9:15 p.m. Monday update: Justin Wilson dies of head injury

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This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.Justin Wilson (25) of Andretti Autosport looks down the pit road following his qualification attempt for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Sunday, May 17, 2015, morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.Justin Wilson (25) of Andretti Autosport looks down the pit road following his qualification attempt for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Sunday, May 17, 2015, morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. IndyCar driver Justin WilsonIndyCar driver Justin WilsonUPDATE: 9:15 p.m. Monday – For the second time in four years, U.S. motor sports has lost one of its most popular drivers.Four years ago, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed. This time, it’s IndyCar Series veteran Justin Wilson.Wilson, 37, died Monday in an Allentown, Pa., hospital following a traumatic head injury suffered in Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway, Hulman and Co. officials announced Monday night. In what can only be considered a fluke accident, Wilson was struck in the helmet by a large piece of debris bouncing around on the track after the crash of race leader Sage Karam.Wilson had been the 12th driver into Karam’s accident scene, and his instinctive move to go around another car led to his being hit.Fellow driver Ryan Hunter-Reay called Wilson “an innocent bystander.” Wheldon had been that, too.Details of Wilson’s injuries were not immediately available, although it’s believed his family was with him at the Lehigh Valley Hospital. Wilson was 37 and is survived by his wife, Julia, and young daughters Jane and Jessica.Wilson considered Sheffield, England, home, but he spent recent years living in the Denver suburb of Longmont, Colo., where he was an avid mountain cyclist.Wilson reached the highest level of international motor sports – Formula One – but his stay there was short. He arrived in the U.S. in 2004 and immediately made an impact with his results and personality.Wilson won four races in the old Champ Car World Series and three more in the combined IndyCar Series. He added eight poles and shared driving duties on the winning sports car entry in the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona, this country’s leading endurance race held each January in Daytona Beach, Fla.In spite of Wilson’s undeniable talent, IndyCar never seemed to shine on him. This partial-season ride with Andretti Autosport, was his sixth IndyCar team. He often seemed close to landing with one of the larger teams, but deals never seemed to materialize, mostly because a lack of sponsorship.“The guy just couldn’t get a break,” said veteran engineer Bill Pappas, who felt as close to Wilson as a brother. “He’s the best racer who couldn’t get a (great) job.”Pappas, who won races with Wilson, including two with Dale Coyne’s underdog team, said his wife called Wilson “the Renaissance Man” because of his varied interests and his ability to relate to everyone he met. Pappas said Wilson, a leading advocate for driver safety, could communicate at any level.“He was the common man of sport, a true sportsman,” Pappas said.Said Colorado mountain bike training partner JR Hildebrand, a fellow IndyCar driver: “I never heard him say a bad word about anybody.”Part of Wilson’s charm was his vulnerability. He was dyslexic, and he used his platform to raise awareness for others. But he never used it as an excuse for the challenges he overcame as a young man.Wilson put so much thought into motor sports safety that earlier this summer he offered an alternative approach to protecting fans. While acknowledging his radical idea would be expensive to implement, Wilson suggested tracks move spectator grandstands to the inside of oval tracks since a car’s momentum carries debris to the outside. Instead of cable fencing with posts like what Wheldon fatally smashed into, Wilson suggested seamless metal barriers to allow cars to slide without becoming entangled.Graham Rahal was Wilson’s teammate at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in Champ Car’s final season, in 2008. Rahal said Wilson was the rarest of all partners.“A lot of drivers are great because they’re selfish,” Rahal said in including series champions he’d worked with in the past. “It’s guys like Tiger Woods, and that’s what makes them the way they are.“But Justin was always the first guy to come up to me and say something positive, something constructive, something helpful. You mention ‘team player,’ that’s Justin, and it’s hard to find that sort of guy in sports.“He was just the nicest guy out there.”Wilson was competitive, yes, but he was fair, too, and that’s what Rahal knew about him heading into the final stages of IndyCar’s Aug. 2 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rahal had Wilson to his left in a battle for the lead, and Wilson’s car actually surged ahead briefly heading to Turn 4, a fast, hard-braking right-handed corner.Rahal said Wilson made the moment tough on him, as he should have, but Rahal had no concern for the well-being of both cars.“I knew he wasn’t going to take me out or do something stupid,” Rahal said. “There are very, very few drivers I can say that about. I know I can count them on three fingers, and I’d have to think about the three.”Not surprisingly, Wilson was one of three drivers selected a few years back to represent the drivers in talks with IndyCar. The others? Former series champions and Indianapolis 500 winners Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan.“Justin made it natural to be out here doing things together,” Hildebrand said. “He was a husband, a father and a friend, and he was great at being all of them.”Reaction to Justin Wilson’s deathUPDATE: 12:50 p.m. Monday — IndyStar IndyCar Insider Curt Cavin reports that Justin Wilson remains in a coma and in critical condition.On Monday morning, Wilson’s teammate and Sunday’s race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay tweeted out appreciation for the support Wilson and his family are receiving.“Thanks for all the messages. Praying for Justin Wilson & his family. Can’t say enough about him as a person, friend & teammate.”[tweet https://twitter.com/curtcavin/status/635826555860729856%5DEARLIER REPORTED:LONG POND, Pa. — Justin Wilson was transported by helicopter to a hospital Sunday after he appeared to have been struck by a piece of debris from Sage Karam’s car when it crashed in front of him during the final laps of the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.In a statement just after 9 p.m. ET Sunday, the Verizon IndyCar Series said:“Wilson sustained a severe head injury during today’s event at Pocono Raceway.“Wilson is currently in a coma and in critical condition while undergoing further evaluation at Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pa.“IndyCar sends its thoughts and prayers to Justin, his family and Andretti Autosport during this difficult time.“Additional updates to Wilson’s condition will be released when available.”Notable IndyCar crashes in the 2015 seasonKaram was leading when his No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet spun on its own in Turn 1 on Lap 179 of the 200 lap race. As parts from his car littered the track, one of the pieces appeared to strike Wilson, who was trailing.Wilson’s car immediately veered into the left and into the inside wall on the exit of Turn 1. Safety workers immediately arrived and frantically worked to extricate Wilson from the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda.Wilson was taken to Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pa., IndyCar officials said.The wall where Wilson hit was covered by a SAFER barrier.Indy Car Series 2015 – Pocono Speedway Sage Karam and Justin Wilson CrashReaction to horrific Justin Wilson injury at PoconoKaram emerged from his car under his own power. He appeared to be shaken, but walked to an ambulance. He was later checked at the infield care center. IndyCar said he would be transported to Allentown as well, to evaluate a right foot injury.IndyCar did not red flag the race for the incident, instead allowing a single file of cars to parade around the track as the safety crews worked.Wilson, 37, is a native of Sheffield, England, who resides in Longmont, Colo. He has competed in American open-wheel racing since 2004, and competed in six races this season for Andretti Autosport, owned by former driver Michael Andretti.“It’s a tough one right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with Justin right now,” team owner Michael Andretti said after watching another of his drivers, Ryan-Hunter Reay, win the race under caution.Hunter-Reay was subdued in the winner’s circle as Pocono Raceway and its fans fell silent.center_img “I saw the trucks around him. … First thoughts with Justin, for sure. He’s my friend. I have no details right now, so it’s a bit hard not knowing anything,” Hunter-Reay said. “I thought Justin was OK the whole time. I thought he was in an ambulance and was going to get a check.”Hunter-Reay was later told that Wilson was “unconscious and not responding” when he was airlifted to the hospital.Graham Rahal’s title hopes dealt blow in crash at PoconoWilson’s brother, Stefan Wilson, who spent four seasons (2009-12) driving in Indy Lights, the Verizon IndyCar feeder system, tweeted that he was trying to get himself and Justin’s wife, Julia, to the area, but that he had no update on his brother’s condition.Wilson, the tallest driver in the IndyCar Series at 6-4, has seven wins and 27 podiums in his U.S. open-wheel career.Justin Wilson competed in 20 Formula 1 races in 2003 before he moved to the United States and began racing in the Champ Car World Series for Conquest Racing. He joined RuSPORT for his second season in 2005, and won races at Toronto and Mexico City.Winner Hunter-Reay, points leader Montoya somber, not celebratory after raceHe finished second in the championship in the next two seasons before Champ Car merged with the Indy Racing League in 2008. He won three races in eight years, most recently at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012.Wilson, in his eighth year in IndyCar, had been unsigned at the start of the 2015 season after spending the previous three seasons driving for Dale Coyne Racing. Andretti Autosport signed the Englishman to drive the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the Indy 500 in May and later announced that Wilson would drive the No. 25 car for the final five races of the 2015 season.Wilson earned his first podium of the season at the previous race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 2, finishing second to Graham Rahal. Widely regarded as the nicest, most conscientious man in the paddock, Wilson sacrificed a chance to take the lead from Rahal because he understood the moment meant more to Rahal and Honda. Rahal, a championship contender, went on to win at what he considers his home track; Wilson finished second.Drivers try to cope with Justin Wilson’s traumaFan support has always been behind Wilson. In 2003, his management team developed a program giving individuals a chance to invest in his career. Hundreds of people bought shares in him.Wilson has been one of three driver representatives to IndyCar along with Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, and he recently offered a plan to help protect fans from flying debris. Instead of exploring space-age fencing, he suggested moving grandstands to the infield of oval tracks, where the debris field would be far less likely to be sprayed.“That’s why smart rally fans stand on the inside of a corner, at the apex, and the stupid ones stand on the outside where an out-of-control car is going to go about 95 percent of the time,” Wilson told Racer.com.This is the first season IndyCar is using aero kits with multiple pieces, many of which fly off during the slightest contact. A fan was injured in the season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., when she was struck by flying debris from one of the cars.Contributing: Curt Cavin, The Indianapolis Star[tweet https://twitter.com/IndyCar/status/635578428511621121%5D%5Btweet https://twitter.com/IndyCar/status/635578032422563841%5D%5Btweet https://twitter.com/stef_wilson/status/635572387346427904%5D%5Btweet https://twitter.com/stef_wilson/status/635573944930557952%5Dlast_img