Remembering Justin Wilson: One Year Later

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Today, Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of the late Verizon IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson, who was just 37 years old at the time of his passing. His death was the first and only death since IndyCar switched to their new DW12 chassis back at the beginning of the 2012 season, and it was the first and only death in the new era of IndyCar in which the engine manufacturers developed and used aero kits on the cars. This started at the beginning of the 2015 season.

Wilson, who hailed from Sheffield, England, was driving a Honda-powered car for Andretti Autosport in the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania on Sunday, August 23rd, 2015, when with 21 laps to go in the race, race leader Sage Karam spun out, sending debris all across the race track towards the exit of turn 1. As Wilson drove by the scene of the accident, he was still carrying a speed in excess of 150 miles per hour, despite having slowed down from the 220-225 miles per hour that the cars carry through turn 1 at Pocono at full speed. The nose cone of Karam’s car bounced across the track and hit Wilson’s helmet, sending the nose cone over 100 feet up into the air, and leaving Wilson as an unconscious passenger in his car as it headed towards the inside retaining barrier before hitting the barrier and coming to a stop.

The Holmatro Safety Crew worked hard to extract Wilson from his car, and succeeded in doing so. He was then airlifted by helicopter to the Lehigh Valley Hospital. Later that night, it was announced that Wilson was in a coma. The next day, Monday, August 24th, 2015, it was announced at around 9:15 PM ET that Wilson had passed away.

Justin Wilson was a 7-time winner in IndyCar, with his final victory coming in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway (see featured image) after an epic finish which included race leader Graham Rahal making contact with the wall with just over 2 laps remaining in the race. In his last full race, which was exactly 3 weeks before his fatal accident, he went head to head with Rahal once more at Mid-Ohio and came so close to passing him for the lead late in the race on a restart, but had to settle for his season-high finish of 2nd place. Even in the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, the race during which Wilson’s fatal crash occurred, he led a total of 2 laps.

Wilson competed in a total of 54 races in Champ Car from the 2004 season through the 2007 season. He won a total of four races and finished inside the top three in the championship in three of his four seasons in Champ Car, including two 2nd place championship finishes. He raced in a total of 121 races in the IndyCar Series from the 2008 season through the 2015 season. He won a total of three races and placed 6th in the 2013 championship for his highest career championship result.

Wilson was known as the “Gentle Giant” among IndyCar drivers and fans, as he stood 6’4″, which made him the tallest driver in the series, yet he was always very friendly and caring. Since passing away, he has been missed by the IndyCar community, and the pain that we feel on today’s 1-year anniversary of his passing reminds us all of the many risks and many dangers that auto racing brings. He is still missed and will always be.

-Asher Fair