Sage Karam’s accidental role in the IndyCar crash that killed Justin Wilson has left the young driver in counseling.
SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — The hardest part of the week for Sage Karam is at night, when he’s alone with his thoughts and tries to process Justin Wilson’s death.
The 20-year-old IndyCar driver said on Friday that he has received counseling this week from a psychologist to deal with the emotions he’s felt since his single-car crash at Pocono Raceway set in motion the fluke accident that killed Wilson.
Wilson was struck in the head by a piece of debris from Karam’s car that had bounced along the Pocono Raceway surface. The nosecone struck Wilson in the head, and he died Monday, a day later. The psychologist encouraged Karam to get out of the house and stay busy.
The nights have been a struggle.
“It’s one of the toughest things, even though it was a freak thing. But at night, when you are sitting there in bed, you think of things and you are looking up at the ceiling thinking, ‘What if? What if I didn't spin?’ and that’s the toughest thing.”
Karam waffled with whether or not he should attend this weekend’s IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway, but decided being at the track and receiving support from the paddock would be the best thing for him. He was never scheduled to race Sunday for Chip Ganassi Racing.
He was able to speak to Wilson’s brother, Stefan, who is also a driver, on Sunday night because Karam and Wilson were taken to the same Pennsylvania hospital after the accident. Karam had his right heel and left wrist evaluated, but was released without any broken bones.
Karam has yet to speak to Wilson’s wife, Julia, but listed it as a priority. A text exchange with Stefan Wilson on Thursday also boosted his spirits.
“Out of all the people who can pick me up, his family is probably going to be the most influential people,” Karam said. “(Stefan) has been there for me, and I’ve been there for him, and we’ve just been trying to help each other out.”
Karam was accompanied at the track Friday by his father, Jody, who aches for his son. The youngest driver in the IndyCar Series, Karam had not previously been exposed to this tragic side of racing.
While many veterans have developed a hardness for it, Karam called this incident the toughest thing he’s ever dealt with.
“Physically he’s fine, we worked out this week. Mentally, it’s tough,” Jody Karam said. “Imagine being 20, even though he wasn’t the reason, he feels like he was. And that's horrible.”
Jody Karam praised the Ganassi organization for the support given to his son, and acknowledged conversing with Stefan Wilson has been a help. But he knows there could be hard days ahead.
“There’s no pain like when your child is struggling, and you want to take the pain, and you can't,” Jody Karam said. “I’m a little concerned, and I’m doing everything I can as a dad.”
Karam is also troubled because he has no idea why he spun that Sunday at Pocono. He had one of the strongest cars in the field and was in contention for the win when his car suddenly broke free and spun into an outside wall.
He’s looked at all the data and can’t find anything that he’d done differently to cause the spin. Karam said he’s watched the replay “100 times, just trying to dissect” the spin.
“I was in such a zone, the car wasn’t loose the whole race, which is why I don’t understand the spin,” Karam said. “I did nothing different from the laps before and I was actually in the lead for a few laps. It didn’t catch me by surprise in the clean air, I made a few adjustments two laps before that to give the car a little more understeer, which would have helped.
“But nothing popped out. The car didn’t break, didn’t hit the apron. I was past the bump in turn one, it was a late corner spin, it just went and when it went, it went fast.”