The IndyCar season has just four races left and the next one — at Pocono Raceway tomorrow — has every team in the paddock thinking about a lot more than the finish line.
The series has a double dose of sadness to contend with — the death a year ago of 37-year-old Justin Wilson after his helmet was struck by debris during the Pocono race, in Pennsylvania, and the death less than two weeks ago of 27-year-old Bryan Clauson, after a crash during an open-wheel event in Kansas.
“It’s definitely going to be weighing heavy on our hearts,” said Marco Andretti, who grew up in nearby Nazareth and counts Pocono as his home track.
Bryan Clauson. Picture/AP.
In the race where Wilson was killed, Sage Karam had been in the lead when he spun and slammed into the wall. A second later, as Wilson drove around the accident, the nosecone from Karam’s car landed in Wilson’s cockpit and struck him in the head. The Englishman died the next day. IndyCar later announced that aerodynamic components of the cars, including the nosecone, would be tethered to the vehicles.
Clauson, who drove the No. 88 in the Indianapolis 500 and finished 23rd after leading three laps midway through the race, was this season chasing USAC’s all-time wins mark (he had piled up 117) and was well on his way to complete his idea of “Circular Insanity” — driving in 200 events.
Regarded as perhaps the best open-wheel dirt driver in the country, he was leading the Belleville Midget Nationals this month when he crashed while trying to pass a lapped car. After barrel-rolling along the wall, his No. 17 came to a stop on the track and was then slammed violently by another competitor.
Clauson was airlifted to a Nebraska hospital and died the next night, August 9.
Will Power, left, of Australia, and teammate Simon Pagenaud, of France, spray sparkling wine as they celebrate in Victory Lane at the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 race in July. Picture/AP
Dale Coyne Racing announced this week that Conor Daly would drive the No. 88 in Sunday’s IndyCar race in memory of Clauson. Daly wrote on Twitter: “Honored to carry the initials of a legend on the side of our car this weekend. Let’s ride.” DCR also announced that Pippa Mann would drive the No. 19, and her helmet would have the “BC Still Chasing 200” logo on it in Clauson’s honour.
“The past week has been incredibly tough for everyone in the racing family, and I’m among those who have been feeling the loss of a friend and a team-mate,” Mann said.
“He told me this May he always wanted to run this race [Pocono], so I hope between Conor and I he sees this as us making those starts for him.”
Although Andretti has not led a lap this season and sits 18th in the standings, rebounding in the final races could go a long way for next year and racing to honour the memories of Wilson and Clauson may give him a head start.
Current IndyCar Rankings
1. Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske)484 points 2. Will Power (Team Penske)426 points 3. Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)373 points 4. Josef Newgarden (Ed Carpenter Racing) 364 points 5. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing)357 points