Injured da Matta speaking, walking

Published September 1, 2006

MILWAUKEE - Threeand-a-half weeks after striking a deer with his race car during a Champ Car test at Road America, driver Cristiano da Matta has regained the ability to speak and move about.

Champ Car medical director Chris Pinderski visited da Matta on Wednesday at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, Wis., where the 32-year-old Brazilian has been since suffering a serious head injury in the Aug. 3 accident in Elkhart Lake.

"Cristiano has made excellent progress in the past several days," Pinderski said in a statement issued through RuSport, da Matta's team.

"Although he is still somewhat confused, he is now conversational in both English and Portuguese. Additionally, he has started to walk on his own for short periods of time with minimal assistance."

NASCAR: Bill Lester, a truck series regular and the only African-American driver to start in NASCAR's top series in the past 20 years, attempts to make his third start on the Nextel Cup circuit this weekend at California Speedway in his home state. His best Cup finish is 32nd at Michigan.