal-Letterman is put together good performances on the board. This relationship is going to end and she just needs to go out on a high note.

As far as the team, I don't know what Bobby Rahal is going to do. He just needs to make up his mind as to what he wants to do. He's been wonderful for the sport, but now there is something that's very close to his heart, and that's his son's career, and it's obvious to see he's excited about that.

Last week also saw the return of Sarah Fisher, and I was very impressed with how she ran, finishing 12th. She qualified well and stayed out of trouble. Her car didn't handle or run as fast as everyone thought it would in the race, but Fisher did a great job driving for the first time in two years. I hope she finds a ride next year; when you saw the autograph lines at the track, the two longest lines were for Patrick and Fisher.

As for the finish of last week's race, it was going to be a shootout again between Sam Hornish Jr. and Dan Wheldon; but Dan got in the pit area a little too far away from his pit box and they couldn't get the fuel hose to the car -- a driver error. I know he's had some frustrating finishes this season, but this one he had to blame on himself. Drivers make mistakes and he made one that could have cost him the championship.

There's 33 points separating the top four drivers, so the points race is still up for grabs. As for next week's race at Infineon, everybody is nervous for Sam because they know his expertise is not road racing, and they know Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon are strong on road courses. Then you have Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, who are strong road-course drivers as well. Road courses make things very nervous for championships and Infineon could swing everything.

Of the four in the standings, Hornish is the one driver who will struggle the most next week. At Infineon, I really like Kanaan because this is a track that is going to be physically demanding on the drivers because the loads on the car are incredible. Kanaan is the most physically fit driver in the field and is the defending champ at this event. I also like Dixon because he's so fast on road courses.

Former Cup champion Rusty Wallace will provide coverage for ESPN and ABC during this year's IndyCar Series and selected Nextel Cup races. You can check out all things Rusty at his constantly updated and upgraded Web site at www.rustywallace.com.

Former Cup champion Rusty Wallace will provide coverage for ESPN and ABC during this year's IndyCar Series and selected Nextel Cup races. You can check out all things Rusty at his constantly updated and upgraded Web site at rustywallace.com.