Wilson, a British driver who lived outside Denver in Longmont, Colorado, was hit in the head during Sunday’s race by a 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.
The last IndyCar driver to die from 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 in the fence when his car went airborne.
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. 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.
“It’s just a tough one right now,” said Michael Andretti, car owner for both 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 made a series of rule changes in 2015 to fortify the many parts and pieces on its new aerodynamic body kits, but the nose that flew off of Karam’s car is not a tethered part.
The debris shot off Sage Karam’s car when Karam spun into the wall late in the race. Wilson’s car veered left and directly into an interior wall.
He was quickly swarmed by the safety crew and taken away by helicopter. The series was also forced into action during the buildup to the Indianapolis 500 after three cars went airborne during practice.
Wilson’s wife, Julia, was transported to Pennsylvania from their home in Colorado by IndyCar, while his younger brother, Stefan, was lent Tony Stewart’s plane to make the trip from Indianapolis.
Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion and former IndyCar champion, is an Indiana native.
“I’ve had the conversation with Julia – this is what we do, and you try to make the best plans if that ever happens,” Wilson told The Associated Press upon his return in 2012.
“You’ve got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable. To me, it’s acceptable. But I’m not going to stop trying to improve it. He will surely be missed.