This year's Indianapolis 500 promises to be the most memorable and complicated of Danny Sullivan's racing career.
It also could be the most painful.The gear lever and seat have been altered in his Chevrolet-powered Penske PC-18 race car. He also will drive with a knob attached to the steering wheel, a knob that Sullivan said looks kind of like something off a 1957 Chevy.
Such are the modifications necessary to accommodate a driver with a broken right forearm. Still, make no mistake; he will drive in Sunday's race, starting from the middle of Row 9. And Geoff Brabham, who car owner Roger Penske had hired as a possible replacement, will not.
"It's kind of tough on Geoff to say, `OK, you're going to hang around,' " said Sullivan. "And Roger said, `You've got to make a decision,' so I said I'll do the whole race."
He knows what he's getting into. He also knows it won't be easy.
Take the simple act of driving. It's no longer so simple.
"The hard part is getting the hand between the steering wheel and the side of the car down to the gear lever," he said.
Then there's the problem of shifting those gears, particularly the ones Sullivan called speed-up gears.
"When you finally go into your two top gears, they're so long that usually they grind because it's not usually a smooth transition. The grind is the hard part because the vibration comes right back through the plate into your arm."
But Sullivan believes that concentrating for 500 miles will not be as difficult as one might think.
"I'm hoping that because I'll have to focus all the time, I won't have time to think about my arm hurting until after the race."
He also doesn't think the track will present a problem. Since it was resurfaced, it is much smoother with fewer bumps to jolt the arm. He's also practiced on the track often enough to get used to driving with a plastic cast.
But if you think the accident has made him afraid to race, think again.
"When you have an accident like this, reality hits home, but I don't think it changes anything or I wouldn't be out there."