Sunday’s roundup: Indy driver Wilson in coma, critical
Long Pond, Pa. — IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was airlifted from Pocono Raceway on Sunday after sustaining a head injury when he was hit by a large piece of debris that broke off a car in the crash-filled race.
IndyCar said late Sunday that Wilson, who won the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle in 2008, suffered a severe head injury, was in a coma and was listed in critical condition.
The debris broke off Sage Karam’s car when Karam spun into the wall. Wilson’s car veered left and directly into an interior wall. Wilson was swarmed by the safety crew and airlifted by helicopter from the track.
“It’s just a tough one right now,” said Michael Andretti, car owner for Wilson and race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Justin right now. We’re going to see. Hopefully he’s OK.”
IndyCar had a subdued victory lane and Hunter-Reay was not sprayed with the traditional confetti.
The American said his thoughts were only with Wilson, an extremely popular driver in the paddock who speaks on behalf of his peers regarding safety and competition.
“All I know is that he was unconscious, he was not responding and he was airlifted,” Hunter-Reay said. “That’s all very bad. I’m very worried right now.”
The accident was a grim reminder of the dangers of open-wheel racing. Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon died in 2011 after his car became ensnared in a fiery 15-car pileup, flew over another vehicle and landed in a catch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He was the last fatality in a form of racing that saw drivers Scott Brayton (1996), Tony Renna (2003) and Paul Dana (2006), among others, die after wrecks.
Wilson’s wife, Julia, was en route to Pennsylvania from their home in Colorado, while his younger brother, Stefan, also an IndyCar driver, was traveling from Indianapolis.
The race resumed after the Karam and Wilson accident with seven laps remaining and Hunter-Reay picked his way through the field. He passed Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato and then used a bold inside pass of leader Gabby Chaves to take the lead with five to go.
Chaves then appeared to have an engine failure that brought out the caution with three to go. The race ended under yellow.
Hunter-Reay tried to get an update on Wilson before the race resumed, and again before he climbed from his race-winning Honda.
“I thought Justin was OK the whole time, and I thought he was in the ambulance with Sage heading off to get a routine check,” Hunter-Reay said.
Josef Newgarden was second and IndyCar points leader Juan Pablo Montoya finished third.
Graham Rahal, who was second in the standings at the start of the race, was involved in an early crash. Montoya’s cushion went from nine points to 35 with next Sunday’s finale in Sonoma set to decide the title.
The finale is worth double points, and six drivers will head to California in contention for the title. Hunter-Reay is mathematically eliminated, but picked up his second win of the season in what’s been a disappointing year for Andretti and Honda.
“Maybe in the future we can work toward something that resembles a canopy,” Hunter-Reay said. “Something that can give us a little bit of protection and still keep the tradition of the sport. Just to be innocent bystander like that and get hit in the head with a nose cone is a scary thought.”
The 37-year-old Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, entered this season without a full-time ride. He latched on with Andretti and was in the sixth of seven scheduled races with the team. The deal was put together right before the season-opening race in March and initially started as just a two-race agreement at Indianapolis.
Sponsorship was found for another five races as the season progressed, and Wilson finished a season-best second earlier this month at Mid-Ohio.
He said after the race that he raced clean and did not take any risks that would have jeopardized eventual race-winner Rahal because Rahal was part of the championship race and Wilson was not.
Wilson broke a bone in his back at Mid-Ohio in 2011. He missed the final six races of the season and wore a back brace for more than two months as he was restricted from any physical activity. The injury kept him out of the season finale at Las Vegas and the race where Wheldon died.
He broke his pelvis and suffered a bruised lung in the 2013 season finale at Fontana.
Lewis Hamilton won the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday from the pole, holding off Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and padding his lead in the Formula One championship standings. The defending champion was two seconds ahead at the finish line for his sixth victory of the season in 11 races.