LONG POND, PA. – IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was in a coma and in critical condition after suffering a head injury when he was hit by a large piece of debris that broke off a car in the crash-filled race at Pocono Raceway.
IndyCar released the information on Wilson’s condition Sunday night and said he was undergoing further evaluation at Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pa.
The debris broke off Sage Karam’s car when Karam spun into the wall Sunday. Wilson’s car veered left and directly into an interior wall. Wilson was swarmed by the safety crew and airlifted by helicopter.
“It’s just a tough one right now,” said Michael Andretti, car owner for Wilson, 37, and race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Justin right now. We’re going to see. Hopefully, he’s OK.”
Wilson, an Englishman and extremely popular driver in the paddock, is known for speaking on behalf of his peers regarding safety and competition. Wilson entered this season without a full-time ride, but joined Andretti’s team and was in the sixth race with the team.
“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. Wheldon’s head hit a post in the fence, and he died instantly.
He was the last fatality in a form of racing that also took the lives of Scott Brayton (1996), Tony Renna (2003) and Paul Dana (2006).
Hunter-Reay was one of many who was discussing safety measures.
“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.”
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 in Tony Stewart’s plane.
After the restart, Hunter-Reay picked his way through the field. He passed points leader Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato and then used a bold inside pass of leader Gabby Chaves to take the lead with five to go. The race ended under yellow. Josef Newgarden was second and Montoya third.