Indianapolis Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, injured in a crash last week, will not drive in this year's race.
Dr. Henry Bock, the medical director at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announced Tuesday he had informed the Rahal Letterman Racing team that Rice would not receive medical clearance in time to qualify for the May 29 race.
Rice injured his back and sustained a concussion in a crash during practice Wednesday.
Bock said further evaluation revealed a partially torn spinal ligament in his mid-to-lower neck area that is essential to maintaining the alignment of the spine. Doctors have recommended rest and rehabilitation, and Bock said Rice's condition would be reassessed in about three weeks.
"Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed that I won't be able to defend my Indy 500 championship," Rice said in a statement issued by the team. "I have spent the last several months thinking about, working toward and planning how I would defend my Indy 500 victory.
"Physically I feel fine, but I have to trust the Speedway and IRL medical team because they are looking out for my safety. I am optimistic that I will be cleared for Texas (June 11) and will be able to get back in the car. I plan to stay here in Indy and help our team in any way I can."
Team co-owner Bobby Rahal said the team's first concern was Rice's complete recovery.
"We have been assured by Dr. Bock that, in this case, that the time off will be the solution," said Rahal, who won the Indy 500 in 1986.