IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson died Monday night from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him Sunday during a race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. He was 37.
IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson died Monday night from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. He was 37.
IndyCar officials made the announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wilson, a British driver who lived outside Denver in Longmont, Colo., was hit in the head during Sunday’s race by piece of debris that had broken off another car — reportedly part of the nose from Sage Karam’s car. Wilson’s car veered into an interior wall at the track, and he was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Allentown, Pa., where he was in a coma.
“Can’t even begin to describe the loss I feel right now. He was my Brother, my best friend, my role model and mentor. He was a champion!” his younger brother, Stefan, also an IndyCar driver, tweeted. Stefan Wilson said his brother’s organs would be donated.
Most Read Sports Stories
- UW Huskies overcome significant absences and disappearing offense to top Cal in overtime
- Seahawks defense 'threw everything' at Vikings in loss, faces a long flight home now at 1-2
- The Huskies sweated out a thrilling OT win over Cal. But far too many questions remain.
- Three things we learned from the Seahawks' 30-17 loss to the Vikings in Week 3
- Seahawks-Vikings GameCenter: Live updates, highlights, how to watch, stream
The last IndyCar driver to die from an on-track incident was Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas after his head hit a post in a fence when his car went airborne.
After Wheldon’s death, Wilson became one of three driver representatives to serve as a liaison between the competitors and IndyCar. It was no surprise: The 6-foot-4 Wilson, the tallest in the series, was popular.
“Justin’s elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility — which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Wilson won seven times over 12 seasons in open-wheel racing and finished as high as fifth in the Indianapolis 500. An acclaimed sports-car racer, Wilson won the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with Michael Shank Racing, and he competed in 20 Formula One races in 2003 before moving to the United States to join the Champ Car series.
He finished third in the Champ Car standings in 2005, and was runner-up in both 2006 and 2007.
To support his career, his management team in 2003 created a program that allowed fans to invest in the driver. Hundreds of people bought shares in Wilson, who was dyslexic and a strong supporter of foundations related to the disorder.
Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, entered this season without a full-time ride. He latched on with Andretti Autosport and was in the sixth of seven scheduled races with the team. The agreement began as a two-race deal for events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then was increased to include the final five races of the year. The IndyCar season concludes Sunday in Sonoma, Calif.
Andretti Autosport called Wilson “a tremendous racer, a valuable member of the team and respected representative to our sport.
“While Justin was only part of the Andretti lineup for a short time, it only took a second for him to forever become part of the Andretti family. His life and racing career is a story of class and passion surpassed by none. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Wilson family and fans worldwide. Godspeed, JW.”
Wilson finished a season-best second at Mid-Ohio in early August. He said after the race he raced clean and did not take any risks that would have jeopardized eventual winner Graham Rahal because Rahal was part of the season-championship race and Wilson was not.
“Anyone who follows our sport knows Justin was one of the most well-respected, highly regarded and loved people in the entire paddock,” said Miles, who relayed the Wilsons’ gratitude to the IndyCar safety team and medical staffs of the series, Pocono Raceway and the hospital in Allentown.
The family also was grateful to the entire motorsports industry.
“Particularly the Wilson family wishes to thank Justin’s fellow drivers, and their families, who have been so thoughtful, and kind and supportive,” Miles said.
Ed Carpenter, the only driver/owner in IndyCar and the stepson of IndyCar founder Tony George Jr., attended the announcement.
“Days like this are extremely hard on all of us,” Carpenter said. “Justin was a great professional driver and extremely good at his craft. Beyond that, he was a great guy. One of the few, if only, guys who really was a friend of everyone in the paddock. Everyone respected him for the way he carried himself.”
Wilson broke a bone in his back at Mid-Ohio in 2011. He missed the final six races of the season and wore a back brace for more than two months while he was restricted from physical activity. The injury kept him out of the season finale in Las Vegas, the race where Wheldon died. Wilson also broke his pelvis and suffered a bruised lung in the 2013 season finale in Fontana, Calif.
Wilson once said his injuries and Wheldon’s death did nothing to change his perspective or make him question his career choice.
“You’ve got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable,” Wilson said in 2012. “To me, it’s acceptable. But I’m not going to stop trying to improve it.”