IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson died Monday after suffering a severe head injury at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.
Wilson was hit in the head by a piece of debris from Sage Karam's car. Karam, leading the race at the time, crashed by himself, spreading debris from his car across the track. What appeared to be the nose cone of Karam's car bounced on the track and struck a trailing Wilson in the helmet. Wilson was apparently knocked unconscious. His car then veered suddenly to the left and he struck the inside wall.
Wilson was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa., where he was in a coma.
IndyCar made the announcement of Wilson's passing at approximately 9 p.m. ET Monday. The sanctioning body did not take any questions about his death and said he died while surrounded by his family. Wilson is survived by his wife Julia and their two children.
"This is a monumentally sad day for IndyCar and the motorsports community as a whole," IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said in a statement. "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. 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."
The sanctioning body said it would answer questions surrounding Wilson's death in the coming days. Much of the conversation will include asking if the series' cars can be prevented from breaking apart so easily and if canopies are a realistic alternative. The open-cockpit design of an IndyCar is a longstanding open-wheel tradition. Wilson was hit in the helmet because his head was exposed.
Wilson is the first IndyCar Series driver to die since Dan Wheldon in 2011. Wheldon was killed after suffering a massive head injury in a large crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That was the final race of the season and was canceled after news of Wheldon's death. The final IndyCar Series race of the 2015 season is scheduled for Sunday at Sonoma.
Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, had seven major U.S. open-wheel wins including three in the IndyCar Series. His last win came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012. Earlier that year, he was a part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Daytona.
This season, Wilson had been racing a part-time schedule for Andretti Autosport.
The racing world immediately responded to the news:
So sad to hear that we lost Justin Wilson today. Thoughts & prayers to his family and friends.
— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 25, 2015
My friend, brother, teammate and especially to one of the most amazing people I have had the pleasure to be around. I love u @justin_wilson
Oh man, my heart is aching another friend gone.Godspeed to one of racing's truest gentlemen. #justinwilson
— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) August 25, 2015
My heart goes out to the Wilson family of the loss of Justin. He was a great friend and even greater person. He will be sorely missed.#RIPJW
— Michael Andretti (@michaelandretti) August 25, 2015
I can't find the proper words to describe the pain and sympathy I feel for Justin and his family. #RIPJustin
— Sage Karam (@SageKaram) August 25, 2015
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