REST IN PEACE, 'BADASS'; POPULAR DRIVER DIES AFTER FREAK ACCIDENT AT POCONO RACEWAY

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Date: Sept. 14, 2015
From: AutoWeek(Vol. 65, Issue 15)
Publisher: Crain Communications, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 470 words
Lexile Measure: 1080L

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Byline: Curt Cavin

In motorsports, has there ever been a subject unanimously agreed upon?

One was discovered in the aftermath of the freakish IndyCar incident Aug. 23 at Pocono Raceway.

It seems everyone in all corners of the sport thought the same of Justin Wilson, the 37-year-old Englishman fatally struck by debris from Sage Karam's crashed car.

"He was a guy on pit lane I never saw anyone have any beef or problem with," 2014 IndyCar champion Will Power said. "Just a really, really good person, (a) fantastic human being."

Graham Rahal spent 2008 as Wilson's teammate and said no one before or since has done more to help him than Wilson. Remember, this is a sport where beating a teammate is the first priority.

"He was always a guy I felt looked at what was for the betterment of the team, looked at the bigger picture far more than individually," Rahal said.

Wilson's biggest flaw was his size. Being 6 feet 4 is believed to have cost him a legitimate chance to remain in Formula One after a stirring rookie year with Minardi and Jaguar in 2003.

Wilson, nicknamed "Badass," came to the U.S. in '04 and took the first of his low-budget rides.

That year was one of Conquest Racing's best in Champ Car, and it was a preview of things to come.

Wilson drove for six teams in Champ Car and IndyCar, and four of them were among the smallest in the paddock at the time. Add Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing to that, because when Wilson joined the team for the 2008 season, it was a neophyte in the freshly unified series. Still, Wilson claimed victory in a race that season (in Detroit).

Wilson won seven races and eight poles in IndyCar. He gave Dale Coyne Racing its first win in the sport after 25 years (at Watkins Glen International), then posted his only oval-track win at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012.

Even joining Andretti Autosport for this season was disadvantageous for Wilson given the struggle of Michael Andretti's team and Honda's aero kit. Still, it likely isn't a coincidence teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay won two races--including his victory under caution at Pocono--in three starts after Wilson took control of the No. 25 car, starting with the Milwaukee race in July.

Former driver Bryan Herta recalled Dario Franchitti once asking Wilson where he braked for turn three at a street circuit. Replied Wilson, "I'm flat."

Said Power of Wilson's racing prowess: "If he had been in a big team, he would have won multiple championships, (Indianapolis) 500s. I've never seen anyone who is able to follow so closely in turbulent air, race very aggressively but cleanly."

Wilson is survived by his wife, Julia; daughters Jane and Jessica; his parents; and brother Stefan.

Copyright 2015 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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