INDIANAPOLIS – For the first 179 laps of last year’s ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway, the race was nothing short of amazing. It had that palms sweating, edge of your seat, pulse wrenching feel.
But, on Lap 180, everything changed.
Sage Karam, the hometown kid who was just 20 laps away from winning his first career Verizon IndyCar Series race, lost control of his car exiting Turn 1 and crashed hard. Pieces of his car would scatter across the track as one piece, a nose cone, would hit Justin Wilson in his helmet tragically killing him. The ever daunting image of Wilson’s No. 25 Honda heading into the inside wall, hitting head on, and him not moving sticks in my head like the scariest nightmare that I’ve ever had. From 30 lead changes in the first 180 laps, to the five, six, and even seven wide action on the front stretch, to the crazy crashes, to a gut wrenching moment, the series now heads back for the first time since.
Karam, to this day, still doesn’t understand why his car did what it did on that lap. He’s still asking himself why me? Why did that happen? How could I ruin a family’s life?
Instead of images of crazy passing, the image of Wilson’s car and Charlie Kimball’s airborne qualifying crash now stick out. From what could have been one of the all-time best/craziest races in the history of the sport, went to hell.
Now, we’re back, 52 weeks later, 360+ days after the tragic weekend, trying to make sense of it again while also trying to focus on a points championship. We’re also trying to honor Wilson’s life.
Will this weekend’s race be that and more to give us good vibes and feelings towards this race again? Will it be like the first 179 laps of last year’s race except without the tragedy?
I hope so. The track and the race itself deserves it. Wilson deserves it. This weekend is all about honoring a great driver and family man.