IRL's Schmidt Still Paralyzed

Blondie band members from left to right, Clem Burke, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, backstage after being inducted at the tweny-first annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York, Monday, March 13, 2006.
Indy Racing League driver Sam Schmidt was upgraded Friday from critical to serious condition following spinal surgery, but remained paralyzed 24 hours after breaking his neck during a testing session.

Dr. Henry Bock, the IRL's director of medical services, said it's too early to determine if the paralysis is temporary or permanent. The 35-year-old driver from Las Vegas underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae on Thursday night at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

Schmidt, who got his only career victory last year in his hometown, was injured when his Treadway Racing G Force-Aurora spun and hit the retaining wall at Walt Disney World Speedway, where the IRL starts its fifth season with the Indy 200 on Jan. 29. The left rear of the car went hard into the concrete barrier.

During the three-hour surgery, doctors placed pins in Schmidt's upper spine to fuse the damaged vertebra and relieve pressure, said medical center spokesman Joe Brown. Schmidt was placed on a respirator to help him breathe.

"He handled the procedure very well," Brown said.

Schmidt's wife, daughter and father were with him.

The cause of the accident on the 1-mile oval is still unknown, Treadway Racing spokeswoman Ruthie Culbertson said in a statement.

Doctors planned to keep Schmidt in Orlando, but eventually he could be airlifted to a hospital in Indianapolis for further treatment.

"Obviously, he has a long road ahead of him," Brown said.

The driver was severely injured in the 500 in October, fracturing both feet in a collision with Scott Sharp at Texas Motor Speedway. Part of Schmidt's right big toe was amputated.

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