AUSTIN, Texas – It was one of the best success stories ever in the long and legendary history of the Rolex 24 (Hours) At Daytona: In 2012, Ohio-based privateer Michael Shank Racing won the biggest sports car race in America, with its two regular drivers, Ozz Negri and John Pew, and two drivers from outside sports car racing: NASCAR’s A.J. Allmendinger, and IndyCar’s Justin Wilson.
It was team owner Shank’s ninth attempt at the win, and the dream came true with the victory – a 5.198-second margin over the polesitting Starworks team. And Justin Wilson was a big part of it.
Wilson died on August 24 following an incident in the IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.
Wilson had a solid open-wheel career that began in Formula 1 and moved to IndyCar, where he won three times. Though Wilson made only 17 IMSA starts, including 14 for Michael Shank Racing, he was well-known and highly regarded by the sports car community. That was evident just before the start of today’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where Wilson’s memory was honored.
The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda-Ligier made a lone lap around the track before the race began, as members of every crew competing today stood at attention on pit road while a brief video of Wilson’s career aired on the big screens around the 3.4-mile circuit.
It was an emotional moment for Shank, and for Stefan Wilson, Justin’s younger brother, who is also an accomplished race car driver.
“It’s a sad day,” Stefan said. “Justin didn’t get to spend a lot of time in this paddock, but seeing this kind of support shows how much of a mark he made on the sport.”
“When people pass away you always say nice things about them,” said Shank. “But with Justin, everyone who spent any time around him just says the same things they did when he was alive. He’d be embarrassed by this. Embarrassed, but grateful.
“Now our attention has to turn to his wife and three girls, to help them through this as much as we can. Justin deserves that. He deserves everything we can do.”
There’s a web site with information on how to help the family: http://wilsonschildrensfund.com.
And there’s also a massive online auction underway at http://ebay.to/1K1yiY5, where drivers have donated items to sell, with proceeds to benefits Wilson’s family – there are more than 15 helmets at auction, donated by drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Mario Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais.