IndyCar driver for Andretti Autosport, Justin Wilson, died on Monday at the age of 37. He passed away after he had been injured by a piece of debris during his last race over the weekend, according to USA Today. The 37-year-old had been struck by a piece of another car that wrecked at the Verizon IndyCar Series at Pocono Raceway. Officials confirmed his death late Monday, according to NBC News.
Wilson was the first Indycar driver since Dan Wheldon to die in a major race since 2011. Rookie driver Sage Karam’s car wrecked and debris hit Wilson as he drove past. Fellow racer Chip Ganassi had just spun out in turn 1 of lap 179 of the 200-lap race. Wilson’s car was then drove into the wall off of Turn 1, smashing into the barrier. A large piece of the front of Karam’s car was believed to strike Wilson in the head. Workers immediately went to extract him from his car and Wilson was flown to a nearby Allentown, PA hospital.
On Sunday, the Indycar driver was in a coma and listed in critical condition with a serious head injury, IndyCar officials confirmed in Sunday night statement. Wilson had participated in American open-wheel racing since 2004. His last race was just in his sixth race of the season. Driver Ed Carpenter expressed his sympathy in a statement, “He was a great guy, one of the few, if only, guys who was friend of everyone in the paddock.” Indy has had a fair share of safety incidents, one earlier in the season where a piece of debris flew into the the stands and struck a fan.
The Hulman & CO CEO released a statement saying, “This is a monumentally sad day for INDYCAR and the motorsports community as a whole. 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.” He also expressed the support for Justin’s family following the tragic incident saying, “As we know, the racing industry is one big family, and our efforts moving forward will be focused on rallying around Justin’s family to ensure they get the support they need during this unbelievably difficult time.”
Wilson, 37, is survived by his wife Julia, along with daughters Jane and Jessica. Justin Wilson’s death may lead to the questioning of safety on whether or not to have open cockpits in IndyCars. There have been minor changes done over the years with the vehicles but it still remains a dangerous sport. Family and friends of the IndyCar driver took to twitter sending out messages in dedication of him, according to ESPN.
Commentary by Cody Macleod