Indycar driver, Justin Wilson, who has been in a coma since the crash on Sunday afternoon, died on Monday evening from head injuries when he was hit by a large piece of debris from another race car. The piece of debris appeared to hit Wilson in the head. Indycar made the announcement about Wilson Monday night at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“This is a monumentally sad day for Indycar and the motor sports community as a whole,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co, the parent of Indycar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement posted online.
Wilson, 37, is originally from England and resided with his wife and two daughters in Longmont, Colorado. The car where the debris flew off of was driven by Sage Karam. When the debris hit him, Wilson’s car hit an interior wall at the track and he was flown out by helicopter to an Allentown, Pennsylvania hospital.
Wilson’s family all said in a statement that Wilson had been “a loving father and devoted husband, as well as a highly competitive racing driver”.
“I 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,” said Stefan Wilson, Justin’s brother.
According to the Guardian, 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, he won the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with Michael Shank Racing and competed in 20 Formula One races in 2003 before moving to the U.S. to join Champ Car.
“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.
This was Wilson’s sixth race for Andretti Autosport this year.
Wilson missed some racing time in 2011 when he injured his back. He was out for two months with a back brace on and missed six races that season. But as soon as he was healed, he was back to racing.
“You’ve got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable. To me, it’s acceptable,” said Wilson. “But I’m not going to stop trying to improve it. All the drivers, this IndyCar, we’re always trying to make it safer, but at the end of the day, it’s a race car. We’re racing hard, we’re racing IndyCars and it’s fast. When it goes wrong, it can get messy.”
Justin Wilson started his racing career at age 9 when he raced go-carts. Everyone that knew him said he was a gentle giant. At 6’4″, he encouraged children to keep reading even though it was difficult because he himself had dislexia when he was growing up.
“I knew from an early age this is what I wanted to do,” Wilson said of racing in a 2012 Associated Press story. “It’s the one thing that came easier to me than anything else. Sure, you’ve still got to work at everything in life. But this thing came easy, whereas everything else — all my schoolwork, even soccer at school — it just wasn’t easy. And racing always was.”
[Image: Getty/ Jeff Zelevansky]