Ryan Hunter-Reay notched his second Verizon IndyCar Series win on Sunday, but the Andretti Autosport driver was subdued in celebration after the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, as the former series champion was more concerned with the health of teammate Justin Wilson.
“Today’s race was phenomenal,” Hunter-Reay told members of the media, including IndyCar Examiner, in his post-race press conference. “But first and foremost we’re thinking about Justin. I actually thought when we won the race – just prior to that, I was told he was in the ambulance with Sage [Karam] going to get checked. I thought everything was fine. Come to find out, it wasn’t that straightforward.”
Wilson was in critical condition Sunday night following an incident in which he was struck with the nose cone from Karam’s crashing vehicle. He was one of several drivers to be involved in crashes during the tight racing on Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle” track, but by far the most severely hurt and his absence put a pall over the remainder of the race.
“Thoughts and prayers with him,” Hunter-Reay continued. “He has a family, just like I do. He’s a great friend, a teammate. Can’t say enough about the guy on and off the racetrack. Thinking about his family, for sure. His two daughters. Can’t imagine.”
“These cars are inherently dangerous with the open cockpit like that, head exposed,” explained the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Maybe in the future we can work towards some type of – we’ve seen some concept renderings of something that resemble a canopy, not a full jet fighter canopy, but something that can give us a little protection but keep the tradition of the sport.
“Just to be an innocent bystander like that and get hit in the head with a nose cone is a scary thought. Thoughts and prayers are with him.”
Hunter-Reay had a tremendous drive on Sunday, making several well-executed passes as his No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda cut through the field, but he had no idea of the severity of his colleague’s injuries until after the race was over. Seen asking for an update on Wilson while not even out of his car in Victory Lane, he told reporters how he learned the unfortunate news.
“I didn’t know that it was bad until after I actually crossed the finish line. I was as happy as could be in the car. I had no idea about it,” said the driver, who characterized the day as one of the best drives of his career. “Then to find out right afterwards that what I thought was [Wilson] being okay turned out to be the situation is not as explained.
“That’s the worst part. You don’t know how bad it is. I don’t at least. I have no idea. All I know is that he was unconscious. He was not responding. He was airlifted. That’s all obviously very bad details,” he continued. “[I’m] Very worried right now. I wish I could go see him. I will right now after this, go visit him, if I can, if they’ll even let me in there or whatever.”
To that end, he spoke about how IndyCar drivers reconcile their inherently dangerous job with wanting to get home safely to their spouses, families and friends.
“I’m not going to act like I have no fear, no problem, I just put it all aside,” he reflected. “You think about family, for sure. You think about your health, your well-being. The IndyCar is much more dangerous than NASCAR, and I think that’s something that is more on our minds than it is in NASCAR or sports car racing. It’s more in our minds than in some other forms of racing. I’m not saying we’re better or anything because of it. It’s just a part of it.
“There’s fathers out there. There’s husbands. There’s brothers, sisters. It’s something that absolutely we think about. We hope for the best with it.”
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.