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De Silvestro wants to race in 500 despite bad burns

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BOSTON -- Simona de Silvestro's hands are wrapped in thick gauze and tape from her wrists to fingertips, protecting the raw tissue beneath from exposure as it heals from the burns caused by a horrific crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500.

She jokingly called them her "Mickey Mouse" gloves and is planning to wear a much more streamlined version Saturday under her protective driving gloves.

This is Indy. As long as she can grip the wheel, the 22-year-old Swiss driver plans to be racing at The Brickyard.

"I'm going to try. You never know," de Silvestro said. "Sometimes, it's too risky. But I'm going to try as much as I can to stay out there."

De Silvestro is actually thankful her hands, which are healing from second- and some third-degree burns, were the only casualty in the crash that could have easily killed her on Thursday.

The car slammed into a wall, flew off the track and flipped several times before coming to a stop upside down and in flames. Smoke billowed from the wreckage as her crew worked to turn it over and get her out. The burning fuel was hot enough to get through her protective gloves, but that was the only physical damage on de Silvestro.

"Just coming out with a couple burns, I think it's not so bad," she said. "I usually close my eyes when I crash. I thought it was over and all of a sudden I open my eyes and I'm flying off again. You just hope it's over as soon as possible and then you just try to get out of it. I was lucky that I didn't pass out or anything."

Mentally, she was rattled and remained so until she got into her backup car on Saturday. After a few tentative laps, she had enough confidence to go for it and ended up qualifying 24th.

"She's my hero," said Tony Kanaan, who is No. 23 in Saturday's lineup for the 100th anniversary race. "What a great spirit that she has. I saw it because she came and talked to me about it. It looked bad. Real bad. What she did gives me goosebumps."

De Silvestro and fellow drivers Will Power and Justin Wilson were in Boston on Monday during a promotion for Indy car racing's return to New England. The circuit will race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in August for the first time since 1998.

Each driver was presented with a large, freshly cooked lobster which de Silvestro nibbled on, picking off tiny pieces with the very ends of her fingers while trying to keep her hand dressing from getting soaked with butter.

The bandages are changed twice a day as doctors see how the burned flesh is recovering. On Sunday, she had layers of dead skin removed, exposing the raw underlayers and causing another round of pain.

"They just kind of peel it off. It looks like in the movies after," she said. "It's pretty disgusting."

De Silvestro said she also burned her hands last summer in a crash at Texas, although not nearly as severely as her recent wreck. She will learn later this week if she'll need skin grafts.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2011 C9

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