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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson dies of head injury

Justin Wilson IndyCar Driver
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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson dies of head injury
15 May 1999: Justin Wilson of Team Astromega in action during the F3000 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. \ Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport
15 May 1999: Justin Wilson of Team Astromega fails to finish the F3000 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. \ Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport
2 Sep 2001: 2001 Formula 3000 Champion Justin Wilson of Great Britain and the Nordic Racing team at the Formula One Belgium Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Spa, Belgium. \ Mandatory Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport
1 Sep 2001: Nordic Racing driver Justin Wilson of Great Britain celebrates after winning the Formula 3000 Belgian Grand Prix held at the Spa-francorchamps circuit in Spa, Belgium to become Formula 3000 World Champion. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport
LONDON - DECEMBER 17: Justin Wilson of Great Britain is announced as a Minardi driver for 2003 season during a Press Conference at the Hilton Hotel, Heathrow Airport on December 17, 2002 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images).
VALENCIA, SPAIN - JANUARY 29: Justin Wilson of Great Britain in action during the Minardi F1 Testing session January 29, 2003 in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 06: GP von Australien 2003, Melbourne; Justin WILSON/ENG - Minardi Cosworth (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 23: GP von Malaysia 2003, Kuala Lumpur; v.lks.n.r.: Fahrer Jos VERSTAPPEN/NED und Justin WILSON/GBR mit Minardi Praesident Paul STODDART vor einem Minardi Wagen mit Protest gegen den Irak Krieg (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)
MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Formula One driver Justin Wilson poses for photographs after his transfer to Jaguar Racing from Minardi at the Jaguar Racing factory in Milton Keynes on July 22, 2003 in England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMEBER 11: Justin Wilson of Great Britain and Jaguar stands in the pit garage during preparations to the FIA Formula One Italian Grand Prix at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 11, 2003 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 26: Justin Wilson of Great Britian and Jaguar during practice for the Formula One United States Grand Prix, on September 26, 2003 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images).
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 6: Justin Wilson, driver of the #9 Intel RuSport Lola Ford celebrates winning the ChampCar World Series Gran Premio Telmex-Tecate on November 6, 2005 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 29: Justin Wilson, Mark Patterson, AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri, drivers of the #60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley, celebrate second place in the Daytona Prototypes division with trophy presenter Bennie Parsons during the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 29, 2006 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images)
Mexico City, MEXICO: English driver Justin Wilson of the Rusport racing team celebrates his second place in the podium of the Champ Car World Series GP in Mexico City, 12 November 2006. French Sebastian Bourdais finished first and Will Power of the Australian racing team third. AFP PHOTO/Luis ACOSTA ... ... (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Surfers Paradise, AUSTRALIA: World Champion Sebastien Bourdais (R) of France poses with the other Vanderbilt Cup contenders, A.J. Allmendinger (L) of the USA and Justin Wilson (C) of England, before the start of the first Indy 300 practice session in Surfers Paradise on Australia's Gold Coast, 20 October 2006. Bourdais set the fastest lap time and is on track to secure his third straight world championship title on 22 October. AFP PHOTO/Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images)
ASSEN, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Wilson of Great Britain and CDW - RuSport awaits the start of practice for the Dutch Champ Car Grand Prix at the TT-Circuit Assen on September1, 2007 in Assen, Netherlands. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ASSEN, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 02: Justin Wilson of Great Britain and CDW - RuSport celebrates winning the Dutch Champ Car Grand Prix at the TT-Circuit Assen on September 2, 2007 in Assen, Netherlands. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 10: Justin Wilson, driver of the #02 McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Dallara Honda and his team during qualifying for the IRL IndyCar Series 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 10, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, NY - JULY 05: Justin Wilson of Great Britai and driver of the #18 Z-Line Design Dale Coyne Racing Dallara Honda kisses the trophy after winning the IRL IndyCar Series Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 5, 2009 at the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
WATKINS GLEN, NY - JULY 05: Justin Wilson, driver of the #18 Z-Line Designs Dale Coyne Racing Dallara Honda (C) sprays champagne over third place Scott Dixon #9 (L) and second place Ryan Briscoe #6 (R) after winning the IRL Indycar Series Camping World Grand Prix on July 5, 2009 at the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 17: Justin Wilson drives the Dale Coyne Racing Dallara Honda during practice for the IRL IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix at Long Beach on April 17, 2009 on the streets of Long Beach, California. (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL -OCTOBER 9: Justin Wilson, driver of the #18 Z Line Designs Dale Coyne Racing Dallara Honda during the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 300 on October 9, 2009 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)
LONG BEACH - APRIL 18: Ryan Hunter-Reay of the USA, driver of the #37 Team Izod Andretti Autosport Dallara Honda, celebrates his victory with 3rd place Will Power of Australia, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara Honda, and 2nd place Justin Wilson of England, driver of the #22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Team Z-Line Designs Dallara Honda, during the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18, 2010 in Long Beach, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
HOMESTEAD, FL - OCTOBER 01: Justin Wilson of Great Britain, driver of the Team Z-Line Designs/DRR Dallara Honda during qualifying for the IZOD IndyCar Series Cafes Do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on October 1, 2010 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 09: Justin Wilson of England, driver of the #18 Sonny's BBQ Honda Dallara, speaks to the media after winning the IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2012 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: Justin Wilson, driver of the #19 Dayle Coyne Racing car holds up his third place trophy during the IZOD IndyCar Series Shell and Pennzoil Race 1 at Reliant Park on October 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 18: IndyCar driver Justin Wilson of England poses for a portrait during the IZOD IndyCar Series Media day at the Amway Center on February 18, 2014 in Orlando , Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TX - MAY 19: Indianapolis 500 polesitter and three-time INDYCAR champion Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport driver Justin Wilson pose during the Speeding to Read championship assembly at Texas Motor Speedway on May 19, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

IndyCar driver Justin Wilson has died from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.

IndyCar made the announcement on Monday night at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wilson is a British driver who lived outside Denver in Longmont, Colorado. He was hit in the head during Sunday's race by piece of debris that had broken off another car. Wilson's car veered into an interior wall at the track, and he was swiftly taken by helicopter to a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

"Can't even begin to describe the loss I feel right now. He was my Brother, my best friend, my role model and mentor. He was a champion!" his younger brother, Stefan, also an IndyCar driver, tweeted.

IndyCar Driver Justin Wilson in Coma After Wreck

The last IndyCar driver to die because of an on-track incident was Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas after his head hit a post when his car went airborne.

"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," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After Wheldon's death, Wilson became one of three driver representatives to serve as a liaison between the competitors and IndyCar. It was no surprise: The 6-foot-4 Wilson, easily the tallest in the series, was well liked.

He won seven times over 12 seasons in open-wheel racing and finished as high as fifth in the Indianapolis 500. An acclaimed sports car racer, Wilson won the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with Michael Shank Racing, and he competed in 20 Formula One races in 2003 before moving to the U.S. to join Champ Car.

He finished third in the Champ Car standings in 2005, and was runner-up in both 2006 and 2007. To support his career, his management team in 2003 created a program that allowed fans to invest in the driver. Hundreds of people bought shares in Wilson, who was dyslexic and a strong supporter of foundations related to the disorder.

Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, entered this season without a full-time ride. He latched on with Andretti Autosport and was in the sixth of seven scheduled races with the team. The agreement began as a two-race deal for events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and then was increased to the final five races of the year. The IndyCar season concludes Sunday in Sonoma, California.

Andretti Autosport called Wilson "a tremendous racer, a valuable member of the team and respected representative to our sport."

"While Justin was only part of the Andretti lineup for a short time, it only took a second for him to forever become part of the Andretti family," the team said. "His life and racing career is a story of class and passion surpassed by none. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Wilson family and fans worldwide. Godspeed, JW."

Wilson finished a season-best second at Mid-Ohio in early August. He said after the race that he raced clean and did not take any risks that would have jeopardized eventual race-winner Graham 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 while he was restricted from any physical activity. The injury kept him out of the season finale at Las Vegas, the race where Wheldon died. He also broke his pelvis and suffered a bruised lung in the 2013 season finale at Fontana.

Wilson once said that his injuries and Wheldon's death did nothing to change his perspective or make him question his career choice.

"You've got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable," Wilson told The Associated Press upon his return to racing in 2012. "To me, it's acceptable. But I'm not going to stop trying to improve it. All the drivers, this IndyCar, we're always trying to make it safer, but at the end of the day, it's a race car. We're racing hard, we're racing IndyCars and it's fast. When it goes wrong, it can get messy."

In addition to his wife, Julia, Wilson has two daughters, 7 and 5.


AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.

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