IMS medical team preps ahead of Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Thousands of people are expected to pack into Speedway over the weekend to see who crosses over the yard of bricks first.

As fans get excited, a special pit crew is focused on making sure the drivers are healthy and safe.

FOX59's Beairshelle Edmé sat down with Dr. Geoffrey Billows and his IU Health team, who are prepping for the big race.

"This is my favorite month of the year," Billows exclaimed.

For nearly three decades, the IndyCar and IU Health physician has stabilized drivers and kept them alive.

"Those of us in emergency medicine, I think we're all adrenaline junkies," he explained. "That's why we end up in emergency medicine."

On a driver's worst day, the team of doctors and nurses have to have their best day.

But the fast cars and checkered flag weren't always a part of the plan for the Ohio native, who first started his career as a first responder and full-time firefighter while in college part-time.

"When I first came to work about 25 or so years ago, they said, 'Hey, do you want to go out and work on the track?'" the doctor recalled. "I said, 'I've never been out there.'"

Years later, he's the director for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's emergency medical center.

"If a driver crashed and is going to be brought in, we can watch replay and kind of anticipate what kind of injuries the driver might have and [that] kind of helps guide us in what we look for," Billows explained.

Last week during practice and the qualifying race, four crashes put that protocol into gear.

Dr. Billows says technology and IU Health's 110 years of treating drivers prepare his critical care team, which was the case on August 19, 2018 when he watched Robert Wickins' fiery crash in the Poconos.

"I was actually on the track surface for that, so the safety team responds, I respond in the medical response cart," he remembered.

As with any accident, Dr. Billows, a former nurse, paramedic, and CareFlight staffer, started immediate care.

"We do the initial stabilization. We make sure that they have an airway, decent vital signs," the physician said. "We can start an IV if they need any splinting of extremities we can get that done very rapidly, and we will send them to the trauma center."

Often, it's that work that gives drivers another lap, another shot at getting their face on the Borg Warner Trophy.

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