Pippa Mann defended the experience levels of her fellow competitors in the IZOD IndyCar series finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mann was one of 15 drivers involved in the accident that killed Dan Wheldon.
Mann said the process of allowing drivers onto an IndyCar grid is fairly rigorous.
“They don't just let people come in off the street and race an IndyCar,” she told the Associated Press.
Mann, one of eight rookies competing in the Las Vegas race, was in only her third IndyCar start. She had prior oval experience in Indy Lights before coming to IndyCar – as did all members of the 2011 rookie class except James Jakes.
“There are always going to be rookies. What are we going to do?” she asked. “Everybody has to go through being a rookie. Everybody has to do a first oval.”
She also moved to deflect criticism of one-time Indy Lights teammate Wade Cunningham, who was at the front of the cars involved in the accident.
“Wade is a champion. We both have experience in a series where the speeds and the car handling are similar enough to (IndyCar),” she said. “The only thing we don't have a great deal of experience in is pit stops and adapting to cold tires.”
Mann is currently recovering from surgery on her right hand to repair injuries suffered in the Vegas pileup. She said she had no room to maneuver when the accident occurred in front of her.
“The honest answer is at the point I knew I was going to hit the car, and there was no gap, I just pulled my arms in and shut my eyes,” she said. “Nothing I was going to see was going to help me in the future mentally. When the car came to a stop, I just sat there and waited.”
Mann says she expects to make a full recovery over the next six months, and is actively seeking opportunities to return to the IndyCar Series full time in 2012.