Sage Karan, a rookie, was leading the race when his car spun in turn number one on lap 179. Justin Wilson crashed while navigating the debris field at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 23, 2015. It was the last race of the 2015 season. A piece of flying debris hit Wilson in the head. Wilson’s car veered left and struck an inside wall. Immediately Pocono Raceway safety workers rushed onto the track. Within hours, fans heard the announcement that Wilson was in critical condition from a head injury and in a coma.
Wilson passed away the next day at Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania at the age of 37. He left behind a wife, Julia and two daughters, 7-year-old Jane and 5-year-old Jessica. His younger brother Stephan Wilson, also a racecar driver, looked up to Wilson as a mentor and hero. He will be missed by the motorsports family. He was a talented and respected driver that demonstrated character, compassion, and a humble attitude. Wilson’s family is thankful for the outpouring of support from the fans as well as Andretti Autosport, Pocono Raceway and Verizon IndyCar Series.
The cockpits of IndyCar drivers are open. The exposed helmets often lead to head injuries. The last driver to die in a U.S. based racing series was Dan Wheldon in 2011. Wilson had recently suggested new track designs to protect fans by placing the stands in the infield and seamless metal barriers instead of cable fencing to stop car entanglement. Ed Carpenter released a statement from the racecar drivers stating that the drivers will soon return to the track to compete in Wilson’s honor. Andretti Autosport said that Wilson will forever be a respected member of the Andretti family.
Wilson was an avid mountain cyclist where he lived in Longmont, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. He grew up in Sheffield, England. In 2004, he competed in Formula One racing events. He won three races in the combined IndyCar Series and four races in the Old Champ Car Race Series. At 24 Hours of Daytona in 2012, he shared driving duties with the winning car. Wilson had previously suffered a broken back, bruised lung, and a shattered pelvis. At every level of racing, Wilson was known for his personality and sportsman-like conduct on and off the racetrack.
(Photo is courtesy of Justin Wilson as uploaded by Bryce Womeldurf at Flickr’s Creative Commons.)