SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Sage Karam has a strong support system that his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate believes will help him through the death of Justin Wilson.
Karam’s car spun Sunday at Pocono Raceway in a single-car crash that sent the 20-year old into the wall. Debris from the crash flew everywhere, and the nosecone bounced down the track and struck Wilson in the head. The British driver was airlifted to a Pennsylvania hospital and died a day later.
Scott Dixon said Wednesday that he spoke to Karam only briefly at the hospital the night of the accident.
“That was in the early hours of a lot of unknowns, but I’ve spoken to him and he was pretty down,” Dixon said.
Wilson’s injuries came from a fluke incident in which the heavy piece of debris from Karam’s car happened to bounce directly into Wilson’s open cockpit. Had the debris bounced an inch or so in any direction, Karam’s late-race spin would have simply been a one-car accident.
But the 37-year-old Wilson appeared to be knocked unconscious and his car veered sharply left into an interior wall. He died Monday night.
Dixon believes that the Ganassi organization, plus Karam’s parents will rally around the young driver in the next few weeks. He was treated at the same hospital Sunday night that Wilson was taken to, and Karam was released Monday after evaluation of his right heel and left wrist.
“Sage has a lot of support, a lot of good support, which is important,” Dixon said. “It's an important side—the way this team has wrapped their arms around him. He’s had a lot of support from a lot of great people.
“Plus he has a great family. Jody is a hell of a dad, and his mom, too. He’s got a lot of good people looking out for him.”
Dixon spoke Wednesday as part of an IndyCar championship contenders event on the west steps of the state Capitol in Sacramento. The event was staged by Sonoma Raceway, which hosts Sunday’s championship-deciding finale.
Juan Pablo Montoya takes a 34-point lead into the race over Graham Rahal and four other contenders, including three-time series champion Dixon. The race is worth double points, so Montoya’s lead is not secure.
But the championship atmosphere should be somber in the lead-up to Sunday’s race as the paddock mourns Wilson, one of the most popular drivers among his peers. Respected for his clean driving and dedication to safety improvements, Wilson was also lauded as a true English gentleman, and loving husband and father.
Rahal spent one season as teammate to Wilson and considered him a mentor early in his career.
Returning to the track could be cathartic, but Wilson will weigh heavy on the minds of his fellow drivers.
“It’s a hard one to accept,” Rahal said. “But, it’s part of racing. Unfortunately, that’s an inherent risk of what we do.”
Rahal said the key will be to learn from Wilson’s death and apply any information to making it safer.
“The question is where do we go from here? We have to take whatever steps needed to make this sport safer,” Rahal said. “IndyCar has always been on the forefront of safety, if you look back 100 years, it’s always evolved. And now we are at a point where we are going to have to take the next steps.
“We're going to go back out there and try to race this weekend. You never move on from something like this, it’s not easy, by any means.”